Many guests know Zermatt as a winter ski resort. However, 95 years ago, today’s tourist destination only attracted visitors from all over the world in the summer. Back then, the first winter season was an adventure for hoteliers.
Winter tourism: a new vision
John had already been to Zermatt several times in the summer and had undertaken extensive walks there. But he wouldn’t have dreamed of visiting the place in the winter. It was all the more surprising for him when his friend Dr Hermann Seiler, Director of the Hotel Victoria, informed him that he would be opening the hotel in the winter of 1927/28.
The plan seemed risky, but also daring. Dr Seiler convinced John and together the two men decided that John and 179 other Englishmen and women should travel to Zermatt in the winter.
A wintry sleigh ride
The group departed from London on a cold January morning with excitement. Once they had arrived in Switzerland, John enjoyed the special trip on the Visp-Zermatt Railway through the snow-covered Mattertal valley to St. Niklaus. Due to the lack of avalanche barriers, the journey on to Zermatt continued in fifty horse-drawn sleighs: a beautiful sight! When the group arrived in Zermatt, the whole village was on its feet to welcome the winter guests. The trial was a complete success!
First winter season!
An employee of the Visp-Zermatt Railway explained to John and the other guests that the railway would carry out the most urgent avalanche installations in the summer of 1928 and introduce a modest winter timetable. The Gornergrat Railway would start operating in winter at Christmas. John and many other Englishmen returned to Zermatt next winter to ski taking advantage of the two daily sports trains to Riffelalp.