Switzerland’s Shoulder Season And How to Take Full Advantage of It

Snow-capped mountains, rolling hills, pristine lakes, picturesque villages, romantic castles, and majestic waterfalls make Switzerland a very attractive travel destination. Obviously, the best time to visit will depend on the season and the month, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Whenever you want to visit, you’re sure to find something worthwhile to do. In case you are planning a visit to Switzerland during the shoulder season, this article might be useful to you.

In this article, we will examine Switzerland’s shoulder season, what to expect, and what the advantages and disadvantages are of visiting the country during this time. There have been people who recommend it as the best time to visit, but this could be misleading. Is it really the best time to visit Switzerland during shoulder season? During Switzerland’s shoulder season, prices are lower for a reason. Keep reading to find out what it is.

Switzerland’s Shoulder Season: When is it?

Image of Lake Bachalpsee in Grindelwald First by Fotoauge from Pixabay

The shoulder season in Switzerland is between the ski season and the hiking season. 

Since each mountain resort has its own skiing and hiking season, the start and end dates will vary depending on the resort. 

Ski resorts with higher elevations have longer ski seasons, while ski resorts with lower elevations may have longer summer seasons.

Especially early in April, the ski resorts on higher elevations will still be enjoying a winter season. During that period, as smaller and lower-rated ski resorts close, the majority of ski enthusiasts will flock to the remaining open resorts.

 Let’s have a comparison table to illustrate my point.

Mountain ResortHighest ElevationLocationSummer SeasonWinter Season
Elm2,100 metersElm, GlarusPentecost Weekend (late May) until November 1Mid-December until Early April
Corvatsch3,303 metersEngadin, GraubündenMid-June until Mid-OctoberLate November until Late April
Männlichen2,343 metersBernese OberlandPentecost Weekend (late May) until Late OctoberMid-December until Mid-April
Saas Fee3,600 metersValaisMid-July until End of OctoberEnd of October until Mid-April

I hope the comparison table above illustrates what I’m trying to say. Knowing when you plan to visit Switzerland will allow you to plan your itinerary accordingly. Some cable cars will take a break for scheduled maintenance, prepare the slopes, or to clear the ski slopes, etc. 

Regardless, expect that most cable cars will not operate between early May and the third week of May. Some mountain resorts will still be in the midst of their ski season if you arrive earlier, whereas some are slowly winding down their operations. 

If you wish to visit during late summer or early autumn, September is probably the best time. As schools start back in the middle of or during late August, most families do not go on vacation in September. During this time, you can get great deals on hotels and self-catering accommodations. In addition, most cable cars are still in operation until the middle or until the end of October. 

Switzerland’s Shoulder Season: What happens during this time?

If you come during shoulder season, you should be aware of the following:

  • Cable cars may be closed for maintenance or holidays during shoulder season.
  • Restaurants, especially those located directly next to or near cable cars without easy car access, may also be closed during shoulder season.
  • Some bakeries may also be closed during shoulder season.
  • Most supermarkets, on the other hand, such as Coop, Migros, and Volg will be open during their regular opening hours.
  • Trains operate regularly even during shoulder season.
  • Regular Post Buses (yellow buses) operate during shoulder season
  • Most alpine buses start operations in June or July and carry on until around October. Check the website in any case.
  • Post offices are also open during shoulder season.

Switzerland’s Shoulder Season Advantages

Image of Hotel Carlton in St. Moritz by Erich Westendarp from Pixabay
  • Hotel and apartment costs are cheaper
  • Flights are cheaper
  • Fewer crowds
  • Ticket availability is easier
  • Classic images of snow-capped mountains overlooking greener lower hills

Switzerland’s Shoulder Season Disadvantages

Swiss Mountain Restaurant. Image by schomy from flickr
  • Closed restaurants and bakeries
  • Cable cars and alpine buses may be not operational
  • Hiking paths are also likely not yet ready and/or closed

Switzerland’s Shoulder Season: Take full advantage of it

Image of Bern by TeeFarm from Pixabay
  • The majority of cities and towns will continue to operate normally since they have year-round residents and employees. The shoulder season affects normally popular tourist destinations such as mountain resorts and ski resorts. Therefore, you can book a few days or nights in Zurich, Lucerne, Bern, Geneva, Lausanne, and Basel without any worries. 
  • Gardens and Parks are perfect places to visit during Spring when the flowers start blooming. Near Zurich is a beautiful park called Park Seleger Moor. Ticino also has a number of parks worth visiting during spring such as Parco Scherrer in Morcote and Parco San Grato in Carona.
  • Alpine cow ascent and descent typically happens during the shoulder season. The cows go up the alps in May and come down after summer typically during September. Visit one of the traditional villages such as Appenzell, Prättigau, or Lenk.
  • Wine harvest is also something that typically happens during the shoulder season. Why not take this opportunity to visit one of the Swiss wine regions? We have an article regarding this here: 7 Best Idyllic Swiss Wine Regions Explained.
  • Waterfalls are actually really best visited right after winter when the snow is melting. They have a more powerful force during spring compared to summer, especially if it has not rained for a couple of days. You can visit Seerenbach near Lake Walen or one of the other beautiful waterfalls in Switzerland.
  • Relaxing Walks especially around a lake is another good option during the shoulder season. You can walk around St. Moritz, or Heidsee in Lenzerheide, in Zurich, Lucerne, and more. Blausee lake is beautiful in autumn, as well as Crestasee in Graubünden.
  • Ballenberg Open-Air Museum is also worthwhile to visit as it opens starting mid-April. This unique museum features various different houses from all over Switzerland all in one compact place. It is near Brienz in the canton of Bern. Ballenberg Open-Air Museum is open until the end of October right before ski season begins.

Summary

Emmen Valley. Image by Martin Abegglen from flickr

Despite the fact that you can save a lot of money during the shoulder season, you must be aware that there are some disadvantages to traveling at this time. The good news is that there are still many options for you to explore in Switzerland even during the shoulder season. Among the examples given were various parks, waterfalls, and lakes.

You can also arrange your itinerary to arrive just before cable car operations end. Alternatively, you can come just after they start running. 

Research does pay off when you want to visit Switzerland during shoulder season. We hope you found this article helpful.

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