Beneath this Alpine peak stands one of Switzerland's most elegant resorts, where you can spend your days skiing and sunbathing, then dance the nights away

Breakfast with a view

08.30: Throw back the curtains and get a stunning view of the Matterhorn at the Riffelberg Hotel (00 41 27 966 65 00; riffelberg.ch), high above the town. Rooms cost €213 (£152) per night, half-board. Catch the first lifts and make the most of any overnight powder and freshly groomed pistes. Zermatt has three starting points from the resort: an underground funicular railway to the Sunnegga and Rothorn pistes, the traditional Gornergrat railway, and the gondolas and cable cars of the Matterhorn glacier paradise networks. On the first transport to the Klein Matterhorn (3,820m) will be ski-tourers en route for the Breithorn (4,165m), most accessible of all the 4,000m peaks in the Alps.

Spend a morning with the Inuits

11.00: Morning coffee on a sun terrace. Needless to say, "that mountain" will be part of the view. If you're skiing the Gornergrat area, then the Igloo Bar (00 41 81 862 2211; iglu-dorf.com) on the Rotenboden makes a novel stop. It's part of a whole igloo village and if the Inuit life appeals you can spend a night here.

A perfect setting for some sun

13.00: If you are any kind of a skiing sybarite it is time to make you way to the hamlet of Findeln, below the Sunnegga station. This is film-set Switzerland, sun-bleached wooden chalets and lop-eared sheep. There are restaurants here for a week of gourmet lunches, though perhaps you shouldn't plan anything more extreme than sunbathing for the afternoon. Chez Vrony (00 41 27 967 2552; chezvrony.ch) is regarded as a "must" at Findeln, an old farmhouse with a large terrace and sunloungers. Try the fish soup, beef curry with fried apple and potato cakes, or maybe the home-cured meat and alpine cheese.

Dip into some alpine history

15.00: If you're not still on a sun terrace, or making the most of skiing on the glaciers overlooked by the Matterhorn where the snow stays in condition the longest, then visit a new museum telling Zermatt's story. The Matterhorn Museum (00 41 27 966 8100; matterhornmuseum.ch) is due to open this month in the former underground casino in the centre of the village. Replacing the rather dusty old Alpine Museum, it will be as if one has stepped down into a sunken village that is being unearthed by archaeologists. (Will it, one wonders, still display the notorious rope that broke in 1865, turning the first ascent of the Matterhorn into a tragedy and making Zermatt famous overnight?).

Raise a glass to après-ski

16.30: Après-ski. Spoilt for choice really. Perhaps the most famous is the Papperla Pub (00 41 27 967 4040; papperlapub.ch) in Steinmattstrasse with its special drinks and grand assortment of beers. Or maybe, if you're not quite ready to descend to the town, linger at Blatten (00 41 27 967 2096; rhone.ch/rest-blatten) on the way down from the Furi station.

Fancy a bit of pampering?

18.00: It's time to unwind, maybe in the hotel sauna. Zermatt is, of course, a spa resort. At the four-star Hotel Mirabeau (00 41 27 966 2660; hotel-mirabeau.ch), its special Alpine Refuge is open to non-residents and guests alike, and treatments include natural cosmetics made from alpine herbs and flowers.

Go for the full Swiss supper

20.00: Eating out in Zermatt is rarely cheap, so most visitors stay half-board or self-cater in apartments. But if you fancy the full Swiss experience, there are good traditional dishes served up at the Schwyzer Stübli (00 41 811 1066; schwyzer-stubli.ch), to an accompaniment of folk music. Newly opened is the Heimberg (12) (00 41 27 967 8484; heimberg-zermatt.ch), in an old wooden house with a modern interior, serving Valais dishes, with live music playing into the small hours.

What's on the cocktail menu?

23.00: The Vernissage (00 41 27 967 6636; vernissage-zermatt.com) is perhaps the most interesting venue in Zermatt and certainly one of the coolest. In fact, you could easily spend the whole of the evening just here, starting with cocktails. Created by the town's best-known artist, Heinz Julen, the Vernissage is a cinema, bar, restaurant and gallery all in one. Don't fade too soon, the music goes on until 4am.

SG

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