Zermatt is widely viewed as one of the best ski resorts in Europe. It has a great vibe, attractive village and reliable snow conditions.
If you’re looking for a European summer skiing destination, Zermatt is sure to feature near the top of your list. This is mainly due to the much talked about 25km of skiable glacier.
However, just knowing the amount of slopes you can ski certainly doesn’t paint the whole picture. In this article, we provide the honest truth about what you can expect when you’re summer skiing in Zermatt.
Getting To Zermatt Ski Village
Zermatt is a resort located in the Swiss Alps. Zermatt ski resort is a part of the German speaking Valais Canton.
The closest airport to Zermatt is located 82km away in the small city of Sion. However, this airport has limited international flight availability.
The most common airports used by travellers are Geneva, Zurich, Milan and Basel. All four of these cities are situated around three/four hours away (by train) and have airports running regular international flights.
If you are looking to drive to Zermatt, it’s worth noting that it is a car free resort. This means that you will need to park your car at the nearby village of Tasch (chargeable).
Once you have parked in Tasch, you can easily reach Zermatt by train or taxi.
Zermatt Resort Town
When you arrive in Zermatt, it’s easy to see why it has attracted so many returning clients for many years.
Historically, Zermatt was an agricultural town. This changed rapidly over the second half of the 19th century when many new ski lifts were installed.
These days, Zermatt is better known for its skiing and hiking. However, it does maintain much of the charm that attracted people to the resort many years ago.
The main street is hive of activity; lined with luxury shopping, small boutiques, off-the-wall bars and restaurants to suit every appetite.
Away from the main street, Zermatt is filled with beautiful chalets – both old and new. Small winding streets house traditional barns and chalets.
During the summer months, you can be sure to see the buildings lined with an array of multi-coloured flowers in full bloom.
Zermatt’s architecture is something to behold. Unlike many larger resorts, Zermatt has managed to maintain many of its original buildings that stand as a reminder to its rural heritage.
Accessing The Glacier
Zermatt glacier is usually open for summer skiing from May until November.
In the morning, the lift system starts at 6:30am. In the afternoon, you will need to head back at 1pm. The last lift down from the glacier leaves at 1:45pm.
The ski area can be accessed directly by taking a gondola from the town. Depending on the time you catch the gondola, you will need to change lifts one or two times before you reach the skiable area.
If you get on the gondola between 6:30am – 8am, you will be required to change lifts twice. Involving the gondola and two cable car systems.
If you get on the gondola after 8am, you will only need to change lifts once; the gondola followed by one cable car.
It usually takes around 50 minutes to make the journey from the bottom lift station to the glacier. This is the same whether you need to change once or twice.
When you head back down in the afternoon, you can take the cable car followed by the gondola. Just like on the way up, it takes around 50 minutes to reach the resort from the top lift station.
The T-Bar lifts that service the skiable glacier all close at around 1pm, with the top cable car closing at 1:45pm.
You will need to set off from the glacier no later than 1pm to catch the 1:45 lift back down.
Zermatt Glacier Summer Ski Area
Once you reach the glacier in Zermatt, the ski area is serviced by five T-Bar lifts.
The very top section sits at just over 3800 metres. It has a long T-Bar lift running along it.
This top section is marked as a blue slope. However, much of it is extremely shallow (apart from a short section near to the T-Bar exit point).
This top section is most suitable for anyone who is learning the basics of skiing or is in need of a flatter section to do some warm up activities.
From this very high ski area, you can then follow a sweeping red slope that heads down a relatively steep section and through a tunnel. It then finishes part of the way down the main ski area.
The main ski area contains three T-Bar lifts, allowing access to a variety of ski slopes.
If you are a recreational skier, you predominantly have access to two main ski slopes. Each of these are marked as red slopes, but are not high in difficulty.
The main slopes offer around 300 metres of descent and are roughly 1.5 kilometres in length.
On either side of these main ski slopes, you will see wide areas that are used for ski race training. These are set up in ‘lanes’, meaning each race team will have pre-booked part of this slope to set up their downhill course for training use.
The glacier ski area also offers a terrain park. This is a popular area during the summer months, with less descending distance required for riders who are happy to lap the park and enjoy the sun.
The terrain park is relatively large in size and features a variety of boxes, rails and kickers.
Zermatt Glacier Summer Skiing Piste Map
The Zermatt summer ski area changes each season, dependant on snow availability. Along with the slopes we have described above, there are also additional slopes that can be included in the glacier section.
However, this is not always permitted due to the snow conditions. This means that they are not usually part of the standard summer ski area.
Food & Drink At The Glacier
Zermatt glacier offers three options if you are looking for your mid morning refreshments.
You will find a restaurant immediately at the top of the main cable car. This is a larger restaurant offering a large variety of food and beverage options.
If you are looking for a quick snack or drink, there is also a café located at the bottom of the main ski area. This is a popular place to grab a quick drink as it is located closest to the popular ski slopes.
Made from an old shipping container, they offer a variety of hot/cold drinks. They also offer a comfy deck chair seating area where you can enjoy views of the slope.
Along from the main ski area, it’s also possible to ski across a longer (roughly 400m) flat path to the ‘Plateau Rosa Testa Grigia’. This is a larger and more traditional restaurant, offering good quality lunchtime options.
The ‘Testa’ (as it’s known locally) also offers outdoor decking where you can enjoy the scenic views and sunshine.
Due to the shortened summer skiing days, it’s advisable to bring your own snacks up to the mountain with you and eat them on the lift.
