Don't even consider taking this trip without rolling luggage. DaKine's large transport Split Roller and the Concourse ski bag fit the dimensions and weight restrictions for even the most restrictive of overseas flights (dakine.com).
Consider leaving your skis stateside and traveling with boots only. Matterhorn Sport has a good selection of all-mountain midfat skis; make reservations by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Glacier-Sport (email@example.com) excels at on-piste-style carving boards.
IT'S NEVER TOO EARLY TO MAKE DINNER RESERVATIONS
Call six weeks ahead for the coveted Northern Italian at Giuseppe (011-41-27-967-1380) and for the locally raised lamb at Chez Heini (011-41-27-967-1630).
BE PREPARED FOR A HEFTY TAB
Zermatt has the reputation of being one of the most expensive resorts in Europe-and it is. Smart planners can find affordable lodgings, but there's no way around the price of fine dining and good guides.
ORDER THE LOCAL GRUB
Order lamb-Swiss lamb is far tastier than the beef. Other regional specialties include rösti (a concoction of shredded potatoes, cheese and ham), dried meats and, of course, fondue and raclette (best at the Whymperstube; 011-41-27-966-0333).
BE A LOVELY AMERICAN
Most Zermatters speak some English, but knowing a few German phrases is regarded as utterly polite and will pave the way to better service. These simple phrases will get you by:
Good day: Guten tag. (GOO-ten tahk)
I don't speak German. :Ich spreche nicht Deutsch. (eekh SHPRE-khe neekht doytsh)
Do you speak English? : Sprechen Sie Englisch? (SPRECK-en zee AING-lish?)
Thanks. : Danke. (DON-kuh)
Goodbye. : Auf Wiedersehen. (owf VEE-der-zain)
IT'S NOT VAIL
Zermatt is not a purpose-built ski village, which gives it a rich authenticity but leads to a lot of walking. Bring Cat Tracks (available at most ski shops) to protect the bottoms of your ski boots and provide traction-or ski with a small pack that holds your walking shoes. Otherwise, prepare to wait in a 30-minute line to catch an electric taxi back to your hotel at the end of the ski day. If being able to ski home is vital to your happiness, book a room at the Berghof ($193-$662; 011-41-27-967-5400; firstname.lastname@example.org) or the Antares ($159-$406; 011-41-27-967-3664; email@example.com).
HIRE A PRIVATE GUIDE
A private guide will ensure your days in Zermatt are the best they can be, leading you to the shortest lines, the finest food, the perfect après and-most important-the best slopes for your abilities and the day's snow and weather. Request someone with at least five years of experience in Zermatt. A ski instructor will be sufficient for most skiers. Instructors from Stoked (011-41-27-967-7020; firstname.lastname@example.org) have the best reputation for friendliness and customer service. Be clear when choosing an instructor as to whether you want lessons or simply a tour guide. Remember that instructors are authorized to guide only on the trails, so accomplished skiers looking to get off-piste should skip the instructor altogether and hire a mountain guide from Alpin Center Zermatt instead (011-41-27-966-2460; email@example.com). Mountain guides are the crème de la crème of Zermatt. They will lead you to Zermatt's most awesome off-piste skiing, whether from the lifts, from a ski mountaineering ascent or from a helicopter. For both instructors and guides, tips are the norm (about 15 percent per day). Rates begin at about $167 per day for one person.
START EARLY, SKI SATURDAYS
Thanks to significant equipment upgrades, Zermatt's famed lift lines are a thing of the past, but early birds still get the edge at the Furi and Sunnegga areas. Keep in mind that most Zermatt visitors travel on ppackages that run from Saturday to Saturday-which means that Saturday is often nearly vacant on the slopes.