Stupidity or freedom? Foreigners in Switzerland on Covid rules for skiing

Winter sports enthusiasts talk to each other on a cold day
Snowboarders breathe out on a walking path. Should Covid certificates be required on ski slopes? Photo by Alain Wong on Unsplash
A majority of Local readers have told us they oppose the government’s plan to allow skiing without a Covid certificate this winter, although the decision also won significant support.

In mid-October, the Swiss government announced the Covid certificate would not be required for winter sports, whether that be skiing down the slopes or even taking chairlifts. 

The agreement came after a long debate about which protective measures should be introduced in the coming season. 

Switzerland’s legal framework is therefore far less stringent than those of its neighbours, which is outlined below. 

COMPARE: What Covid rules are in place for the ski season across Europe?

Switzerland’s Covid certificate demonstrates that the holder has either been vaccinated, has recovered from the virus recently or has tested negative. 

The Local Switzerland reached out to our readers to ask whether they thought it was a good idea, with 68 readers letting us know their thoughts. 

A slim majority said they felt it was the wrong call, with 52.9 percent saying “a Covid certificate should be required for winter sports”. 

44.1 percent of respondents felt differently, saying the Swiss government had made the right call. 

A further 2.9 percent of respondents said they were not sure. 

The Local Switzerland readers on whether the Covid certificate should be required on ski slopes.

The Local Switzerland readers on whether the Covid certificate should be required on ski slopes.

Why were a majority of our readers in favour of a Covid certificate on the slopes?

Our readers provided several reasons for why a Covid certificate should be introduced for winter sports. 

JJ said people were misinterpreting the debate, with distancing almost impossible in cable cars and gondolas. 

“How can you keep social distancing in a cabine or cable car ? reduce the numbers.”

Emma, from Bern, said the government missed a great opportunity to boost the country’s lagging vaccination numbers. 

“This was a prime opportunity to encourage people to get vaccinated. You want to ski and enjoy your passion then get vaccinated and stop risking the life of others through selfishness.” 

“If the certificate was mandatory then there would have been lots of people getting it so they can ski. This way they get their own selfish way. Others’ livelihoods and work friends on being Covid free and healthy. This is an unbelievably bad move.”

Covid-19 vaccines: Why is Switzerland lagging behind other EU countries?

Some respondents, such as this 55-year-old from Vevey, said the government was putting profits before people. 

“The Swiss government’s decision is based on economics and not public health. I will not feel comfortable in a gondola with other people who are not vaccinated against COVID-19.”

Others were upset by the decision, saying it risked plunging Switzerland back into the pandemic. 

Amanda, from Australia, said it was a foolish move. 

“Better to be safe than sorry. As many lifts are enclosed and crowded, the risks of transmission are much higher. Italy is requiring the certificate in their ski resorts. This is a gross error of judgement. Complete stupidity.”

George said the decision was “ridiculous”, pointing to the number of outbreaks which took place last winter due to skiing. 

In the winter of 2019/20, Italian health officials blamed Switzerland’s ski resorts – and the decision to keep them open – for the continent’s third wave, particularly the dangerous British variant. 

READ MORE: Is Switzerland to blame for Europe’s third wave of coronavirus?

Alex, from Basel, echoed this criticism, saying the government hadn’t learned from last year. 

“New wave is on a rise, this yet another example of Bern waking up too late – too many examples from 2020 – not learning on previous acknowledged mistakes”. 

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

The Rotair Titlis in Switzerland. Photo by Julien Flutto on Unsplash

Some ski resorts share this opinion and will require the Covid certificate to go skiing, even though this is not a government requirement. Click here for more information

And why was there strong support for the government’s decision? 

While we had several responses from conspiracy theorists blaming Bill Gates and lizard people, by and large the majority of the responses were sensible. 

Although many are quick to paint opponents of the Covid certificate as pandemic deniers or vaccination skeptics, a common argument was simply the practicality of requiring the certificate on the slopes. 

Alexander, a student from Basel, pointed to last year’s ski season as an example. 

“We must get on with normal life. We had a very successful and safe ski season last year without needing to purposely segregate the people because of their vaccination status.”

UPDATED: What are the Covid rules on Swiss ski slopes this winter?

Several others said they felt the virus wouldn’t spread in outdoor areas and as such the current rules – which require the certificate inside only (other than gondolas – were appropriate. 

“Skiing is an outdoor sport in a wide open space. The risk in such a setting is relatively lower,” said one student from Lausanne. 

Al agreed, pointing to the rules in place last winter. 

“It’s an outdoor activity, i don’t see why people would need the pass to ski. Last year worked fine.”

Mark said the strenuous nature of skiing would prevent infected people from taking part. 

“Skiers are responsible & healthy. They don’t ski if they are feeling bad.”

Another echoed that statement “Only heathy ppl go skiing, so is it really necessary to test healthy individuals?”

As has been illustrated throughout the pandemic, one of the major reasons the virus has managed to spread is through those who are asymptomatic carriers. 

What about those who were not sure? 

Simon told us he understood both arguments and said Swiss authorities should keep an eye on how the ski season goes and revise their decision, while also acknowledging the importance of helping the struggling tourism industry. 

Winter sports: Which Swiss ski resorts are already open?

“Obtaining a covid pass seems straightforward, I have mine already, and as I understand it, it is required for the inside spaces of mountain restaurants – and indeed other events etc.” 

“Furthermore, none of us know how widespread the virus will be from December. Perhaps this decision will be re-visited. However, a mandatory pass would probably deter skiers from outside of Switzerland, and tourism needs to recover.”

Another, from Geneva, simply said the pandemic was “still scary” and wasn’t sure where to go. 

The poll was open for a week and finished on Monday, October 25th. 


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