Our 2022 ski trip to Zermatt, Switzerland, was our second time visiting the city. The first time, we went during the summer and stared longingly at the snow-covered mountaintops as we hiked (it was in fact this experience that started our skiing journey). This time, we went ready for a skiing adventure, and along the way we picked up some tips from locals and from experience that will make your trip much more fun.
Buy the international lift pass for at least one day.
There are only a few places in the world where you can ski from one country into another, and this is one of them. (Another one is the Dolomites, where you can ski from Austria into Italy.) It's about $50 extra per person per day.
Note: if you have the Ikon pass, you'll need to visit the ticket desk to get the pass that you swipe to get onto the lifts.
Also note: if you have the Ikon Pass, you'll receive a separate physical pass for your international day. If purchased your lift ticket in Zermatt, they can add the international pass to the same ticket.
Also, also note (last one, I promise!): if you put your Swiss pass and Italian pass in the same pocket, neither one will work when you scan them.
Make sure you get back from Italy on time.
The last gondola from Italy's Cime Bianche Laghi station up to Plateau Rosa, the crossover point back to Switzerland, leaves around 3:15pm (or, at least, it did when we were there...check the board for last lift times). Unfortunately, the only way to get there is to ski down to Plan Maison, the bottom-most Italian station, and take the lift up, then board the gondola. (If you find yourself in the town of Breuil-Cervinia, you've gone too far.) Plan your last run carefully to make sure you have time to get back. If you don't make it back in time, the bus ride from Breuil-Cervinia to Zermatt is...longer than you want it to be.
Use the ski lockers at the Trockener Steg ski station.
They cost 2 francs/day. They're activated by your lift pass, and you can pay with a card or your phone at the kiosk at the end of the row of lockers. Unless you're in a ski-in/ski-out chalet, walking from the lift to your hotel is much nicer without skis. (There are lockers at other stations, such as Furi and Sunnegga, but we always started at the top, so Trockener Steg worked best. There are also heated ski lockers to store your boots and other equipment, but we didn't have a need for them.)
Go up to the observation post at Matterhorn Glacier Paradise.
It's even colder than down below, but the view is totally worth it.
Visit before the season opens (typically the first or second weekend in December).
The Matterhorn's glaciers offer year-round skiing, but we don't recommend skiing in July. Instead, go the last week before the season truly opens, so you get maximum snowpack with minimum tourists. The season's tourists turn the town into a zoo, the chalets up the mountain into unaffordable luxuries, and every restaurant into noisy reservation-only establishments.
Book your stay well in advance.
We booked our chalet (Ferienhaus Casa Luna) in April for an early-December visit and got an entire two-bedroom apartment with a huge kitchen for less than $200/night. Booked later, the same places goes for nearly $600/night.
Buy groceries at Migro in town.
It's cliché for a travel site to suggest buying groceries to save money, but Switzerland is truly expensive, and Zermatt more so, and food and beer on the mountain excessively more so. Save your budget for that international lift ticket. Trust us, it's worth it.