What Is The Zermatt Summer Skiing Weather Like?
When you are in Zermatt ski village, you should expect temperatures averaging above 20 degrees during the day. Shorts and t-shirts will be your primary attire.
However, the weather on the glacier can be a different story.
In the early morning, you can expect the temperature at the top to average just under freezing. This makes it comparable to a normal winter skiing day.
After around 9am, you will notice a fast and significant change in temperature. With the sun now fully shining on the whole ski area, temperatures soar above freezing and begin to resemble the warm ski conditions usually experienced in April.
The weather can also change rapidly and become hostile. This means that sunshine can turn into hailstones very quickly, so you should always be prepared for any situation.
Due to the highly variable weather conditions found on the glacier, it’s common for the lifts to be closed and skiing to be cancelled for the day. This is often due to high winds, wet conditions (rain) or occasionally too much snow (limited summer pisting capabilities).
It’s common for the ski area to be closed one or two days per week, so be prepared for this in advance.
Zermatt Glacier Summer Snow Conditions
Although Zermatt glacier does offer snow all summer, you should not expect the same snow conditions that you will find in the middle of winter!
During the early morning, you will find the snow to be hard packed. This is due to the low overnight temperatures.
You can also expect to find conditions to be fairly icy due to the previously softened snow being frozen overnight.
However, the snow starts to noticeably soften at around 9am. This leads into the ‘golden hour’ of snow conditions on the Zermatt glacier.
Usually, between the hours of 09:30 and 10:30 you can expect excellent snow conditions.
With the previously hard snow slightly softened by the sun, near perfect conditions should not be missed during this middle portion of your ski day.
From 11am onwards, the snow quality will rapidly deteriorate. With the summer warmth proving too much for the snow, slush will start to appear quickly as you head into lunchtime.
In the hour preceding lift closure, you can expect conditions typically found during ‘spring skiing’. This includes plenty of slush and moguls beginning to form on the main slopes.
Usually you will find that snow conditions have forced the racers to pack up and go home at around 12pm. However, anyone using the terrain park will still be making the most of the softened snow right up until lift closure.
What Should I Wear Summer Skiing In Zermatt?
Due the variable (and sometimes hostile!) weather conditions on the summer glacier, it’s certainly important to come prepared.
You should expect to wear full winter ski gear during the first hours of your ski day; your regular ski jacket, snow pants and ski gloves.
However, after a few hours the weather will get significantly warmer. This means you could comfortably wear a ‘mid-layer’ or ‘shell’ instead of your regular ski jacket. Inner gloves will also be warm enough in these conditions!
Bringing a backpack with you for the day. This means that you can carry multiple layers and wear them when needed.
In the summer conditions, it’s also better to change your ski clothes before you reach the bottom of the ski lift. It’s advisable to bring shorts and trainers with you in the morning; you don’t want to be walking through the hot and sunny town with your snow pants on!Don’t forget to pack your ‘lift snacks’. Click To Tweet
Would You Recommend Summer Skiing In Zermatt?
The answer to this question depends solely on your objectives. Although Zermatt glacier has some of the best summer skiing in Europe, it is still extremely limited in comparison to winter skiing.
When you arrive at the glacier, you will notice that many of the skiers are either; racers, park skiers or people that live in Zermatt village.
Zermatt offers a great place for athletes to train year-round and for locals to get the occasional day of skiing. However, I would stop short of recommending it as a ski holiday destination.
If you are an intermediate (and above) level holiday skier, you will likely find that the ski area is not big enough to satisfy your skiing desires.
However, it’s certainly worth visiting Zermatt glacier for one or two days of summer skiing if it’s part of a longer trip. Zermatt has a lot to offer (hiking, cycling, climbing etc.) along side skiing, making it a great destination for both summer and winter sports.
How Much Do Things Cost In Zermatt?
Switzerland is a country that offers a high standard of living. However, with this also comes a high cost of living.
If you are heading to Zermatt for your summer ski trip, it’s important you factor in the inflated cost of goods and services within the country.
Here is a list of some items you can expect to purchase while summer skiing in Zermatt:
- Return Train Ticket (Geneva, Basel, Zurich): Average CHF130.
- Summer Skiing Glacier Lift Pass: CHF80 per day.
- Taxi Within Zermatt Ski Village: CHF20 per 10 minutes.
- Cup Of Coffee: CHF5 (average café).
- Restaurant Meal: CHF30 per person (average restaurant).
- Bottle Of Water On The Mountain: CHF3.5.
- Average Double Room, 3 Star Hotel: CHF110 per night.
*Information correct as of 08/2020. These figures are estimates based on our recent stay that preceded this article.
Zermatt has a lot to offer to many people looking for summer skiing. However, this really depends on what you are looking for from your trip.
If you’re happy to combine summer activities alongside some skiing, then this is the perfect Swiss village to do so.
However, if you’re looking for a week long ski break, Zermatt summer skiing is probably not for you.
Zermatt is a great ski destination, both in summer and winter. Although the summer skiing has some shortfalls, it’s easy to see why this ski resort has caught the eye of so many happy travellers.
Have you been skiing in Zermatt during the summer? Would you recommend it? Let us know in the comments below.
James is the founder of SnowSunSee. He started skiing when he was five years old and has been a qualified ski instructor for 8 years. He has taught skiing in many countries, including UK, Europe, Japan, China and Malaysia. When he’s not on the slopes, James spends his time travelling the world one trail at a time.