More Swiss Cantons to Close Their Ski Resorts over Xmas

9 out the 26 cantons have decided to close their ski areas – the well-known resort of Andermatt will see some of its slopes shut. The rest are smaller resorts. The majority of ski resorts in Switzerland remain open. The Federal Government has said they may have to close if the R-rate goes above 1.2. New restrictions have been announced. UPDATED

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Andermatt is the first internationally known Swiss ski resort to have some of its ski area closed.

The Uri Canton is one of the nine cantons that have ordered ski areas to close.

There is growing concern that hospitals and medical facilities will not be able to cope as the virus spreads and if they need to treat injured skiers.

The decisions have been taken at a regional, cantonal level, rather than national level.

“Due to the current situation, the Canton of Uri closes the ski resort Gemsstock and the entrance to the ski resort Andermatt+Sedrun+Disentis via Andermatt from Tuesday, December 22nd  2020 until Tuesday, December 29th 2020,” said the ski area in a statement.

“On Monday, December 28th 2020, the Canton of Uri will reassess the situation and decide on a possible opening from Wednesday, December 30th 2020.”

The linked ski resorts Sedrun, to Oberalppass, and Disentis are in Graubunden and remain are open.

50 % of the Andermatt+Sedrun+Disentis ski resort remains open.

On Monday Graubunden will be making its decision on whether to close ski resorts.

Graubunden has  a number of other major ski resorts including St Moritz, Laax and Davos/Klosters.

Canton Lucerne has said on Friday that it would close its ski areas over Christmas due to the “very tense epidemiological situation” and the situation in its hospitals.

It only has 6 resorts and they are all small.

Canton Schwyz, with 15 resorts, then followed suit as did the cantons Nidwalden, Zug and Obwalden.

Appenzell Inner Rhodes, Zurich, Uri and St Gallen announced their decision to close on Saturday.

Ski areas will be closed from December 22-29 in all the cantons affected.

St Gallen has 24 resorts including Gamplut, Wildhaus and Flumserberg.

On Friday the Federal Government revealed tighter restrictions across the country, and we detail them lower down this article.

It has also looked at a range of options if the virus continues to spread.

It has said that if the R-rate is over 1.2 on December 28th, or if more than 90%of the intensive care beds are occupied there will be what it calls a ‘partial shutdown’ with shops being ordered to close.

The Federal government said it would be difficult to justify that the ski areas could remain open if shops have to close.

In Canton Zurich the Minister for Health, Natalie Rickli, says that “the hospitals in Zurich are hardly in a position to care for accident victims from the ski areas.”

The canton of Zurich has only a handful of very small ski areas including Steg in Tosstal, Fischenthal-Auruti and Baretswill.

Its concern is its residents returning from a main ski area in need of medical treatment after an injury on the slopes.

The canton of Graubünden has suggested that injured skiers should be treated in their cantons of origin and not where they had the accident.

The rate of increase of covid-19 cases in Switzerland has slowed in the past 7-days, but it still remains worryingly high.

It reports 358 confirmed cases of coronavirus per 100,000 of population over a 7-day period.

The previous week it was 332.

It is the third highest case rate of the major skiing nations after Sweden (423) and Andorra (366).

The cantons have responsibility for health unless the Federal Government declares a state of emergency, as it did in March.

The majority of the other cantons oppose closing ski areas.

“For now we will keep our ski areas open and also open those that have not yet started operations,” said the President of the Council of Stae from the Valais canton, Christophe Darbellay.

“It’s not right that the cantons that have not done anything in the past few weeks are now pointing their fingers at us and turning skiing into a big problem.”

He was referring to the fact that cantons such as Zurich did not put in strict anti-coronavirus restrictions at the beginning of the second wave in the country.

The Valais canton has the lowest R-rate in the country at 0.77.

The Zurich canton has one of the highest at 1.09.

The R-rate is a measure of the speed of the virus spreading.

New Restrictions

The Federal government has announced new restrictions that come into force on Tuesday 22nd December.

The new restrictions will see restaurants and bars, as well as sports, cultural and leisure facilities shut on December 22nd.

They will be allowed to open one month later on January 22nd.

“The evolution of the pandemic does not correspond to our expectations”, said the Health Minister, Alain Berset.

“It is a critical situation. “New infections are increasing in most cantons. The situation in hospitals is not sustainable in the long term,” he added.

The cantons where the R-rate remains below 1 for more than a week, or a 7-day case average that is under the national average, will be able to ease the restrictions and keep their restaurants and other venues open.

If the epidemiological situation continues to deteriorate, the Federal Government  said it would  take further measures quickly.

In ski resorts face masks need to be worn not only in enclosed spaces such as mountain trains and cable cars, but also on open-air chair lifts and T-bars, as well as in queues.

From December 22nd the resorts will need a permit that will be issued by the cantonal authorities when criteria have been met.

The R-rate is highest in the canton of Appenzell-Innerrhoden, where it stands at 1.17.

Next are Bern (1.12), Basel-Country (1.10) and Zurich (1.09).

The R-rate in Aargau, Luzerne, Graubünden, and Thurgau is 1.08.

The lowest rates are in Valais (0.77) and Geneva (0.83).

Injured skier

Injured skier. Photo Credit, PlanetSKI

It comes as another ski area is set to limit the numbers on the slopes.

The Swiss resorts in the Portes du Soleil have announced they will set a limit from  Friday 18th December, on the number of days passes sold in a bid to limit the spread of Covid-19.

The quota will change from day-to-day depending on conditions and the number of lifts open.

The Swiss resorts in the area are Champéry, Les Crosets, Champoussin and Morgins.

The French resorts on the Portes du Soleil area remain closed and any person from France who goes to ski in Switzerland will need to quarantine on their return.

“Each day, only a predefined number of day passes will be put on sale,” said ski area officials.

“As the holidays approach, we want to guarantee the best possible experience for our customers and avoid as much as possible the area being saturated,”said a spokesperson from the area, Enrique Caballero.

These restrictions do not apply to holders of a season pass, and may be lifted when the full area opens.

Verbier is also considering limiting numbers.

“Depending on the number of people over the next few days, we reserve the right to limit the number of skiers on our slopes and facilities to ensure good conditions,” said the resort.

“This means, where applicable, that it will not be possible to purchase a ski pass on the same day at one of our points of sale. We therefore strongly recommend that you purchase your ski pass online.”

Andermatt was planning to opening more terrain this weekend and said passes will be capped at 8,000 per day to prevent over-crowding.

The Andermatt-Oberalp-Sedrun ski area is planned to open this Saturday, December 19th.

Up until now with a smaller area open the numbers had been pegged at 1,000.

Restrictions are intended to reduce the gatherings of people, waiting times and implement the coronavirus protection measures.

“With this step we are ensuring more security and well-being,” said the CEO of the resort, Rainer Flaig.

People must reserve a ride in the GütschExpress gondola online.

The lift is running with two thirds capacity as instructed by the Federal government, which means five people per cabin.

The mountain restaurants have 50% more outside seating.

Switzerland is the only main alpine nation with ski resorts currently open to the general public as Covid-19 cases in Switzerland continue to rise.


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