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SKIING

Winter sports: Which Swiss ski resorts are already open?

Wanting to get in before the crowds or just can’t wait to hit the slopes? Here are six ski resorts which open the earliest in Switzerland.

If you are looking for a good ski field, head topwards the Matterhorn
The Matterhorn, seen in Zermatt, which offers year-round skiing. Photo by Abigail Griffith on Unsplash

After a partial closure in 2019-2020 due to the Covid pandemic – where several resorts were closed and restricted and where foreign tourists were almost completely shut out – Switzerland is planning a return to form this winter. 

Climate change has made winters more difficult to predict, with less snowfall than usual and fewer snow days. 

There are however several resort areas where you can count on early snow – with some offering year-round skiing. 

The Local got in touch with Swiss Tourism to ask for some inside tips on early season skiing in Switzerland. 

So if you just can’t wait to get back on piste or you want to avoid the Christmas crowds, here are some of your best options. 

Why would you want to ski in November? 

Any winter sports nut would probably answer that question with a simple “why not?” but there are a lot of reasons for early season skiing, provided you can get the time free to do so. 

Early skiing means you avoid the crowds of peak time, which is good for beginners and experienced skiers alike. 

Getting in early means you can be halfway down the slopes while people are already planning their Christmas break. 

Early season skiing is also a fair bit cheaper than peak season, both in terms of ski passes and accommodation. 

More information on the rules for skiing in Switzerland this winter can be seen at the following link. 

IN DEPTH: What are the rules on Swiss ski slopes this year?

‘We know how to winter’: What will skiing look like in Switzerland this year? 

While revenue was 25 percent down on usual standards last year, the industry is expected to rebound close to its former glory in 2021-22. 

André Aschwanden, a spokesperson for Switzerland Tourism, told The Local a strong season was predicted. 

“The last winter season with the open and welcoming Swiss ski resorts showed impressively that the Swiss tourism industry knows how to provide their services even under pandemic circumstances.”

Zermatt, with the Matterhorn in the background. Photo by Victor He on Unsplash

Zermatt, with the Matterhorn in the background. Photo by Victor He on Unsplash

“Winter tourism took place even under difficult pandemic circumstances. The Swiss tourism providers have therefore proved that “they know how to winter”. 

“This proof and this performance also give confidence for the upcoming winter season.”

While things will look better than in previous years, Aschwanden predicted it would not feel completely the same as a few years ago due to international travel hurdles. 

“According to this preview a solid winter season can be expected – of course and unfortunately, oversea tourists will still not fully come back, especially from Asia and Australia / New Zealand.”

Australians, New Zealanders and people from many Asian countries are not prevented from entering Switzerland but in many cases are restricted from leaving their own countries. 

Please click the following link to see the rules for entry to Switzerland from around the globe. 

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

Will I need to be vaccinated etc to ski in Switzerland this year? 

Somewhat controversially, Switzerland decided it would buck the trends of its neighbours and not require the Covid certificate on the slopes this winter. 

Switzerland’s Covid certificate shows you have been fully vaccinated against the virus, have contracted it recently and recovered or that you have tested negative. 

This means that you will not need Switzerland’s Covid certificate or national equivalents in order to take part in winter sports or take chairlifts or gondolas in Switzerland (chairlifts and gondolas will require masks).

You can even eat and drink in outside areas without a Covid certificate. If you go inside however, a certificate will be required. 

Keep in mind that while you will not need the certificate for skiing or hotel stays, it is required in restaurants, bars and other event venues. 

Covid passes from European Union countries are valid in Switzerland, but those from outside the EU are not – meaning you will have to get one in Switzerland. 

READ MORE: How tourists and visitors can get Switzerland’s Covid certificate

As it stands, this costs 30CHF. Aschwanden said a solution was being developed. 

“A national and electronic solution for the conversion of third country vaccination certificates into Swiss Covid Certificates will be operational from mid-October.”

Zermatt

OK, so no early skiing report would be complete without Switzerland’s highest ski field: Zermatt. 

Zermatt offers year-round skiing, 365-days-a-year (pandemics pending). It’s the anti-New York of ski fields; if you can’t make it there, you won’t make it anywhere. 

