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SKIING

Covid-19: What will the ski season look like in Switzerland this year?

The ski season in the Swiss Alps usually begins at the end of November, but at this point uncertainties still prevail about how it will be rolled out.

Ski slope measures have not yet been decided on in Switzerland
Questions still remain about what rules will be implemented for skiers, like the ones pictured here in a Swiss resort of Verbier. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

Please note: On October 19th, Switzerland announced the Covid certificate will not be required for winter sports. Click here for more information. 

With the start of the season just weeks away, the details surrounding skiing are still up in the air.

In that sense, things look somewhat similar to 2020; at that time, Switzerland was in the midst of the second coronavirus wave and authorities debated whether to open the ski slopes or keep them closed like most of Switzerland’s neighbours.

In the end, the slopes opened, but only after ski resorts implemented rigorous protective measures, such as wearing a mask on ski lifts and cable cars, and respecting distances in queues.

This year, the big question is whether the Covid certificate should be required on the slopes.

Lukas Engelberger,  president of the Conference of Cantonal Health Directors, said a mandatory certificate for ski lifts and at ski resorts would make sense and would allow to eliminate the mask requirement. 

“I could imagine that the Covid certificate would be imposed in ski resorts”, said Hans Wicki, president of the Association of Swiss Ski Lifts.

This umbrella association is currently in talks with the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) about the implementation of the certificate and suspension pf other measures.

No decision has yet been made at the federal level, but the ski area of Fideriser Heuberge in Graubünden has already decided to make the certificate compulsory for skiing or staying in its resort.

Regardless of whether the certificate will be mandated for skiing, it will nevertheless be required to access restaurants, bars, and other indoor venues in ski resorts.

Can foreign tourists ski in Switzerland?

Unlike the previous season, when people from abroad were banned from skiing in the Swiss Alps and only residents of Switzerland were allowed to do so, this year the slopes will be open to foreign residents.

However, they would have to comply with entry rules.

While vaccinated tourists enjoy unrestricted entry, those who have not had their jabs will have to undergo a Covid test (PCR or antigen) before coming, and then again four to seven days after arrival — and pay for the screening themselves. Costs vary from one place to another, but usually don’t exceed 50 francs.

READ MORE: Who can enter Switzerland right now and what are the rules?

The rules are much tighter for the unvaccinated travellers from high-risk countries, who are banned from entry. 

This list currently includes the United States, the United Kingdom, India, Israel and several other countries, unless these people have a valid visa for a Schengen or European Union country. 

Conversion of certificates

Another hurdle for foreign skiers — and tourists in general — is that from October 11th, people coming to Switzerland from non-EU /EFTA countries have to convert their health passes to a Swiss certificate and pay 30 francs for this service.

That’s because their QR codes don’t work in Switzerland.

People coming from the US, the UK and India will be among those obligated to make this change.

How Americans can get Switzerland’s Covid certificate with proof of US vaccination

How exactly the conversion process works when a foreign tourist wants to obtain a Swiss certificate, and how long the waiting times are, is still unclear at this point.

Nor surprisingly, Swiss tourism officials and ski resort operators are concerned that non-European tourists will be put off by the financial and logistical obstacles and ski instead in countries that have such a requirement in place — like France.

READ MORE: Can the UK’s NHS app be used in Switzerland?

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TRAVEL NEWS

The Covid rules you should know if you’re travelling from Switzerland this summer

When it comes to Covid regulations in Switzerland and elsewhere in Europe, the situation is certainly much more relaxed than it was last summer. However, certain countries still maintain rules in regards to vaccinations and masks.

The Covid rules you should know if you're travelling from Switzerland this summer

Months ago, health experts predicted that coronavirus will not be circulating extensively during the summer months and won’t strike us again before the weather turns cold in the fall / winter.

But as it turns out, these forecasts were wrong, as Omicron and its highly contagious sub-variants keep infecting increasing numbers of people across Europe.

