Travel

Resurgence in skiing in Swiss Alps after new ‘low-cost’ passes

To overcome their reputation as high-cost destinations and woo back a dwindling number of skiers, Swiss Alpine resorts have launched "low-cost" season passes that have begun working their magic.

Swiss ski resorts have in recent years been hard-hit by global economic woes that have spurred winter sport enthusiasts to seek out cheaper slopes abroad or snub them altogether.

During the 2016-17 season, Swiss ski stations sold 21.2 million day passes - the lowest number in more than 25 years, according to the lift operators.

Spurred by the low turnout, Mr Pierre Besson, in charge of the mechanical lifts at the Villars-Gryon-Les Diablerets station near Lausanne, masterminded the new Magic Pass, a low-cost pass giving access to 25 of Switzerland's Alpine stations for the entire season.

The Magic cuts the cost in half or even more, insiders said.

This is the first low-cost pass that offers skiers the chance to sample the slopes at so many stations.

More than 80,000 people bought them at a cut rate of 359 Swiss francs (S$490) apiece for adults during a limited five-month period that closed before the season began.

Other initiatives, such as the Top4 Ski Pass, which includes high-end resorts like Gstaad and Wengen, also aim to slash the price for access to lifts. The passes prompted Swiss daily Le Temps to dub the 2017-18 season "the first winter of low-cost skiing" in Switzerland.

Said the author of an annual report on the global ski market Laurent Vanat: "Over the past dozen years, the Swiss market has seen visits to its stations drop 25 per cent."

The Swiss stations hope to shift the balance with the Magic Pass. Massive amounts of early snow on the slopes, after last year's poor showing, has also made a difference.

Said Mr Besson: "The station activity is already profitable. The high-altitude restaurants, sports stores, hotels; all the actors in this sector have big smiles on their faces."

But he wants to wait until the end of the winter to declare total victory as this is still a "test season". - AFP

TOURISM & TRAVEL