Normally skiers in the Franco-Swiss area of Portes du Soleil, which comprises parts of Valais in Switzerland and Chablais on the French side, ski from one slope to another without knowing which country they are in.
But Switzerland has decided to open its ski slopes while France’s remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The government has said ski resorts can open in France but ski lifts will remain closed as will bars and restaurants.
So one of Switzerland's biggest resorts is to put in place a shuttle bus from the Swiss side to pick up skiers at nearby resorts in France and bring them to Valais.
“We plan to pick up the skiers near Châtel and the other French resorts by bus. We are preparing to absorb part of the French clientele,” Enrique Caballero, director of the Portes du Soleil Switzerland said in an interview this week.
The cost of the bus service would be included in the price of a ski pass in the Swiss resorts.
The price of transportation will include the “ski pass on the Swiss side”, he pointed out.
Caballero also said that “we have no intention to enrich ourselves on the misfortune of others. Our main objective is to help our French neighbours by absorbing part of their skiers during the holidays”.
“But if this results in a balanced income for this winter season, so much the better!” he added.
Contacted by the media, Christophe Darbellay, president of Valais’ Council of State explained that this move should not be seen as “provoking the French government”.
“Welcoming foreign tourists is not the same as actively looking for them”, he said.
Caballero specified that the shuttle service “is not about recruiting clients in France. We simply want to avoid overcrowding in parking lots.”
While France, Italy and Germany are leading a European Union effort to close ski slopes until at least mid-January, in Switzerland some slopes are already open across the country – and more will follow.
“In Switzerland, we can go skiing, with protection plans in place,” Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset told reporters on Thursday.
He added that while these plans might cause tension between Switzerland and its neighbours, “we are a sovereign country and we can decide ourselves what to do on our own territory”.