Switzerland in May or September?

May 29th, 2007, 09:02 PM
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Switzerland in May or September?

Our choices for going to Switzerland and perhaps Austria next year are limited to May or September. Fodor's says that "in May and June the mountains are at their loveliest, with Alpine flowers blooming and the peaks capped with snow." I've scoured the posts here, which seem to question this conclusion about May -- I also realize that each month has its drawbacks and that of course there is no way to predict the weather. Our tentative itinerary is something like Vevey, Grindelwald, and Luzern -- we've been to Zurich and the Lugano area, and rather than return there I'd probably like to go to western Austria for the first time. So which should it be, May or September? I should add that I'm most concerned about the week or so we'll spend in Grindelwald, since bad weather in cities is much easier to handle. Thanks for the help.
alohatoall is offline  
May 29th, 2007, 09:20 PM
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Fodor's is right that the Alps are very beautiful in May.. flowers blooming, snow-capped peaks. But: September is a much more safer bet if you wish to leave the umbrella at home.

In general: The Alps are a meteorological divide. The Southern parts get better weather than the Northern range - as a rule of thumb.

Alternatives to the sunny canton of Tessin which you already experienced when you where in Lugano are Carinthia (southern Austria) or the Dolomites area in Southern Tyrol (Northern Italy).
Cowboy1968 is offline  
May 29th, 2007, 10:17 PM
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I've been to Switzerland in both May and September (and November, December March and April!) and I prefer May hands down. I found the alpine villages entirely too busy and the weather too warm during September, but that's just me.

Weatherwise, September is a safer bet, but you just never know what the weather gods are going to do.

If you choose May, keep in mind that many hotels, restaurants and some mountain excursions will be closed. The summer season doesn't get underway until early-mid June.

I'd still choose May, but I tend to go against the flow.
Melnq8 is offline  
May 29th, 2007, 10:22 PM
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NOTE: My reference to closures regards alpine villages. Cities are a different story altogether.
Melnq8 is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 02:09 AM
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It snowed across the region yesterday...
TuckH is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 03:36 AM
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And today the sun is shining, and the mountains are all snow-capped. It's going to warm up and much of the snow will soon disappear.

There is no way anyone can tell you how the weather will be next May or September. The flowers were early this year because of the mild winter (I saw lots of enzian though during our Mother's Day hike) so May would have been good. Last year, we had a very rainy May with not many real nice days.

September offers less flowers but you'll see and hear the cows in the alps, as long as there hasn't been an early snowfall. We've had snowfall mid September and we've had wonderfully warm temperatures as well.

It's potluck although I prefer warmer temperatures in the mountains than cool spring temperatures so I'd be leaning towards September. However, when I think of those pretty flowers I saw two weeks ago, May sounds tempting too.

September: More things are open than in May, especially lifts and restaurants.

kleeblatt is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 04:22 AM
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I want snow!

Schuler - I had no idea enzian was a flower - seems I learn something new every day.
Melnq8 is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 04:34 AM
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We had huge snowflakes falling on tall green grass Monday morning. I had been wearing shorts on Sunday and then woke up to snow.

My brother-in-law had planned his birthday party in the barn where the hay is stored. We had to find heaters and drank cafe schnapps the whole afternoon just to keep warm. It was still nice, though. And the food scrumptious: Schwinger Plätzli, Salat Buffet, Muotathaler Rahmkirsch Torte, Schwarzwälder Torte and lots of coffee with schnapps.
kleeblatt is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 06:23 AM
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I think either month would be lovely. Vevey is one of my favorite spots in the world.
suze is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 02:33 PM
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If you looked much at the rain in Switzerland this month, particularly in the Berner Oberland, I think you would say Yuk, with a capital Y.

bob_brown is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 03:29 PM
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Of course I'm a flower---didn't you know?

Schuler---that party in the barn sounds great.

I hope the flowers you saw were Frühling-Enzian and not Schnee-Enzian. I'm hoping to see Schnee-Enzian in late June-early July. My Alpen Blumen book says they bloom from June to August, so hopefully we can find some up around Wengen or Mürren.

P.S. to melng8---if you know wildflowers, Enzian is a gentian.

alohatoall--I apologize for the diversion. If it were my trip, I'd go in September, but that is because we like to go hiking in the mountains. For Vevey and Luzern, I'd have to choose May.
enzian is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 04:21 PM
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Schuler -

Go ahead, torture me! Here I sit in Indonesia where snow is just a distant memory. Coffee and schnapps would be a nice change from G&T, but it's just too bloody hot!

enzian - had no idea you were a flower, but the light came on the minute I saw Schuler's post. I looked you up and I'm sure I've seen you in Switzerland, I just didn't know who I was looking at.
Melnq8 is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 04:28 PM
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May is better - much longer days for you to enjoy - and lovely spring flowers in bloom. We've been to Switzerland several times in May and have never had extended bad weather - although anything is possible at any time of year.
nytraveler is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 05:29 PM
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Lemme (let me) put my approval of travel in Switzerland in the month of September.

