Mountain resorts have registered large increases in the number of ski lift passengers at the start of the 2017-2018 season, partly thanks to the abundant snow that fell in November and December.
From the start of the winter season - early November for some high-altitude resorts - to the end of December 2017, +36.4% more visitors bought ski lift passes in Swiss resorts compared to the same period last year, according to the Swiss Cable Car Associationexternal link. This represents +13.6% more ski lift passengers than the average for the past five years, the association added.
Early snowfall, even at low-altitude resorts, the excellent condition of pistes and a fortunate alignment of public holidays helped the recovery after a series of poor winters.
All regions saw improved figures. Spectacular increases were observed at resorts in lower alpine regions. Canton Valais recorded an +11.8% increase, while Graubünden rose by +15.6%. Lift traffic increased almost fourfold in the Vaud and Fribourg Alps, while in canton Ticino it increased tenfold. The number of visitors to the Bernese Oberland region increased by +61.4%.
"A good foundation has been laid for the current season," said Dominique de Buman, President of the Swiss Cable Car Association. Lift operators earn around one-fifth of their annual turnover during the two weeks around Christmas and the New Year, he added.
Over the past nine seasons, the number of winter skier days in Switzerland has fallen steadily from 29.3 million to 21.2 million – the lowest level for over 25 years.
This winter, ski resorts are hoping to partly reverse this downhill trend using aggressive price strategies such as cut-price lift passes. The Economic Institute (KOF) at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ) predicts a 3.6% rise in overnight stays this winter, partly thanks to the weaker franc and the expected return of German, French and Italian tourists - but only if weather and snow conditions are optimal.
swissinfo.ch with agencies/sb