Switzerland has angered some of its neighbours by keeping the ski slopes open this winter, despite the risks associated with skiing and the coronavirus pandemic.
Note: Some cantons – or even some specific ski resorts – have put in place stricter measures, while Graubünden and Valais have offered free mass testing to cut infection chains ahead of the ski season.
Be sure to check the specific rules of the ski resort you plan on attending, reports German auto agency ADAC.
What rules will apply on the slopes this year?
There are 339 ski resorts in the Swiss Alps, which operate total of 1,815 ski lifts.
All of them must adhere to the rules mandated at both national and cantonal levels.
Each lift operator can add their own measures on top of those already in place. The Swiss Ski Lift Association (SSLA) is putting in place a range of rules for skiing this year.
Les Portes du Soleil in canton Valais, one of Switzerland's biggest ski resorts announced on December 17th it would set a quota on the number of skiers allowed on its slopes in a bid to rein in the spread of Covid-19.
“Each day, only a predefined number of day passes will be put on sale”, officials said.
It is the first Swiss resort to impose a limit on the number of skiers.
Mouth and nose protection (face masks)
Masks will be mandatory not only in closed spaces such as mountain trains and cable cars, but also on open-air chair lifts and T-bars, as well as in queues.
But masks are not obligatory on the slopes.
Queueing – or 'lining up' for all you Americans out there – will also be restricted somewhat.
Queuing will be regulated so it runs in an orderly manner and without major clusters.
Also, gel disinfectant will be available throughout all the structures to ensure hand hygiene.
SSLA recommends purchasing passes online ahead of time to avoid crowds gathering at ticket windows.
Will capacities for chairlifts be limited?
No. “As is generally the case with public transport, capacity limitations are not imposed”, SSLA says.
However, cable car windows are open to provide ventilation.
But there are individual ski areas that are stricter in this regard. Andermatt-Sedrun, for example, has limited the number of people in the Gemsstock ski area.
Reservations are necessary for cable cars.
What about closed ski lifts (gondolas)?
The number of passengers in closed ski lifts – otherwise known as gondolas – will be lowered to two thirds of the usual capacity.
What happens if someone breaks the rules?
Police will patrol lift departure areas to make sure everyone is respecting the anti-Covid measures.
Guests who repeatedly break the rules can be punished or have their ski pass taken away.
READ MORE: Can Switzerland still save its ski season?
What about hospitals and access to medical care?
Cantons must ensure that they have the hospital capacity and the ability to undertake testing and contact tracing.
Will hotels be open?
Unlike in neighbouring Austria – where the ski slopes open on Christmas Eve but hotels must remain shut until January 7th – hotels will be open in Switzerland.
There are a number of strict rules which apply, however it means that unlike in Austria skiers in Switzerland will not be restricted to day trips.
What about other outdoor activities?
There are few rules in place for those who want to spend Christmas outdoors, whether hiking, cross-country skiing, sledding, or engaging in other winter activities.
Being outdoors in open spaces is safe if distances can be maintained.
So while some holiday activities are banned or scaled down, there is still lots to enjoy during the Christmas season.