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Snow bunnies headed east and south at Easter

Zermatt still has accommodation for visitors and snow on the slopes. Christof Sonderegger

Switzerland's resorts are looking forward to Easter, with snow conditions in the east and south better than expected.

This content was published on March 27, 2002 - 10:37

Snowfall in some parts of the country late last week put smiles back on many faces, although the picture postcard is not perfect everywhere. Eastern resorts and those south of the Alps received a blanket of white powder guaranteeing almost perfect conditions.

"We received over a metre of snow in the upper reaches of our ski domain," said Monja Keuser of the Davos Tourist Office. "Down in lower areas, we have 50 kilometres of cross country tracks open."

Elsewhere the snow failed to reach lower-lying areas, and tourists are advised that the best skiing remains above 2,000 metres.

The extra snow has come as a bonus at the tail end of the winter season for the resorts that benefited from it, and it should help pick up some of the ground lost earlier in the year. The tourism industry had suffered from the fallout of September 11.

The beginning of February wasn't also as good as hoped, with what was called a "snow crisis" by some industry observers. Many resorts were able to count on artificial powder though to ride out this situation.

"Fortunately, we were able to use our snow cannons to take up the slack," said Martha Simmen of the Zermatt Tourist Office.

Some resorts struggle

"Some resorts have struggled with snow conditions," admits Sylvia De Vito of Switzerland Tourism.

"Fortunately Easter is early this year, which means skiing is expected to be good," she said. "But this is still the last chance to fill the resorts before the winter season ends."

So far, the signs are good. "The ski resorts are close to full capacity, although there is still accommodation still available in most categories," said De Vito.

The resorts are attempting to fill the empty beds. Unlike at Christmas, there are plenty of last minute offers available, according to the tourism board of canton Valais.

The fresh snow should also help cushion the downturn faced by the tourism industry this season.

Numbers were down eight per cent in January compared to 2001, according to De Vito. She added though that last year's figures were considered a record by many observers.

The majority of tourists are locals, with the Swiss making up nearly half of the visitors to the mountain resorts. Yet according to a recent survey carried by the LINK Institute for Market and Social Research, only six per cent of the population say they are heading to the slopes for Easter.

Just over one in 10 people is going abroad and three-quarters of those polled are staying at home for the break. Foreign, mostly European, visitors are expected to make up the shortfall, although Americans are still staying away according to Switzerland Tourism.

Fresh snow isn't the only ingredient needed to attract visitors to the slopes though. A dash of sunshine helps bring out the skiers too.

According to Keuser, that part of the plan is working fine. "The weather is perfect now after our latest snowfall," she said. "And the forecast for the coming week is also looking good."

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