The new ski season always opens more with a whimper than a bang. The tourism industry kicks off around the start of November, with ski shows, new season brochures and resort information updates. Oh, yes, and the first of the winter season openings.
I visited the London Ski and Snowboard Show. There wasn`t a lot new – I was most impressed by the emergence of a the new generation HD cameras built into goggles. My wife has ordered one for me so I look forward to adding some video footage to the blog and associated web site. What was disappointing was how thin the Swiss resort presence was. The Jungfrau Region was represented by the Euroairport stand and Verbier had a decent stall, but that was it. Although the UK is the second largest overseas market for winter tourism in Switzerland, it risks losing trade to the more aggressively marketed countries.
I was lucky enough to be invited to the World Snow Awards which took place alongside the Ski and Snowboard show. Launched by VOS Media, who publish Ski and Snowboard magazine and run the Ski and Snowboard Show, the awards winners included Swiss as the best airline, presumably for being the only mainstream airline still offering free ski and snowboard carriage (although BA and others seem to have risen to the challenge with qualified free carriage). Geneva was voted the best airport. Zermatt got voted the best resort for apres ski, a vote I would endorse. The best family resort award went to Avoriaz, part of the Portes du Soleil circuit it shares with Switzerland. Livigno in Italy and Fernie in Canada won the best overall resort awards. Crstal, Ski Independence and Ski Solutions won the awards for best operators in their respective categories – they all offer packages for Switzerland.
Back in Switzerland the excellent Snow’n’Rail scheme launched its season with its customary brochures and web site (the latter available in English). Prices haven’t changed much, nor has the selection of resorts. All the changes are reflected in the web site. my thanks to Florence at Swiss Railways for all her help in helping me get this information on the web site so promptly.
Unfortunately not such a helpful story from Swiss Tourism and their MySwitzerland web site. They have taken down the feed I used last year as part of a revamp of their site and have not made it easy for me to replace it. For a couple of years I have been trying to apply to get the information with a minimum of fuss, but have still not succeeded for reasons that I can hardly fathom. They do want to promote winter sports in Switzerland don’t they? Sadly, I can’t really commend the revamped Swiss Tourism site. It sucks. The good news is that the Swiss Winter Sports web site gets you the information you need more quickly and even helps you navigate the Swiss Tourism site with fewer clicks.
The new season sees some improvements around the resorts. The Jungfrau has a useful new six seater lift replacing the old Wixi lift, a speedcheck below the Arven chairlift, a photopoint at the Lauberhorn and a skimovie on the Mannlichen – I can only guess at what the latter two are. First also has a photopoint and a new skicross run above Schilt. Children under 15 also ski for free on Saturdays . up to two for each adult pass bought.
In typically understated Swiss style, gradual improvements are taking place right across the country’s resorts. Old lifts are being replaced, more freeride areas, winter walks and snowshoe trails are being opened and there is much more snowmaking being installed. At Adelboden there will be a new blue run from Sillerenbühl to Aebi. Flims/Laax will see some new runs too, alongside a couple of new six seat chairlifts. Anzere continues to see improvements to the lifts following the opening of the new spa last year. Les Crosets has a new six person chairlift, replacing a drag lift and an older chair. A new terrain park will be opened at Saanenmöser (Zweisimmen/Gstaad) continuing to make this one of the best kept secret snowboarders destinations.
The season started in the Engadine on 20th October and will run until 20th May next year, although the early and late season will be limited to Diavolezza. Throughout the season you can purchase a ski pass for CHF 25 per person/day provided you stay at a participating hotel for at least two nights. The list of hotels is pretty much every hotel – even the youth hostel qualifies.
Incidentally, St Moritz will be hosting the Alpine Ski World Championships in 2017 and, together with Davos, is bidding to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
Already open are the runs on the glaciers at Saas-Fee, Engelberg and Les Diablerets (Glacier 3000). Zermatt of course never goes away, but for now it is only the glacier runs that are open. Warm weather will persist for at least another week or two, so it is unlikely there will be any serious skiing and snowboarding available until early December.