Ten Swiss ski resorts named most expensive in Europe

Skiers in Switzerland pay the highest prices for their ski passes of anywhere in Europe, according to research.

Ten Swiss ski resorts named most expensive in Europe
File photo: Renato Bagattini/Swiss Tourism

German smartphone app ‘Schnee und Mehr – Der Atlas’ compared the prices for skiing across the Alps this coming season and found that the ten most expensive ski resorts in the Alps are all in Switzerland, news agencies reported on Wednesday.

Zermatt tops the list, with a six-day peak season adult ski pass for the whole Zermatt-Aosta region (part of which is in Italy) costing a whopping 463 francs.

Similar passes for Zermatt-Cervinia and Zermatt alone came second and third in the list, costing 434 francs and 380 francs respectively, as confirmed on Zermatt’s website.

Engadine-St Moritz and Verbier-Four-Valleys completed the top five, while all ten Swiss resorts analyzed cost more than 300 francs for a six-day pass.

The cheapest Swiss ski pass among the resorts examined was the ‘Superpass’, at 333 francs for a six day adult pass, which covers the three ski regions of Gstaad, Adelboden-Lenk and the Vaud Alps.

Within the euro zone, France was found to be the most expensive country for skiing, with a six-day adult pass averaging 271,70 euros (295,50 francs).

Most resorts in Austria were slightly cheaper, advertising prices between 280 and 290 francs, apart from the country’s most expensive, Ischgl-Silvretta, at 281.50 euros (305 francs) for a six-day pass in peak season.

German resorts cost around 240-250 francs for an equivalent pass, found the research.

But there is some good news for Swiss skiers.

More than 70 percent of Switzerland’s resorts have retained their prices from last year or even reduced them, according to Seilbahnen Schweiz, the umbrella organization for lift operators.

As a result, prices have only risen by an average of 0.6 percent this season, according to its September survey of 50 ski resorts in the country.

Swiss Tourism also defended Switzerland’s prices.

Speaking to news agencies, spokesman André Aschwanden said international studies show that Swiss winter sports destinations “distinguish themselves in comparison to other European resorts in several categories, for example the safety of slopes, the scenery, the authenticity of the resorts and their family-friendly conditions”.

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EXPLAINED: Why is Switzerland so expensive?

That the cost of living in Switzerland is notoriously high is hardly a surprise — though it may still shock some people. There are several reasons why this is so.

EXPLAINED: Why is Switzerland so expensive?
Life in Switzerland is expensive. Photo by Claudio Schwartz, Unsplash

Besides chocolate, cheese and banks full of other people’s money, Switzerland is perhaps best known for being expensive. 

The country is especially pricey when it comes to food, beverages, hotels, housing, restaurants, clothing, and health insurance – or pretty much everything you need. 

While Switzerland is expensive for its residents, for people coming from abroad, high costs here are the ultimate culture shock.

READ MORE: Why Zurich ranks as the world’s most expensive city once again

Various studies have shown time and again that Swiss consumers pay much more for basic goods and services than their European counterparts, with the exception of Norway and Iceland.

For instance, one such study found that people in Switzerland have to pay 168 francs for a basket of consumer goods costing on average 100 euros in the EU.

Why is this?

Many reasons have been given to explain this phenomenon. Some of them however are based on popular beliefs rather than economic facts.

One such explanation that is making rounds in Switzerland is that prices in Swiss supermarkets are high because employees in Swiss supermarkets are paid more than their European counterparts.

While Swiss salaries are indeed higher than almost anywhere else in Europe, this explanation does not hold water.

Cost of living in Switzerland: How to save money if you live in Zurich

So what is the real reason for the high cost of consumer goods in Switzerland?

Among the most often cited ones are protectionism and lack of competition, which are inter-related, as the former invariably leads to the latter.

Trade protectionism is a policy that protects domestic industries from foreign competition.

A case in point is milk.

Milk can only be imported if it is in short supply in Switzerland, which is not currently the case. This means that Swiss milk has no foreign competitors vying for the consumers’ attention, and forcing it to lower its price.

This kind of protectionism extends to many other products as well.

But sometimes it works the other way too.

study by the University of Applied Sciences of Northwestern Switzerland shows that foreign producers and suppliers impose large price increases in Switzerland, exploiting high salaries and consumers’ purchasing power.

This means that Swiss buyers are overpaying for their purchases by more than three billion francs, the study found. 

This is the reason why so many people living in border regions go shopping in France, Italy, and Germany, where the same items are considerably cheaper. 

Cross-border shopping: Vaccinated Swiss can now shop in Germany again

This practice is widespread in e-commerce as well.

Anyone who wants to order something online from a foreign store is often redirected to the supplier’s Swiss site, where the prices are often much higher.

This is called ‘geo-blocking’.

This practice finally spurred the public and politicians into action.

READ MORE: ‘Fair prices’: Switzerland moves one step closer to referendum on cost of living

A popular initiative tag-lined “Stop the expensive island” , which aims to fight against overpriced goods in Switzerland, was presented to the parliament in 2017.

It has been stagnating there for four years because PMs couldn’t agree on how to tackle this issue.

But in March, the initiative was revived and is heading toward a referendum (no date has been set yet).

If passed, geo-blocking’ will be prohibited. In the future, consumers and businesses based in Switzerland will have to be treated by foreign online shops the same way as domestic consumers

It is difficult to predict whether Swiss prices will drop significantly as a result of this initiative, but at least there is hope on the horizon.