Leukerbad ski lift operator in dire straits

A ski lift operator at the mountain resort and spa town of Leukerbad in the canton of Valais is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

A district court has granted a provisional debt restructuring moratorium to the Torrent lift company, which operates a cable car and various other lifts above the town.

The firm’s director Modeste Jossen confirmed the decision on Wednesday, the ATS news agency reported.

The court ordered a four-month term for debt enforcement to be suspended, while appointing a Bern company Transliq as administrator to negotiate a deal.

This allows for the lifts to keep operating until the end of the ski season.

After two difficult seasons, the lift operator has seen revenues fall by 15 percent since the beginning of this season, ATS said.

It said the company’s debts amounted to 14.5 million francs.

But Jossen said the debt was not so much a problem as the fact that immediate expenses cannot be met because operations generate insufficient receipts.

He cited a drop in tourists to Leukerbad (known in French as Loèche-les-Bains) as well as the absence of an adequate artificial snow-making system for the slopes, which lie at an altitude between 1,500 and 2,610 metres above sea level.

Lower altitude ski resorts in Switzerland have periodically suffered in recent years from a lack of snow, particularly early in the season.

This combined with the surge in the value of the Swiss franc against the euro and other currencies has made for challenging operations.

The Torrent lift system employees a total of 60 people, including 14 year-round and the rest during the peak tourist seasons, ATS said.

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