10 Swiss ski areas are set to open this weekend, overtaking Austria to become the country with the most areas open in the world at present.
Andrematt, Arosa, Laax (pictured top) and Verbier have all announced they’re opening runs on their higher terrain following the good October snowfalls.
They join already-open Saas Fee, Zermatt, Engelberg, Diavolezza Glacier (St Moritz), Glacier 3000 (Les Diablerets/Gstaad) and Davos.
Some areas that have been open for months already say they’ll be offering more terrain from this weekend as they switch to ‘winter operation’. Saas fee say they’ll have more than 40km of runs open.
It’s notable though that after recent bad publicity in the Alps for glacier areas showing long and apparently not very socially-distanced lift and ticket-office queues, crowded cable-car cabins and the moves of governments in France, Italy and Germany to stop tourism in November to attempt to slow the rise in virus cases, there’s a great emphasis on limiting numbers and increasing space.
Andermatt have said they’ll be limiting the maximum number of people on the Gemsstock when it opens this weekend, whilst Glacier 3000 is one of the first in Europe to say it will be limiting the number of people riding in its cable car cabins to about two-thirds the normal maximum capacity, and with windows kept open.
In North America most lifts will be running at less than half capacity but in Europe the argument up to now has been that the rides are too short, the lifts well-ventilated and people wearing masks meaning capacity limits aren’t necessary, they say.
Laax meanwhile say only season-pass holders who have pre-booked their space on the mountain will be allowed on the slopes this weekend – much more akin to the North American early-season operating model announced by Vail Resorts and others.
In terms of international travel Switzerland is reported to have changed its policy to now allow British citizens to arrive without needing to self-isolate in Switzerland, although they would still need to do so for two weeks on return to the UK. Germany has warned its citizens against travelling to Switzerland, among other countries, and there’s speculation Switzerland might follow its French and German neighbours in to a second lockdown of some sort.