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From a Village-Mayen to a Ski Resort

Before becoming the ski resort that we know today, Zinal was what
is called a village-mayen inhabited only on a periodical basis.

The Anniviards lived essentially off the land and livestock. They moved from the mountains to the valley of the Rhone, on foot or on carts pulled by mules, several times a year, according to the different tasks they had to perform. In March, they went down to Sierre to do work in the vineyards and gardens. In June, they brought the livestock first to Zinal and then to the pastures. In July, they went back up to prepare the hay, while in October they came down from Zinal and Ayer to Sierre for the harvest of grapes. In December, they climbed from Ayer to Zinal to allow livestock to eat the hay cut in summer.

In January 1897, a traveller counted about 600 people from different villages of Anniviers, staying in the small hamlets, that formed the valley of Zinal.

An increasingly high number of tourists in large part English, attracted first by nature and by the peaks, was at the origin of the construction of several hotels in the late nineteenth century. From the late nineteenth century until 1906, it was even envisaged to create an electric railway to Zermatt from Sierre via the Anniviers Valley, with stops including Zinal. However this ambitious project was abandoned because of the First World War.

Beginning in 1860, Zinal gained some notoriety as a summer resort with its peaks and became a place of choice for the English mountain climbers. In 1857 the first Alpine Club was created in England initiating the golden age of mountaineering. The British group was followed by the creation of an Austrian counterpart in 1862, with Switzerland and Italy following in 1863, Germany in 1869 and France in 1874.

Beginning in 1870, the profession of mountain guide began to take form. In 1937 the “The société des Guides de Zinal” was created; preceding that of Anniviers. In 1966 the “Bureau des Guides“ and that of the Ski School, were opened in Zinal. The “ Société de développement“ was established in 1938. Since then, the Association has taken care of advertising, animation, and the creation and maintenance of footpaths. In 1966, the local Tourist Office was opened.

Until 1950 the postal bus stopped at Ayer. Travellers going to Zinal continued on a mule track. In the years 1945-1950, mail was still delivered by a postman on a mule. The new road, inaugurated in 1957, marked the beginning of the development of the winter and summer resort.

In the years 1955 to 1960, the decline of agriculture and summer tourism were the main causes of the movement of mountain residents to the valley of the Rhone in search of work. As a summer resort only, Zinal, did not benefit from the wave of winter tourism that swept through Switzerland and Europe. That is why it became necessary to boost tourism by creating a ski resort. In 1961, Zinal inaugurated its first winter facility: the Défichiaz ski lift, located in the village. In 1966 the development work on the Sorebois ski domain began. The site of the Zinal-Sorebois cable car was created as well as the resort of Club Méditerranée whose arrival in Zinal was a major event. This was the beginning of Zinal as a winter and thus a year-round resort. In 1960, the village had 6 permanent residents and 110 in 1970.

Over time, the village of Zinal, periodically inhabited by people from the Val d’Anniviers, turned into a resort village, inhabited all year round by people from diverse backgrounds.

Useful documents


From a Village-Mayen to a Ski Resort
3961 Zinal


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