Zermatt named ‘Best Ski Resort’ in Alps – again

The Swiss resort of Zermatt has defended its crown to be named Best Ski Resort in the Alps for the second time in a row.

Zermatt named ‘Best Ski Resort’ in Alps – again
Photo: Michael Portmann

Awarded every two years, the Best Ski Resort prize is based on a survey of 49,000 winter sports fans carried out by Mountain Management Consulting in collaboration with the University of Innsbruck in Austria.

Some 54 alpine resorts were surveyed across more than 20 categories including the quality and variety of slopes, safety on the pistes, entertainment, gastronomy and provision for families.

As in the previous edition in 2014, Zermatt came top overall, ahead of Livigno in Italy and Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis in Austria in second and third.

Within individual categories the Valais resort came top for piste quality, atmosphere, comfort and exclusivity. It also rated highly for accommodation and piste safety.

Three other Swiss resorts – Saas-Fee (5), Adelboden-Lenk (7) and the Aletsch Arena (9) – featured in the overall top ten.

According to the study’s director Mike Partel, the biggest challenge for ski resorts at the moment is how to react to the “decreasing loyalty” of skiers, who like to change resorts frequently.

“They are not dissatisfied but want to see and experience [other things], in contrast to previous generations,” said the report, adding that resorts had to find a 'wow factor' to keep people coming back.

With its 360 kilometres of pistes, high altitude skiing, views of the Matterhorn and proximity to Italy, Zermatt has long been a major draw for winter sports fans.

However, all that comes at a price.

The resort was recently named the most expensive in the Alps in another study in Germany.

A six-day adult peak season ski pass for the Zermatt-Aosta region costs 463 francs, compared with an average of 295,50 francs (271,70 euros) in French resorts.

After early snow in the past week many Swiss resorts are preparing to open this weekend.

Verbier confirmed it would open some of its slopes on Friday, with others to follow depending on snow conditions in the coming weeks.

Laax and Crans-Montana are among the others partially opening this weekend.

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Switzerland heavily criticised for welcoming foreign skiers

Italy has hit out at Switzerland for failing to prevent foreign skiers from hitting the slopes. Some have gone so far as to blame Switzerland for the spread of virus mutations across Europe.

Switzerland heavily criticised for welcoming foreign skiers
The mighty Matterhorn lies on the border with Italy. Photo by AFP
Italy's government last week blocked ski resorts from reopening, the day before skiing was due to be allowed for the first time this winter season due to coronavirus restrictions.
There is also a ban on non-essential travel until February 25th.

“It's a disaster. For a week now, we have been readying the slopes for the opening and preparing the health protocol,” said Denis Trabucchi, an Italian ski instructor. 

But the ban has not stopped Italian snow enthusiasts from hitting the slopes on the Swiss side of the border, as Switzerland has kept its ski infrastructure open despite the pandemic.

Many Swiss and Italian pistes lie close to each other so it is an easy commute from one resort to another.

The mayors of Italian border towns are annoyed that local skiers are ‘emigrating’ to Swiss ski slopes, according to the Provincio di Como newspaper.

“Cross-border skiers are not as numerous as cross-border workers, of course, but ski traffic has increased,” said Massimiliano Tam, mayor of Villa di Chiavenna, a town in Lombardy.

He said that despite bans on such border hopping, many Italians rent apartments on the Swiss side of the frontier so they can ski.

Roberto Galli, the mayor of Livigno, a ski resort in the Italian Alps, is also livid at the “cross-border ski mobility”.

“Customs controls are really limited” he said, calling for more rigorous checks “especially for Italian cars with ski racks and snow on the roof”.

Italian authorities even went as far as blaming Switzerland for the spread of the pandemic across Europe. 

Walter Ricciardi, the head of the Italian government's coronavirus task force, said Switzerland's decision to keep ski slopes open throughout winter, while neighbouring countries shut down theirs, allowed the British strain of coronavirus to arrive on the continent.

READ MORE: Is Switzerland to blame for Europe’s third wave of coronavirus?

A similar situation occurred in December, when French skiers tried to sneak into Switzerland to ski.

France’s authorities quickly announced that French residents heading abroad to ski would have to self-isolate for seven days on return and that border checks would be stepped up in certain areas. 

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What are the Covid-19 rules for skiing in Switzerland this winter?