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Ski season gets off to a good start

Bookings and snow conditions are good in Switzerland (Switzerland Tourism)

Switzerland's ski resorts are expecting to do well this winter season following some early snowfall.

Many have reported that they are fully booked over the holiday period – and are hoping that the trend will continue.

In the canton of Vaud, in western Switzerland, the tourism authorities have announced that 98 per cent of the hotels and apartments have been reserved over Christmas and New Year. The snow conditions are also very good.

Charles-André Ramseier, the director of Vaud Tourism, explained that the fact that the Christmas falls on the weekend has also helped bookings, with people arriving on Friday. The French have already been in the region for a week, he said, because their holidays started sooner.

In neighbouring Valais the season has also begun well, with slightly more occupancy than last year.

According to Valais Tourism's Vincent Bornet, the snow has been the principal factor in attracting more visitors. Both regions are expecting the season to continue well.

Lots of snow

It's a similar story in the Bernese Oberland, where the snowfall has reached one metre in height. Ski slope conditions and bookings are good, and practically all stations are open, say the tourism authorities in Gstaad-Saanen and the Jungfrau area.

Graubünden is also satisfied. "At the moment everything is coming together," said Gieri Spescha from the umbrella organisation Graubünden Holidays.

He added that enquiries from Germany had increased but that Swiss interest remained stable.

Central Switzerland's ski regions are also reporting a good start to the season, with holiday houses full in Sörenberg and in Andermatt. Some hotels rooms are still available.

The good start to the season will come as a relief to many resorts as global warming and the declining popularity of skiing have forced many to reassess their future.

A United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) report warned recently that up to half of Switzerland's ski resorts could face hardship or bankruptcy because of global warming.

Many resorts have already moved towards higher ski areas as a way of combating this. It is also acknowledged that prices need to become more competitive to avoid losing customers to cheaper neighbours, such as Austria and France.

Meanwhile, the snowfall means that those wanting a white Christmas will certainly have their wish fulfilled in the Alps. In the area running from Davos and Lake Geneva there is already more than twice the amount of snow there last year, say meteorologists.

But those on the plateau will have to wait until Monday to see winter return, said Felix Schacher from the Swiss Meteorological Office on Friday.

Temperatures on the 24 and 25 December will be to high for snow to settle in most areas, he said.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The Swiss tourism sector has reported more German visitors and a good start to the season.
This season has so far seen a 2% rise in bookings and a 3% increase in turnover.
Resorts currently have between 50cm and 1m of snow.
The snow is quite compacted which reduced the avalanche risk, say experts.

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