Or when is the good snow?
The accurate answer… mainly in winter.
Beyond that, it’s hard to give any hard and fast answers as there aren’t clearly defined patterns really. We’ve had snow in the village in August and we’ve had rainfall at Christmas. We’ve had metres of snow in town pre season and we’ve gone eight weeks over November and December without any snow at all. We’ve had years with the occasional (very) large dump of snow. We’ve had years with frequent smaller storms. It’s impossible to say what any week or month will bring. And it’s impossible to say what the snow conditions will definitely be like at any particular time of year.
But in general…
When does it first snow?
We get some typically British autumn weather through October. Days can be grey and rainy in town (although we get plenty of sunshine too). Some of this precipitation can fall as snow higher up and ‘the snowline’ tends to gradually descend as the weather gets colder toward winter. If it does snow in town in October, we’d fully expect it to melt (or get washed away by a rainfall) long before winter.
In November, we’re more likely to have storms bring snow at lower altitudes. Even though this snowfall in town might not last, we’re definitely banking on whatever falls higher up to remain and form the base for the ski pistes.
If it doesn’t snow in November, this is the month the artificial snow making system goes into overdrive. The lift company do an amazing job of getting most of the pistes open even if we don’t see a flake of snow.
When does the season start?
There’s skiing available up on the glacier all year round, but we think of the start of winter proper as being the date that the Sunnegga and Gornergrat areas open their pistes. This is normally at the end of November. Due to the artificial snow making system, you’re sure to have great piste skiing on an extensive number of runs. In fact, the first half of December is an awesome time to visit. The slopes are not crowded and you can blast around fine tuning technique and getting the legs up to speed before the winter really kicks in. You are normally limited to the pistes though, it would need to be an exceptional good snow year to have enough of a base to ski off piste in November.
White Christmas guarantee?
Yep, it’ll be white somewhere. There will be loads of ski area to explore and you won’t be dodging rocks on the pistes. But will there be snow in town? Probably. The short days and colder temperatures mean that what snow falls in December, generally stays. It’s not unusual for Zermatt to have that picture postcard blanket of white on the roofs for Christmas.
What time of year has the best snow?
We get approximately 20+ days of snowfall per winter. We’re lucky to be high enough that temperatures are generally cold enough that the snow doesn’t melt. That means these storms bring top ups of snow rather than replenish what’s disappeared since the last dump.
How long does the snow stay?
As the temperatures rise and the snow starts to melt, the south facing slopes lower down can get soft as early as February. The north facing and higher slopes start to experience this much later. As we’ve usually had plenty of snow through the winter, this doesn’t mean runs close. There’s still plenty of snow, the runs just get slushy through the day (and can be icy in the mornings). Up high, and especially north facing, the slopes stay in great shape well into April. The second half of April is usually the time we start to see some of the lower runs lose their snow cover and the run to town from Sunnegga can get particularly soft with the odd bare patch. Conditions still stay good high up though.
When does the season end?
Since we can ski year round on the glaciers, the skiing never stops. The end of the main winter season is marked by the closing of the Sunnegga and Gornergrat pstes, usually in the last week of April. After that, the slopes above Trockener Steg offer great skiing and in particular, extra effort goes into making the terrain park more extensive with new features and rails etc.
May is a great time to squeeze the last drops from the ski season and the spring showers we get in town can mean there’s still fantastic powder to be found higher up. Take advantage of the opportunity for a final fling on snow before dusting off the mountain bikes and tennis racquets.
See you in the snow!