Zermatt has several high peaks pushing 4,000 metres, including Klein Matterhorn and Gobba di Rollin. 

Engelberg Titlis

In the central canton of Obwalden, Engelberg Titlis is already open and accepting winter sport tourists. 

There are two areas – Titlis area and the area on Berg Brunni – both of which offer something for beginners, experts and everyone in between. 

There’s also the Rotair Titlis, a rotating cable car which is equal parts exhilarating and terrifying. 

The Rotair Titlis in the Swiss alps is a sight to behold. Photo by Julien Flutto on Unsplash

The Rotair Titlis is a sight to behold. Skiing in Switzerland should be largely back to normal this year. Photo by Julien Flutto on Unsplash

Saas Fee

Another favourite of early skiers is Saas Fee, just around the corner from Zermatt. 

Saas Fee opens properly on the 30th of October, according to Swiss Tourism, and has good quality snow thanks to boasting similar altitudes and weather conditions to neighbouring Zermatt. 

While it might not be as well known, in some ways you’ve already been to Saas Fee – it was the location of Wham’s Last Christmas video. 

The year-round snow meant it was the perfect backdrop for George Michael’s brooding, clad in a Christmas sweater and tremendous hair. 

Glacier3000

Located where Vaud meets Valais and Bern, Glacier3000 is a resort in the Diablerets region. 

The winter sports season starts officially on November 6th. 

Corvatsch

Corvatsch, in the canton of Graubünden, opens officially on the 27th of November. 

Located on the Piz Corvatsch mountain range, the ski area “extends from Sils via Silvaplana all the way to St. Moritz”.

Daredevil Freddy Nock in a training session in Corvatsch, Samedan, Switzerland.

Daredevil Freddy Nock in a training session in Corvatsch, Samedan, Switzerland. Image: Marc Weiland, Unsplash

Verbier

A favourite of British tourists, Verbier opens in early December. In addition to great winter sports action, Verbier has some of the best culinary options and nightlife available in any ski town. 

Information on which ski fields are open is available in English here. 

 

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TRAVEL NEWS

SWISS pilots threaten an October strike action

The Swiss pilots’ union could go on strike during Switzerland’s busy autumn holiday period.

SWISS pilots threaten an October strike action

The union, Aeropers, which has been negotiating salary increases and improved working conditions with Switzerland’s national airline, has rejected the carrier’s latest collective labour agreement (CLA) and is threatening to go on strike.

The  (CLA) is a kind of contract that is negotiated between Switzerland’s trade unions and employers or employer organisations. Generally speaking, they cover a minimum wage for each type of work; regulations relating to work hours; payment of wages in the event of illness or maternity; vacation and days off; and protection against dismissal.

READ MORE : What is a Swiss collective bargaining agreement — and how could it benefit you?

The pilots said they would cease flying on October 17th, which falls in the middle of school holidays in a number of cantons — the period when many families holiday abroad.

“SWISS has not sufficiently entered into the matter of the legitimate interests of its pilots”, Aeropers said, adding that if the airline doesn’t come up with a better offer, the union “will initiate the procedures for a strike”.

For its part, SWISS said in a press release that it offered its pilots 60 million francs more than on the previous CLA, but “Aeropers executive committee has rejected this latest offer as inadequate, and has made demands of its own totalling over 200 million”.

However, Aeropers head Thomas Steffen has denied SWISS’ claim saying the 200-million figure is “a fantasy number” that has no basis whatsoever. According to Steffen, the pilots’ demand was “significantly less than half of this sum”.

He went on to accuse the airline of “propaganda” at the detriment of its employees”.

He added that the strike would me a last-resort measure if the dispute on pay, which has been going on for a year, is not resolved within a month.

“We’ve negotiated for a year and made sure that our members are level-headed and fly safely and reliably, despite being without a contract,” Steffen said.

If the SWISS cockpit staff, which also includes its sister airline, Edelweiss, does go on strike, it will be the latest labour dispute in Europe’s aviation, which includes a strike by Lufthansa ground crew, which impacted Switzerland over the summer.

However, strikes by Swiss workers is relatively uncommon compared to other countries.

READ MORE: Why are strikes so rare in Switzerland?

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