High flying franc takes gleam off Swiss slopes

Fri Jan 28, 2011 12:55pm EST
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By Katie Reid and Catherine Bosley

ENGELBERG, Switzerland (Reuters Life!) - Switzerland's shimmering ski slopes, luxurious hotels, and breathtaking vistas have always come at a price -- too high a price for many holidaymakers this year as the Swiss franc reaches peaks of its own.

The country's strong currency is making mainland Europeans, Brits and Americans, who'd love to cut through the virgin snow of the Swiss Alps, think twice about spending their holidays and hard-earned cash in its ski resorts.

For one skier from Britain, combining a business trip with some sport with an old friend was one way to see how feasible a family holiday would be in Switzerland, which is this week hosting the World Economic Forum in the ski resort of Davos.

"It is lovely here, but it is just too expensive. The strong Swiss franc does take the shine off things," said London-based tax advisor Bernard Finity after skiing down to the Swiss village of Engelberg, at the foot of the Engelberg-Titlis ski resort, one the largest skiing areas in central Switzerland.

"The currency is just a deal breaker," said Finity, wrapped up in a black ski outfit, goggles and hat to protect himself from the freezing conditions.

The franc has surged to record levels against the euro, dollar and British pound, making holidays in the Swiss Alps some 10 percent more expensive than a year ago.

A large beer in Engelberg will set you back 6.20 Swiss francs ($6.56), around 4.80 euros compared with 4.50 euros ($6.17) in the Austrian skiing town of St. Anton.

The Swiss government is now looking into ways of easing the pain for Switzerland's tourism industry as fewer people travel to the Alpine country, while some ski resorts are coming up with their own promotions.   Continued...