Switzerland has kept its ski resorts open while all neighbouring countries closed. Hardly surprising that 4,200 British skiers turned up for the Christmas-New Year period just after the new faster spreading covid-19 virus took British new cases through the roof at exponential speed. The Swiss then imposed a retrospective quarantine on the British visitors after they arrived, and almost all of them snuck out during the night and left. Left a lot of anti-British feeling behind.
I and my boys are of like mind that it would be madness to go to one of the major resorts like Verbier, where many British go. Likely the people there are now incubating new infections. But my neighbours packed their car and head up to Verbier today, confident the virus left with the British. I’ve spent a number of New Years at Verbier, particularly back in the noughties (2000-2009) during part of which I rented a studio apartment in Verbier so I could go up for weekends and longer holidays whenever I wanted. Here are some photos from those days.
Two parapenters fly above the mountains at Verbier
View from the top of Mont Fort (3330 m). The three peaks on the horizon from l.to.r are Dent Blanche (4356 m), Matterhorn (4478 m in niddle) and Dent d’Hérens (4171 m)
Switzerland has angered neighboring countries by keeping the ski slopes open this winter, despite the risks associated with skiing and the coronavirus pandemic. However, national and cantonal restrictions apply, and Les Portes du Soleil where the boys and I have often skied has set a quota for the numbers of skiers allowed on the slopes. I’ve decided to avoid the ski resorts this winter, at least until the covid situation improves or we have been vaccinated.
Its snowing here on Christmas Day in Geneva, though not quite enough to ski on. I’ve been skiing around the Christmas-New Year period quite a few of the years I’ve been in Geneva. Here are a few photos from two Christmas’s spent at Arosa in northeast Switzerland in 2001, 2005 and 2007. Good times.
Below left: looking down the Hörnli Express to the village of Arosa. Right: Hörnli 2511m.
Enjoying the winter sun on the piste in December 2001
Lamp post in the forest near our hotel. I think I must have gone out through the wardrobe.
View from the summit of Weisshorn (2653 m).
The jet d’eau (jet of water) is a famous Geneva landmark, situated just off the shore of Lake Leman near the centre of Geneva and its old town. The original jet d’eau was a pressure release mechanism for the Geneva water supply in the 19th century. When engineering improvements made it obsolete, the City of Geneva decided to make the jet a tourist attraction. The current version was installed in 1951 and sends the water plume to a height of 140 m (460 feet). Its two pumps expel 500 litres of water per second at a speed of 200 km/hour.
Tomorrow, Switzerland will relax its social distancing regime. Classroom teaching at primary and lower secondary schools will again be permitted. Shops, markets, museums, libraries, gyms and restaurants will be able to reopen under strict compliance with precautionary measures. Switzerland has had the 10th highest death rate per million people but has been one of the few high death rate countries to successfully control the epidemic. See the plot for Switzerland below.
Its now one month since my earlier post on the coronavirus pandemic A lot has changed since then. We have gone from 24,392 deaths globally on March 26 to 206,915 on April 26th. And recent analysis of total registered deaths by week in February and March, compared to the same periods in the previous year, suggest that the reported deaths (mostly hospital deaths) are only about 70% of the actual deaths. The proportion of deaths reported in developing countries without good death registration (including most of Africa, and much of Asia) will be even lower.
Today Switzerland became the country with the highest rate of confirmed cases of corona virus per million population. Well, that is if you ignore some micro-populations such as the Vatican City, San Marino, Andorra and Faeroe Islands. Why? It is landlocked with Italy, France and Germany around it. It did not close the border between Ticino and Italy for cross-border workers and many live in Italy were the virus spread rapidly. Also, it was the height of the ski season and alpine resorts were crowded with skiers from all over Europe, Britain and beyond. Here is a graph I did yesterday comparing confirmed cases per million population for the thirty leading countries (excluding small countries with population less than one million. Data are from worldometers.com at 13.11 GMT on March 24. A this point Switzerland had not yet overtaken Italy.
Just beyond the northern boundary of Geneva, a small river, the Versoix River, flows from neigbhouring France eastwards through mixed farm and forest to Lake Leman. I often go for a bicycle ride or take the dog for a walk along the Versoix River and nearby forest tracks. Last week I set out with the dog to walk to the River from a small village called La Bâtie, but I could not find somewhere to park the car with convenient access to the river. So I took a small path into the forest labelled only “Sentier Pedestre” (walking path). It took us to a beautiful canal, which I had never seen before. The photo below shows the dog sitting on a wooden bridge that crossed the canel to a path on its other bank.
Bridge over the Versoix Canal
The Versoix canal was built by Nicolas Céard (1745-1821) in 1785 to feed water to the lakeside town of Versoix. It also provided water power for a mill and paperworks at La Bâtie during the 19th century. Céard was a French civil engineer, one of whose first projects after graduation in 1769 was the construction of Port-Choiseul at Versoix on Lake Leman a few kilometres north of where I live. He fled the Terror (French Revolution) to Switzerland and later became mayor of Versoix from 1790 to 1792.
After a few hundred metres, we came to a dam that we had to cross via the dam wall. We came to a fishway, built to enable the river trout (local name “truite fario”) to migrate upstream. It is a vertical slot fishway, quite deep and with a strong current. I took a photo of the dog crossing it, then called her back to try another shot. She fell in and was swept down. I managed to pull her out before the end of the fishway, though she probably would have been fine if she had gone all the way through.
Fishway on the Versoix Canal
We took a shortcut through a horse dressage and jumping school (the Centre Equestre La Bâtie) to get back to the car.
After the day of reasonably heavy snow in Geneva last week, I decided to head up to Verbier to take advantage of the new snow. Verbier is a bit under two hours drive from Geneva and has spectacular scenery and skiing. In the first few years I was in Geneva, Verbier was my regular ski destination, and for a couple of years I rented a small studio apartment there so I could go up for weekends and longer periods when possible.
From Lausanne onwards, the ground in the Rhone Valley was completely covered in snow, and the trees and mountains were all dusted with fresh powder. I parked in the valley below Verbier and caught the cable car up past Verbier to the mid-level pistes.
Heading up in the cable car
Verbier is part of the “Four Valleys” (“4 Vallées”) ski area, which is the biggest ski domain in Switzerland with extensive off-piste and back country routes.
Grand Combin (4314 m)