Valais in Switzerland welcomes winter and Christmas markets; updates entry requirements

Valais in Switzerland welcomes winter; updates entry requirements

TORONTO — Although we’re starting to see the signs of winter in Canada, the Valais canton in Switzerland and the magical Swiss Alps provide the ultimate picture-perfect background for winter wonderlands, snowy activities and the Christmas markets.

Valais in Switzerland welcomes winter and Christmas markets; updates entry requirements

The country is welcoming visitors this winter, but changes to the entry rules due to the omicron variant come with additional testing requirements as discussed at an event in Toronto hosted by Switzerland Tourism.

Pascal Prinz, Director, Canada of Switzerland Tourism explains why Switzerland is such a special place in the winter: “We have our snow-capped peaks to thank for making Switzerland one of the world’s most popular travel destinations. Our mountains captivate skiers, snowboarders, tobogganers and other winter sports enthusiasts. With more than 200 ski regions, Switzerland offers an incredible diversity of winter sports to allow travellers to get outside with built-in social distance this winter.”

The canton of Valais is in Switzerland’s southwest, bordering Italy and France, high in the Swiss Alps. It’s a paradise for winter activities, and many snow-seekers head to the region’s peaks, including the infamous Matterhorn, or the 270 other summits nearby. While a wide range of activities can be enjoyed in the mountains, wintertime for many means skiing and snowboarding.

“Falling temperatures, the first snowfalls and the opening of the ski resorts send a clear message: it’s time to make way for winter. We’re definitely looking forward to its arrival, as well as to the feeling of freedom that comes when you’re skimming down the ski slopes, walking through the snow-covered forests, feeling the crunch of the snow under your feet and enjoying cosy hours by a crackling fire. That’s winter at its best!” explains the Valais promotional team.

Valais has the highest-altitude ski regions in Switzerland, all but guaranteeing snow coverage every year on its 2,000 kilometres of ski runs. Some of the ski resorts are already open, like Vebier, Nendaz, Zermatt, Sass-Fee, while many others will be opening soon.

For a list of all the resorts, opening details and snow conditions, click here.

“Switzerland has some of the longest winters and days for skiing in the world, with lifts open in most resorts from November through May, plus resorts like Saas-Fee and Zermatt in the Valais Matterhorn region are open year round with glacier skiing,” says Prinz.

“Also, with the high altitude, you are pretty much guaranteed sunshine during your trip as you rise above the clouds. We’ve already had some tremendous snowfall and are looking forward to welcoming Canadian visitors to our slopes,” he adds.

The Valais Mountain Card offers access to 40 ski areas with just one pass, giving card holders direct access to the ski lift turnstiles to avoid the queues. The pay per use system only charges the skier on the day(s) that they access the slopes and offers a 10% discount on the price of lift passes. The card costs CHF 40 for adults and CHF 25 for children and is valid for one year.

Another promotion for visitors is 25% off the Swiss Travel Pass up until December 11 for people planning holidays to the area this winter. The pass allows travel throughout Switzerland by train, bus and boat with just one ticket, and peace of mind with free cancellation.

Visitors can travel to the many Christmas markets throughout Valais to enjoy mulled wine, roast chestnuts and freshly baked cookies with a backdrop of twinkling lights and the sounds of Christmas music. And on Open Wineries Days, ocal Valais wine cellars invite visitors to sample fine wines and find the perfect Christmas gift.

Prinz explains why the Christmas markets are so special: “Truly offering some of the best in the world, our markets are diverse and magical. One that really stands out is the Basel Christmas market, alongside all the wonderful market in Valais. The Basel Christmas market at Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz is considered to be one of the prettiest and largest in Switzerland. This famous Christmas market was just voted the Best Europe in 2021.”

Valais in Switzerland welcomes winter and Christmas markets; updates entry requirements

Switzerland added a quarantine requirement for arrivals early last week amid the flurry of changes in international travel restrictions with the omicron variant, but lifted the requirement by the end of the week, so it is no longer required.

Entry into Switzerland now means proof of vaccination, a PCR test taken up to 72 hours before arrival, and the Swiss entry form. Travellers will also be required to take a second PCR or antigen test between day 4 and 7 after arrival. Visitors will also need a COVID certificate to access many public places, but this can be done easily for about $43 to get a QR code.

“We are not where we were two years ago: we are fully vaccinated, we will get the booster shot and we will get through this winter and next year. We are very optimistic because people want to travel and Switzerland is an amazing destination,” says Prinz.

“The good news is that Switzerland has lifted the quarantine again, so you will just need a negative PCR test. I think this shows that we are taking the omicron variant very seriously, but it’s a smart approach. It’s really just testing and we are not where we were two years ago.”

Alongside the testing and entry requirements, mandatory masking will help stop the spread of the virus, plus the country introduced the Swiss COVID-19 certificate to only allow fully vaccinated people into certain restaurants, activities and attractions. Cable cars, lifts, trains and hospitality partners are enforcing strict rules so that winter 2022 can be enjoyed by all.

Prinz strongly reiterates his support of travel agents: “Our commitment to the agent community has never been stronger. It is the travel agents who will help this industry survive. People are ready to travel again and they need professional advice, constant communication and reassurance on travel regulations and changes. This winter, we think people will be drawn to places like Switzerland which is enforcing strong safety measures for fully vaccinated travellers. Our resorts were open in 2021 as well and we know how to do winter in these challenging times. We encourage you to continue to put the beautiful village resort towns such as those in the Valais region at the top of the list.”