A train painted in the colours of Switzerland Tourism was greeted by snowball-throwing ski instructors as it pulled into Zurich’s railway station on Thursday.This content was published on November 6, 2003 - 18:22
It did not mark the arrival of winter, but the launch of the national marketing organisation’s winter campaign.
Switzerland Tourism is so convinced there will be ample snow on the ski slopes this winter that they have chosen the slogan “Snowtime” to accompany the aggressive campaign.
Switzerland, according to the marketing body, has Europe’s highest resorts, its longest ski runs and oldest winter sports traditions.
Jürg Schmid, the organisation’s director, emphasised that Switzerland had nearly 30 resorts with slopes above 2,800 metres, and the ten highest are located on average almost 400 metres higher than those in neighbouring countries.
This was a loosely veiled attack on Austria, Switzerland’s main competitor, which Switzerland has been losing ground to for years.
Austria has convinced large segments of the skiing public that its resorts offer better value for money.
However, Switzerland is now attempting to use altitude as its trump card to win back skiers, as snow becomes scarcer at lower levels in the Alps due to global warming.
Indeed, according to the Swiss Cable Car Association, 80 per cent of Swiss ski resorts are situated above 1,500 metres. Scientists now consider this to be the critical altitude - or “snow line” - where winter temperatures should remain at or below freezing.
The association’s Felix Maurhofer told swissinfo that cable car companies were concentrating investments in areas above the snow line.
“They are increasing the load-carrying capacity of the cable cars and enlarging the ski areas at these higher altitudes as well as installing more snow cannon,” he explained.
Switzerland has also become more competitive on price, according to Schmid, even though it is still on average more expensive.
“The Swiss franc has lost between eight and ten per cent against the euro since last winter,” he said.
“And there are practically no price increases at Swiss resorts this year, which cannot be said of resorts in neighbouring countries. So overall we believe we’ve brought down our prices by between ten and 15 per cent.”
The Russians are coming
Skiers in Switzerland this year are likely to meet more Russians on the slopes since Russia, for the first time, is joining the ranks of countries being targeted by the campaign.
Also for the first time this year, visitors to the Switzerland Tourism website (see “related sites”) can fill out an online questionnaire to find a Swiss resort tailor-made to their needs.
This service, according to Schmid, is unique in the world.
Considered the cradle of winter sports, Switzerland is trying to ensure that the spirit for innovation has not died.
swissinfo, Dale Bechtel in Zurich
A few highlights from the campaign, “Snowtime”:
Switzerland says it can guarantee more snow, since 29 resorts offer skiing above 2,800 metres.
There are winter sports facilities within an hour of most Swiss towns and cities.
Switzerland offers more variety, from skiing and horse racing on snow to accommodation in igloos.
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