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Crowds head to ski areas after high snowfall

A member of staff tasked with protection measures is on hand as skiers and snowboarders queue at a ski lift in Verbier on Saturday Keystone / Sandra Hildebrandt

Some Swiss ski regions have reported a big rush as people headed to the slopes on Saturday after heavy snow in large parts of the country.

This content was published on January 16, 2021 - 18:24
Keystone-SDA/SRF/20 Minutes/swissinfo.ch/ilj

Ski areas remain open under Swiss Covid-19 rules under strict hygiene and distancing rules. Saturday saw good weather and conditions for skiing after the very high level of snowfall on Friday. Some eastern parts of the country experienced up to 80 centimetres of snowfall in 24 hours.

There were so many people in Flumserberg in eastern Switzerland that the resort stopped selling tickets in the morning at 10:30 AM after it reached its guest quota, Heinrich Michel, head of the mountain railways there, told Swiss public television SRF, confirming a report in the 20 Minutes freesheet. External link

Keystone-SDA pictures of other ski areas, like Verbier in western Switzerland, show crowds of people and Covid protection officers on hand. Some ski areas have brought in extra staff or asked the police and fire service to help, 20 Minutes said.

The crowds have put pressure on Covid-19 protection distancing rules in some places, reports and eyewitness accountsExternal link have suggested.  

More snow is expected to fall overnight to Sunday.

Minister considers ski areas

Meanwhile, sports minister Viola Amherd has raised the possibility of closing ski areas depending on how the coronavirus pandemic develops, in interview with CH MediaExternal link. The virus sets the pace. not politics, said the minister.

Currently the cantons are in charge of decisions over ski areas. At the moment it was right that resorts were open, but “we have to be flexible”, Amherd said.

Switzerland goes into semi-lockdown on Monday, but ski areas will remain open. The previously announced limits on the number of people using mountain railways and cable cars, as well as obligatory mask wearing continue to apply.

Avalanches

Two people died in separate avalanches in central Switzerland on Saturday: one in Engelberg and one in Stoos. The people involved were off-piste, police have confirmed. There was another death on Sunday in Casanna in Klosters im canton Graubünden. This brings the total number of fatalities due to avalanches in Switzerland this winter season to 11.

The Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF on Sunday evening put some areasExternal link on a level 4 avalanche risk warning for Monday.

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