In Switzerland, the number of reported contaminations has risen from under 10,000 a week in May to 33,108 registered in a span of seven days on June 28, with officials expecting an explosion in cases as summer progresses.

READ MORE: ‘Over a million people’ in Switzerland could be infected with Covid this summer

What does this mean for international travel?

As of right now (and the situation could change in coming weeks), Switzerland doesn’t require either testing or proof of vaccination upon entry. This is also the situation in many other countries in Europe as well as farther afield.

However, some popular European tourist destinations still (or again) have Covid-related entry regulations in place, as well as rules inside the country.

This is an overview of the places where people who live in Switzerland like to spend their summer holidays:

France

Entry requirements:

For vaccinated persons, full vaccination for at least one week must be proven. The last dose must be less than nine months old. Cured people can travel a week after receiving a single dose.

For recovered people: the positive result of a PCR test more than 11 days old and less than six months.

For non-vaccinated persons: a negative PCR test dated less than 72 hours or an antigen test carried out less than 48 hours before departure. Children under 12 are exempt.

On-site measures:

Wearing a mask on public transport, which has not been required since May 16th, is once again strongly recommended — though not compulsory.

Italy

While proof of vaccination or negative test is not required to enter Italy, there are some mask requirements in place in the country.

From mid-June, Italian government extended the obligation to wear FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30th, except on planes. The surgical mask is also still compulsory from the age of six in health establishments.

Portugal

Proof of full vaccination for at least 14 days is required to enter, with the last dose no older than 270 days ago. Swiss Covid certificates should suffice.

For recovered people, proof of recovery dating from 11 to 180 days before arrival in Portugal is required.

The unvaccinated should have a negative PCR test dated less than 72 hours or an antigen test carried out less than 24 hours before departure.

Children under 12 are exempt from these requirements.

Also, all travellers must fill out a passenger locator card before departure, as well as a form required by the Portuguese health authorities before their departure or during the flight.

On-site measures:

Portugal decided on April 21st to end the obligation to wear a mask indoors. However, masks are still required on public transport, hospitals or retirement homes.

These are the regulation for mainland Portugal; those visiting Madeira, can see the rules in this link.

Spain

Since June 2nd, travellers from a Schengen area (which includes Switzerland) are no longer subject to any health checks upon arrival.

On-site measures:

Spain lifted the requirement to wear a mask indoors on April 20th. The mask is, however, still required from the age of six on public transport, in hospitals and retirement homes. Differences may exist between regions, so consult the websites of individual areas.

Austria

Since May 16th, travel restrictions have been lifted. Nevertheless, an FFP2 mask remains compulsory from the age of six for flights to and from the Vienna region.

On-site measures

FFP2 masks are mandatory from the age of 14 on public transport and in pharmacies in Vienna.

Germany

Since June 1st and until at least August 31st, entry restrictions to Germany have all been suspended.

On-site measures:

No vaccination or testing rules on entry, but restrictions remain in some federal states, so check local websites for more information.

Wearing a mask remains compulsory from the age of six on public transport and in medical establishments. To go to the hospital, an antigen test of less than 24 hours or PCR of less than 48 hours is required.

READ MORE: EU extends Covid travel certificates until 2023

United Kingdom

There are no more Covid restrictions across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and arrivals no longer need to fill out a Passenger Locator Form before arriving in the UK.

United States

According to the US Embassy in Switzerland, “air travelers to the United States are no longer required to show a negative COVID-19 test result, or documentation of recovery from COVID-19, prior to boarding a flight to the United States”.

However, there are different requirements for different categories of travelers: “all non-U.S.-citizen, nonimmigrant (not a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, lawful permanent resident, or traveling to the United States on an immigrant visa) airline passengers traveling to the United States, must demonstrate proof of vaccination prior to boarding a U.S. bound aircraft”.

If you want to find out what the latest requirements are at your destination, you can do so by checking out the websites of their embassies in Switzerland, or official tourist bodies for each country / region.

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