Swiss resorts in uphill battle over no snow, franc

Tue Nov 29, 2011 6:06pm EST
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By Caroline Copley

ZURICH (Reuters) - Armed with snow canons and cut-price hotel deals some of Switzerland's ski resorts, already beleaguered by the strong Swiss franc, are grappling with another obstacle -- no snow.

A dry November has forced several ski resorts to push back the start of the season, the latest in a string of bad news for hoteliers who have struggled to fill beds as the soaring Swiss franc deters foreign holidaymakers.

Not to be disheartened, Davos-Klosters nestled in eastern Switzerland employed no less than 250 snow canons to get pistes ready for the season start -- a week later than scheduled.

Some 3,000 winter sport enthusiasts trekked to the resort lying 1,560 meters (yards) above sea level last weekend to slide down the 6 km (3.728 miles) of pistes made from artificial snow, long white stretches on an otherwise brown and green landscape.

Despite the delayed start, Yves Bugmann, finance director of Davos-Klosters mountain railway, remained unperturbed for now.

"Financially, the losses so far are marginal and can be recouped through cost cuts," he said. "Even so, a good start is the basis for a successful season."

Tourism, which contributes some 5 percent to Swiss gross domestic product, has come under pressure due to the strong Swiss franc that rose by more than 20 percent against the euro earlier this year and flirted with parity in August -- the height of the summer season.

Although the Swiss National Bank set a cap of 1.20 francs to the euro on September 6, many hoteliers still regard the currency as overvalued and say the tourist sector needs a good winter to stave off job cuts.   Continued...