IN PICTURES: Swiss hit the slopes ‘to save ski season’

IN PICTURES: Swiss hit the slopes 'to save ski season'
Skiers line up for a chairlift in the Swiss ski resort of Verbier. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP
Can Switzerland's love of the mountains and passion for winter sports save an industry crippled by coronavirus?

The coronavirus crisis shuttered Switzerland's ski resorts in the spring, but they are banking on tighter precautions and the Swiss love of the mountains to save them as the winter season kicks off.

Hikers at the Swiss ski resort of Verbier getting an A+ in social distancing. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

A masked skier carves up some pow-pow at the Swiss ski resort of Verbier. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

At the end of October, the Swiss Ski Lift Association tightened measures against the virus, making it mandatory to wear a facemask not only in closed cable car cabins, but also on open-air chair lifts and in queues.

READ MORE: Can Switzerland still save its ski season?

The resorts are also counting on the Helvetic love of the outdoors, with lift associations launching a campaign urging the Swiss to “hit the slopes”.

“This is where we have a trump card to play,” said Vaucher, who has given up on US and Asian visitors this year, but hopes his compatriots will head for the mountains in greater numbers.

A skier at the Swiss ski resort of Verbier. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Former alpine skiing Olympic champion Didier Defago (L) and Televerbier CEO Laurent Vaucher both wearing a protective face mask at the Swiss ski resort of Verbier. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Gregory Quin, a sports historian at the University of Lausanne, said the medium-altitude resorts could do especially well with the Swiss this year “because people rely on proximity”.

READ: Will an American-style queuing system end chaos at Swiss ski lifts? 

There is also a glimmer of hope that European tourists could still flock to Switzerland to ski over Christmas after Bern recently lifted quarantine requirements for people arriving from most of the continent.

Skiers get off a chair lift at the Swiss ski resort of Verbier. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Skiers at the Swiss ski resort of Verbier. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

A snowboarder at the Swiss ski resort of Verbier. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Skiers at the Swiss ski resort of Verbier. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

But it remains to be seen whether anything like the usual numbers will do so, considering the difficulties to travel from a range of countries currently under some form of lockdown.

Even if the number of skiers remains high, resorts will largely have to do without income from apres-ski activities and ski schools, which have been banned in several cantons.

That will be tough, given that ski schools and camps can account for up to a third of a station's revenues, Quin said.

By the end of October, 110,000 people had already signed up for the 749-Swiss franc ($820, 695-euro) Magic Pass, an annual unlimited ski lift access at 30 resorts.

Valais, where the Verbier resort is located, has been one of Switzerland's hardest-hit cantons when it comes to the virus. 


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