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Skiing is becoming more affordable again

(Keystone)

Thanks to the early start of the season owing to exceptional snowfall, skiers can take advantage of a wide choice of ticket options in a growing number of ski resorts.

In some cases, and under certain conditions, daily ski passes can be bought for half the normal price.

In canton Valais for example, the Four Valley resorts led by Verbier have introduced dynamic pricing, a concept inspired by low-cost airlines. On certain weekdays during the low season, such as Wednesdays in December and January, adult ski passes are available for SFr32 ($28), instead of SFr64.

To benefit from such discounts, skiers must purchase a season pass (SFr99 per adult, SFr79 for young people under 20 and SFr49 for children) and be willing to avoid peak periods.

In the Swiss-French group of resorts known as Portes du Soleil, dynamic pricing has not yet been introduced but skiers who decide to start their day later, at 11, noon or 2pm, can take advantage of cheaper passes.

The local ski lift operator at Champéry in the cross-border region explained that most resorts are now run as private companies and they are therefore under economic pressure to perform. They, too, must make sure skiers are using their costly infrastructure every day of the week and flexible prices are one way of filling chairlifts.

Raising customer loyalty

According to Julien Moulin, of the lift company Téléverbier, the idea behind dynamic pricing is to raise the loyalty level of skiers who come for the day. These people typically come from the Lake Geneva region, but also from nearby towns such as Martigny and Sion, where competition among popular ski resorts is fierce: prices increase by a steady 2.5 per cent each year, and combined with rocketing petrol prices, a family trip to the slopes becomes a costly outing.

At the Swiss mountain lifts association in Bern, Renate Schoch explains that the trend towards flexible pricing started approximately 15 years ago, due to the merger of many lift companies such as those in Davos and Klosters, Verbier and the Four Valleys or Portes du Soleil.

Schoch says there are new skiing trends. A survey by Switzerland Tourism shows that young people ski less than they used to.

Between 1995 and 2002, participation in youth sport camps was down 13 per cent, and schools began to cancel their traditional ski week for economic reasons. Resorts were faced with sharp differences in visitor numbers between their traditional peak periods - Christmas time and February school holidays - and the rest of the season.

Dynamic pricing, similar to easyJet's first come, first served policy, was first introduced on Swiss ski slopes in 2005 in the Gryon-Villars ski resort of western Switzerland.

swissinfo, Henry Plouïdy

In brief

In 2003, one year after the euro was introduced, the Swiss ski lifts association published a survey showing that prices in Switzerland were not competitive compared with similar resorts in Austria, France and Italy.

Four years later, after the euro climbed 11% against the franc, skiing in Graubünden or in western Switzerland is a better deal: one day in the 4 Valleys is SFr5 cheaper than at l'Espace Killy/Tignes-Val d'Isère in France.

Chic St Moritz is also cheaper than Sankt Anton in neighbouring Austria.

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