Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Swiss ‘hit the slopes’ to rescue ski resorts



Swiss ‘hit the slopes’ to rescue ski resorts

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A skier wearing a protective face mask is seen on a ski slope above the resort of Verbier in the Swiss Alps. AFP

Swiss ‘hit the slopes’ to rescue ski resorts

The coronavirus crisis shuttered Switzerland’s ski resorts in the spring, but they are banking on tighter precautions and the Swiss love of the mountains to save them as the winter season kicks off.

A cable car ride to the top of the slopes at Verbier, where staff wear plastic face shields, reveals the extent to which the pandemic has impacted even the furthest reaches of the pristine Alps.

“Wearing face masks is mandatory everywhere except on the slopes, in order to enjoy the great outdoors,” Didier Defago, the 2010 Olympic downhill champion now president of the Wallis ski lift association, told AFP.

With skiing already going downhill in recent years owing to less interest and less predictable snowfall, the closure of the slopes in March during the first wave of the pandemic left the resorts fearing the worst.

But the industry has been able to adapt and has avoided another closure, even as Switzerland deals with one of the worst outbreaks in Europe.

The restaurants may be shut, but recreational skiers from the Wallis region are flocking to the slopes as the season gets underway.

“Covid is a drag,” acknowledges 40-year-old Ludovic Guigoz, wearing a tube scarf with an inbuilt virus filter.

“But coming to ski in the morning, it’s fine. I feel safe,” he said, before setting off down the piste with his family.

The resorts and ski lift operators insist everything is being done to ensure safety.

“The cable car windows are open all day long. Ventilation, masks, hand gel, distancing,” said Laurent Vaucher, the CEO of Televerbier, the top ski lift firm in French-speaking parts of Switzerland.

At Verbier, like at other resorts, police patrol the lift departure area to make sure everyone is respecting the anti-Covid measures.

Verbier versus Bali

For now, skiers appear to be heeding the call to support Swiss stations.

By the end of October, 110,000 people had already signed up for the 749 Swiss franc ($820) Magic Pass, an annual unlimited ski lift access at 30 resorts.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Skiers, some wearing protective face masks, ride a ski lift before hitting the slopes during the first snows of the season. AFP

The scheme was launched three years ago to try to combat the continuing decline in the number of skiers.

“The baby-boomers were keen on skiing, and there were lots of them,” Laurent Vanat, author of an annual report on the world skiing market, told AFP.

But, he said: “The subsequent generations have been smaller [in number], and partly descended from immigrants, and therefore without ski culture.

“That means that the younger generations generated fewer skiers – but that doesn’t mean they don’t ski.”

Gregory Quin, a sports historian at the University of Lausanne, said skiing had taken a hit from the emergence of low-cost air travel and diversification of tourism.

Skiing “is very expensive and has to compete against alternative activities”, he pointed out, but noted that the pandemic could help shift the dynamic.

“The Swiss might learn to prefer going to Verbier over Bali.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said

  • PM confirms third Covid-19 community transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on February 20 announced the Kingdom's third outbreak of Covid-19 community transmission after 32 people tested positive in just over 10 hours. Addressing the public from his residence after an emergency meeting, Hun Sen said: "I dub it February 20 Community Event, in which 32 cases

  • Cambodia to make auto-rickshaws

    Locally-assembled electric auto-rickshaws could hit the Cambodian market as soon as early in May after the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) gave the greenlight to an investment project at the weekend. According to a CDC press release, it will issue a final registration