What have we learned, and what has changed?
At ES, we have always prided ourselves on being innovators, and been first with new products, plans and people-centred ideas. But for us, like the rest of the skiing world, COVID was a complete shock that left us reacting to events as they happened.
Eighteen months on, what have we learned, and what has changed for skiers and the ski industry?
What have we learned?
Last winter, we learned from our experience here in Switzerland that, with precautions, it was possible to keep the ski resorts open throughout the winter and not trigger any major outbreaks of COVID.
We also learned that people would follow guidelines and behave sensibly.
We found that complying with the guidelines was much easier if the resort was set up to help. Here in Verbier, it worked really well, with distances marked on the ground for entering lifts, reminders as you got on the lift about how many people per lift, and specially recruited friendly helpers called “COVID angels” around to help everyone follow the rules.
Businesses have learned that many jobs can be done from home. With flexibility about when and how they work, people have turned out, on average, to spend more time working and be more motivated. And, of course, it benefits everyone to cut out the commute.
Working remotely has also become more accepted for those who work for themselves.
With fewer “in-person” meetings, it is easier for everyone to be based far from your clients or colleagues. That includes being based in a ski resort…
So we saw many more people either staying in resort for the season or for a longer time. With the flexibility to ski and to work, who would not be more efficient and effective during their working time?
What has changed?
The single most important piece of feedback we had from our clients (and felt ourselves) is that we will never take our skiing and travel for granted again! We have realised how lucky we are to be in the beautiful Alps, breathing the freshest air, seeing the shining peaks around us, exercising in the open, becoming stronger and more skilful each day.
People have realised how important their time in the mountains is, both for themselves and to relax and enjoy the company of their family and friends. This winter, we are seeing many enquiries for large family groups and groups of friends who have missed time together of the past year and have some catching up to do. For these large parties, we allocate a lead instructor who can coordinate times, places, lunches and pickup and drop off so that things run smoothly for everyone.
Having missed a winter’s skiing, we know there will be many people who will need help rebuilding their confidence and skills. After a year out, an instructor can help you to sprint past your old ski level and reach new heights.
As a ski school, we are reviewing our expectations for skiers on day one. Children who have missed a winter on the snow will need a gentle start with a steep learning curve as they regain their skills and confidence. Our instructors are aware of this and will help everyone to reach their potential, progressing quickly early in the trip to regain their old level, and then surpass it.
Switzerland COVID Champion
We had to cheer last year when Switzerland recognised that the point of closing borders and restricting entry was to keep COVID from entering Switzerland. The corollary of this was, that when another country had less COVID than Switzerland, the Swiss opened the border to it. The restrictions only remained in place for countries with a higher incidence.
Last winter Switzerland kept the ski lifts open throughout the winter. There were fewer people per lift, and masks had to be worn in ski lifts and in lift lines. However ski lifts stayed open through the whole winter, and we could ski!
You do not need an EU COVID certificate, but if your certificate is from outside the EU, you may need to have it converted to a format that is recognised in Switzerland.
Follow this link to do the conversion, and please note that they recommend allowing 2 weeks for the process; https://covidcertificate-form.admin.ch/foreign
There is a simple travel check that you can do to see if you can enter Switzerland; it is updated as requirements change. Follow the link here;