ZERMATT SWITZERLAND - Magical in many respects - both on and off the slopes.

You must try Zermatt before you die. Few places can match its combination of excellent advanced and intermediate slopes, reliable snow, magnificent scenery, Alpine charm and mountain restaurants with superb food and stunning views.

Many people complain that the car-free village is spoiled by intrusive electric carts and taxis; some complain about the time it takes to get to the top of the mountain; others say that the atmosphere is of Swiss efficiency and international tourism rather than mountain-village friendliness. But friendliness and service have definitely improved in the last few years and there's a magical feel to both the village and the mountains.

Zermatt's flaws are minor compared to its attractions, which come close to matching perfectly our notion of the ideal winter resort. It is one of our favorites.

What's Great
What's Not-So-Great

+ Wonderful, high and extensive slopes for experts and intermediates, with three separate and interestingly different areas

+ Spectacular high-mountain scenery, dominated by the Matterhorn

+ Charming, if rather sprawling, old mountain village, largely traffic-free

+ Reliable snow at altitude+ World's best mountain restaurants

+ Extensive helicopter operation

+ Nightlife to suit most tastes

+ Smart shops

+ Linked to Cervinia in Italy

? Getting to main lift stations may involve a long walk, crowded bus or expensive taxi-ride

? Ski school has poor reputation

? Beginners should go elsewhere

? One-way link only between Klein Matterhorn and the other two areas

? Getting up the mountain and around the different areas can be slow

? Recent complaints about poor slope maintenance and long lift lines

? Annoying electric taxis detract from the otherwise relaxed, car-free village ambience