‘Not another Ischgl’: Switzerland unveils plans to make ski slopes safer this winter

Switzerland’s neighbours are fearful of outbreaks if they allow their residents to hit the slopes this winter. In order to encourage tourists, a number of safety measures have been proposed.

'Not another Ischgl': Switzerland unveils plans to make ski slopes safer this winter

Switzerland has pledged to keep its ski slopes open through the entire winter, much to the chagrin of its larger neighbours Germany, France and Italy. 

On Wednesday, Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset presented a plan to cut infection risks on the slopes this winter. 

A number of countries have indicated they will stop their citizens from travelling to Switzerland to ski or put in place serious quarantine restrictions in order to prevent outbreaks back home when skiers return. 

UPDATE: French skiers to be banned from hitting Swiss slopes 

Adopting the motto “avoiding a second Ischgl”, Berset laid out a range of ways in which skiing can be made safer, NZZ reports. 

Swiss authorities are hoping the plans will thaw the continental resistance to their decision to keep the slopes open – and hopefully result in a flood of tourists. 

As reported by the NZZ “the unmistakable message from the northern and southern neighbouring countries is that those who already have a comparatively high number of infections should not create potential hotspots in the winter sports resorts”. 

What measures will be adopted? 

In the draft report presented to the cantons for discussion on Wednesday, a number of measures aimed at reducing the total number of skiers were included. 

Two options are provided. 

IN PICTURES: Swiss hit the slopes 'to save ski season'

The first is a restriction of guest numbers to two-thirds of those who were in attendance at the same ski resort on the best-visited day of the previous year. 

Alternately, the number of guests could be capped at 80 percent of the average attendance over Christmas across the past five years. 

Are there any other measures? 

In addition, cable cars may only be used to two thirds of capacity. 

Distance rules should apply when queuing for ski lifts, Watson reports, while masks must also be worn at all times except for when skiing. 

All ski areas need to apply for a permit from the cantonal authorities which references the steps being taken to avoid transmission of the virus. 

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

Cantons will also need to provide evidence that there are sufficient beds in their local hospitals and medical centres to deal with a surge in infections. 

Catering will also be restricted, with skiers only allowed to enter restaurants if a table is available – while all restaurants and ski huts must close at 3pm. 

While Berset hopes that the measures will encourage Switzerland’s neighbours to release their residents to the slopes, Swiss media reports that the measures are likely to be too relaxed to bring about widespread support. 


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Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I’m abroad?

Given how expensive health insurance premiums are in Switzerland, you may be tempted to suspend your policy while you are abroad. Is this possible?

Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I'm abroad?

Unlike the obligatory car insurance, which you can suspend temporarily by depositing your registration plates at the local motor vehicles office, rules pertaining to health insurance are much stricter.

As the Federal Office of Public Health explains it, “If you leave the country for a certain period to travel or study but do not take up residence abroad, you are still required to have [health] insurance in Switzerland”.

In other words, as long as you are a registered resident of Switzerland, regardless of your nationality or passport, you must keep your compulsory Swiss health insurance and pay your premiums. While you do this, you also remain covered against most medical emergencies while you travel.

However, rules are less stringent for supplemental health plans which can, in some cases, be put on hold, depending on the insurance provider, according to Switzerland’s Moneyland consumer website.

The only exception allowed for suspending the health insurance coverage is during a military or civil protection service which lasts more than 60 consecutive days.

“During these periods, the risks of illness and accident are covered by military insurance. Your health insurance provider will refund your premiums”, according to FOPH.

Under what circumstances can you cancel your Swiss health insurance?

Swiss law says you can cancel your insurance if you are moving abroad, either permanently for for a period exceeding three months.

If you do so, only claims for treatments given while you still lived in Switzerland will be paid by your insurance; any medical bills for treatment incurred after you officially leave will be denied.

These are the procedures for cancelling your compulsory health insurance if you leave the country under conditions mentioned above

To announce your departure abroad, you must send your insurance carrier a letter including your name, customer number or AVS/AHV number.

You must also include a certificate from your place of residence in Switzerland confirming that you have de-registered from your current address, as well as the date of your departure.

Note, however, that if your new destination is another Swiss community / canton, rather than a foreign country, your insurance can only be cancelled from the following calendar year and only if you present proof of having taken up a new policy with another company.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to register your address in Switzerland

You can find out more information about this process here

If you suspend your health insurance for less than six years, you can reactivate it at a later date with the same company when you return to Switzerland.

READ MORE : What you should know about your Swiss health insurance before you go abroad