Swiss Ski Resorts To Open Over Xmas

The announcement has been made by the Federal government. Many will welcome the move and many others will worry about it helping to spread coronavirus in a country that continues to have a high infection rate.

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“The ski areas in Switzerland will be able to open during the Christmas holidays,” said the Swiss government in a statement.

It said they should be open for “domestic tourism”.

It has ordered further reductions in capacity in trains, gondolas and cable cars with a maximum of two thirds of their allowed numbers from December 9th.

The resorts will need permits to open from cantonal governments from December 22nd and the canton authorities have a duty to monitor compliance, the government warned.

“The prerequisite is that the epidemiological situation so allows, and that hospitals, contact tracing services and testing sites have sufficient capacity,” the statement added.

There will be no limits on the number of people allowed into resorts.

Verbier, Switzerland

Verbier, Switzerland. Photo credit – PlanetSKI

Health Minister, Alain Berset, said the decision to keep Swiss resorts open was designed “above all for people living in Switzerland…not beyond that”.

“We don’t want people coming from surrounding countries that are closed off and then for people to say that we are taking advantage of this situation,”

“That would be very unpleasant for everyone – for Switzerland and the resorts concerned.”

The progression in new cases in November has slowed in Switzerland as restrictions, but not full lockdown, have had their impact.

The 7-day average of daily cases stands at 3,691.  That is 6% less than the previous week.

However confirmed cases of Covid-19 have risen by 4,382 in Switzerland over the past 24 hours.

This is the first time since the beginning of November that the number of registered coronavirus infections has risen compared to the same day the week before.

Last Friday it was 4,312.

The current situation remains “very worrying”, according to Alain Berset with the number of infections “stabilising at a high level”.

There are some medical voices issuing concern and warnings, especially when ski injuries are added into the mix.

It is a point picked up by a PlanetSKI reader, Kate Stratford, in the comments over on our Facebook page.

“The most important thing is not the spread – we all know it’s probably the most socially distanced sport there is.  How can the hospitals deal with the accidents if they are already full?  This is a terribly accident prone sport unfortunately,” she says.

” As someone who runs a business in a ski resort (La Plagne) I wish it was just about socially distancing on the mountain or in the resort, with some common sense, that is the easy part.

“There is one way to get the resorts open, get the numbers down in the hospitals,” adds Kate.

And Smixxy Hobden:

“It is weird that no one mentions injuries and hospitals dealing with those injuries,” said Smixxy.
“It makes sense to wait until the hospitals have space for injuries. Anyone who lives in a ski resort or goes reasonably often will understand just how many people are stretchered or helicopter’d off the slopes.”

There are more comments from our readers lower down this article in a range of views.

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In Switzerland there are 304 people per 100,000 of population over a 7-day period catching the virus.

In Italy it is 266 and France 111.

Switzerland has been under growing pressure to close is slopes from its alpine neighbours.

France, Italy and Austria are urging their citizens not to travel to Swiss ski resorts and have put in place quarantine requirements.

Switzerland under pressure to increase Covid-19 restrictions and shut ski resorts

Austria allows skiing at Xmas, but only just and not for many

France reveals measures to stop its citizens skiing abroad

Switzerland has also imposed quarantine measures on people coming from neighbouring Italy and Austria, but not France.

There is no quarantine requirement on people entering Switzerland from the UK, but people coming from Switzerland to the UK currently have to undergo 14-days of quarantine.

Zermatt, Saas-Fee, Arosa, Crans-Montana, Laax, Engleberg, Davos/Klosters and Verbier are among the resorts that have already opened for skiing and snowboarding.

The remainder are set to do so ahead of Christmas.

Businesses in ski resorts are breathing a collective sigh of relief at the news, but there will still be a significant economic impact

The lack of foreign skiers and snowboarders will not be compensated by more domestic tourists.

The Swiss Tourism Board has said that overall bookings for the winter tourism season in Switzerland are down by almost 30% compared with this time last year.

Bookings for the Christmas period have fallen by 19%, while reservations for the rest of the season are down 28%.

The KOF institute in Zurich estimates that overnight stays in Swiss hotels this winter will be down around 31%.

Visitors from other parts of Europe,  including the UK, are down down 49%, with people from outside Europe reduced by 86%.

It all comes as heavy snow is falling with the storm continuing into Saturday.

The snow level will drop to 500m-800m and up to 40cm is forecast.

Snow on the valley floor in Switzerland

Snow on the valley floor in Switzerland. Photo supplied by PlanetSKI reader.

The resorts have strict Covid-19 measures in place.

Though there have been problems, with police called to the main lift in Zermatt after reports of over-crowding and some people not social distancing.

There has been further reaction from readers on the PlanetSKI Facebook page:

Alan Hall: Its also to do with injuries on the mountain that need hospital treatment when hospitals are already busy. But people don’t really seem to be mentioning that. Its not about the spread amongst skiers.

Sander Kan: But what do they exactly mean with; “domestic tourism”? 

Peter Lewis: Hmm – it was ski resorts that first spread the virus in Europe back in March – I won’t be going….

Christa Jackson: Peter Lewis it was après bars and a music fest, all of that now cancelled.

Nick Sharpin: It was the not knowing, not that it was ski resorts per se.

If it had happened in summer it would have been beach bars and nightclubs. It’s not that there’s anything particularly risky about ski resort behaviour that is any different to any town centre, it’s just that we didn’t know it was around and being spread then. Now that we do, with the right precautions it should be no different to anywhere else with sensible restrictions such as mask wearing indoors, limiting numbers to keep distance, ventilating etc, etc

Nick Sharpin: Hopefully they will generate and share some data that shows that it doesn’t lead to very high transmission rates, and other countries can benefit.

Jodie Powell:  could be worth looking at, I wish the French would decide what’s going on.

The Swiss canton of Graubunden, home to St Moritz, Klosters, Arosa, Davos and other resorts, has announced targeted mass testing as part of its measures to shore up the ski season.

Testing will be voluntary and the pilot project will take place 11th – 13th December in some regions.

Depending on results mass testing could be extended to the entire canton in southeast Switzerland.

“We want to massively increase testing capacity. We are doing a pilot project for Switzerland,” said Peter Peyer from the Graubunden cantonal government.

The news of ski resorts opening has raised some worries in the medical profession.

Hospital intensive care beds are already reported to be nearing capacity, but most hospitals still have spare beds.

The number of deaths, people in intensive care and in hospital is higher in the second wave than the first back in March and April.

The graphs below come from the web site, Swissinfo.

In most European countries there were much higher peaks in the spring than now.

The authorities will be aware of the risks being taken and have introduced further measures that apply across the whole country including ski resorts.

  • The number of people allowed to be in a shop at any one time will be reduced.
  • In restaurants contact details for at least one guest per table must be registered.
  • On New Year’s Eve, closing time will be extended from 11pm to 1am to reduce the risk of spontaneous private gatherings.
  • Singing indoors or outdoors is not permitted, apart from in a family setting or at primary and lower secondary schools
  • A recommendation that people from no more than two households meet privately or when visiting a restaurant to keep the number of contacts to a minimum.
Skiing in Switzerland

Skiing in Switzerland. Photo credit – PlanetSKI

Here at PlanetSKI we will be updating this article with further details and reaction so do check back…

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