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

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
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.

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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