Based on my own experience, Switzerland usually has a summer high pressure system in place. That usually means similar type summer weather patterns as we would find in the Midwest, The southern USA and East Coast. Warm weather with an afternoon shower. Not quite as hot and humid as we would find in some of those American regions, but similar weather in some ways.

Nights are fallishly cool. LOL

Then besides the weather, most of the college backpack set have gone back to the USA. Somewhat lesser crowds in my opinion in September.

I saw a fairly significant snowfall on September 15,2001 just above Wengen. Wengen got soaking rains, but as I looked across the valley over to Murren and Winteregg, I saw snow on the ground.

When I went to Kleine Scheidegg, I noticed the snow line just above Wengen had a decent snowfall.

Even though that particular September had snowy weather for the Jungfrau region, I still believe that late August and the first two weeks in September is a great time to travel.

That is just what I have experienced. If anyone has not had much luck in September, oh well, but in my opinion September is a great month to spend some time in Switzerland.

But May probably has some good things also.
sunstar is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 07:31 PM
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Having lived in Switzerland for 4 Mays and 4 Septembers, I would definately choose September as a chance of better weather in the mountains, esp if you mean the first 2-3 weeks of May versus the last week of May. The early part of May in my experience just tends to more rain and most espdically to fog as temps are lifting (yes bringing those flowers). You also can't do as many walks as snow is still present in good quantiies in higher elevations and you also have slush and mud, again due to rising temps. The last week in May is OK. But September is still summer (it is still long days then too, take a look at sunrisesunset.com), and good temps. Great walking as well in this month.

Early June is very good for flowers in the mountains in my opinion, I think that is what Fodors means. Flowerboxes aren't really blooming in May and neither are the Alpine flowers.

If you are going to Vevey, you will find the vineyards quite brown in May as the new vines are start starting out their growth, but really lovely in September at their peak, it is right before harvest (and you may be in time for harvest festivals in some places), so I would again vote for September for the Lake Geneva aera.
Cicerone is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 11:02 AM
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Wow, thanks for all the thoughtful replies -- and the interesting diversions! I think we could arrange to be in the mountains about May 20 or so, but it sounds like September offers a better chance of good weather and of finding open lifts and restaurants. It also sounds like the Alpine flowers I'd love to see aren't in bloom in May anyway. Just one more question -- what do the mountains in the Berner Oberland look like in September -- has most of the snow melted? I was just looking at a blog with some photos taken in September, and a lot of the peaks looked pretty bare! Thanks again for all the help.
alohatoall is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 07:04 PM
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Whether there is snow on mountain tops in September will depend on how hot the summer has been. IN GENERAL there is ALWAYS snow on top of the Jungrfrau and other high peaks all year. But some recent summers have been so hot (notably 2003) that snowmelt was considerable, even of the glaciers on Zermatt and other places. Of course if you go in May, there is a chance you will be IN a snowstorm...you may still have snow but of course may not be able to see it for the fog....as I also mentioned, doing the great walks in the Jungfrau, like the Maennlichen to Kleine Schiedigg walk is just more difficult in May as you will encounter muddy, slushy conditions and sometimes deep snow still on the trail.
Cicerone is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 08:23 PM
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Probablly not unlike the rest of the Swiss travel folks on this forum, I have been to this region about 10 times. Based on some of the reports I have read in here, some have been to this region many many more times than I.

On a couple of trips though, I did see some snow on that Mannlichen to Kliene Scheidegg walk. Before I arrived to the Grindlewald area one trip, I think there had been an early snow about 4 or 5 days before I arrived. The results of that snow were still visible by the time I did this walk. There were patches of snow along the trail, but certainly not enough snow to pose any problems.

Other than 1 or 2 trips in September (and I mentioned that September 15th 2001 Wengen trip), I have encountered good weather where the trail or trails were dry and clear.

Since many of the high trails were above the tree line, I saw no fall type colors or anything.

As I said, late August and Early September is a great time to travel.

In my opinion, this region has a lok and feel of late summer in September!

sunstar is offline  
Jun 1st, 2007, 09:14 AM
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I personally prefer September over May (or even June) when going to the really high mountains. I found the weather to be much more stable in October than in early summer. No thunderstorms, no surprising showers. In (early) summer you don't even know on a clear morning if the there are showers and dangerous thunderstorms in the noon/afternoon.

My best hiking vacations so far have been in late October - once in around Lucerne (base: Stans) and once in the Upper Engadine (two years ago) - both times the colours of the leaves were amazing. Probably almost like Indian Summer in New England (but I'll see *that* part of the world this year in fall, so no comparison so far ).

Snow can be a problem anytime in the year. One year in early July the hiking trails in the Jungfrau region (yes, the Männlichen - Kleine Scheidegg hike too!) were closed for three days due to heavy snow fall (2 feet) when I was there.
Ingo is offline  
Jun 1st, 2007, 02:53 PM
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Thanks again for the help -- looks like it will be Switzerland in September. I really appreciate all the input from the experts here.
alohatoall is offline  

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