Zermatt doesn’t really make you think that hard about when to visit. Chances are, you’ll be able to do what interests you any time of year. Skiing is available year-round (on the glacier at Théodul Pass), and some hiking trails are maintained even in winter, allowing visitors to ascend as high as Sunnegga Paradise, at 7,500 feet on the Matterhorn. The trains and lifts operate even in late spring and fall, when other mountain towns go into hibernation.
Still, there are peaks and valleys to tourism in Zermatt, especially for the budget-conscious. High season for the ski slopes is Christmas through New Year’s, when accommodations are at a premium and reservations well in advance are a prerequisite. But immediately following Easter Sunday, Europeans lose interest in skiing and Zermatt clears out abruptly. The uncrowded slopes remain open for a few more weeks, offering great value for avid schussers (as do the weeks prior to Christmas).
Summer is the other peak season, and room availability can be slim in July and August as foreigners swing through for a view of the famous mountain. May and June finds Zermatt at its most beautiful—there are still patches of snow in the lower elevations, and wildflowers add splashes of color to the valley. September is generally excellent for hiking, with daytime highs averaging 60 degrees. Although the weather is more unpredictable, May and October—the zwischenzeit, or “interim periods”—are crowd-free in Zermatt, with lodging deals more readily available.