Skiers from the US were in very short supply on the ski slopes here last winter (also elsewhere is Switzerland). And they were missed. That fact is evident in the price tags on ski packages offered by Swissair in cooperation with Zermatt and seven other Swiss resorts for the 1979-1980 ski season.
Even at the current exchange rate, prices for winter holidays in Switzerland don't have be all that high. Swissair is now quoting land pakages for winter 1979-80 to travel agents at guaranteed prices in US dollars. People willing to make certain concessions - for example taking a low season vacation- will find ski package rates quite manageable. In Zermatt low season usually means before December 22, between Jan. 5 and 26, or after April 12. In englelberg low-season rates apply at all periods except during the Christmas and Easter holidays and the month of February.
Another way to save money, not always appreciated by American skiers, is to stay in a modest hotel and settle for a room which does not offer a private bath.
Still another option: rent an apartment. In Switzerland such apartments come completely equipped with household linens, cooking utensils, and all the same conveniences offered in hotels. There is no room service, but a fee for cleaning up the apartment at the end of the stay is included in the package and guests are not obligated to polish the floors or wash the windows before they depart. Leaving the place in some reasonable condition for the clean-up crew is expected, however.
Let's get down to specifics: Least expensive way to travel to Swtizerland on Swissair is with a so-called GIT fare. IT is good for 7 to 21 days; it requires that a minimum of five adults travel together on the entire itinerary, and complete land arrangements must be prepaid before leaving North America. Current GIT rates quoted by Swissair to Zurich and Geneva are $433 from Boston and $438 from New York City, plus $3 US departure tax.
Swissair has put together ski-group offers for the winter season 1979-1980 which suggest various trip possibilities to travel agents. Though GIT rates are based on a minimum group fo just five persons, the land packages are available only for groups with a minimum of ten people.
The least expensive Zermatt group package in the low- season period includes seven nights in a simple hotel (room without bath) round-trip transfer by second-class train from Geneva, assistance upon arrival and departure, seven breakfasts. Guaranteed in dollars for the current season it is just $144. Half pension increases this to $215, and full board brings it up to $238. This same bargain rate covers charter bus transportation from Geneva airport to Zermatt and return if the group numbers at least 20 members.
If you want to ski in Zermantt, stay in a first-class hotel with a swimming pool, enjoy a room with private bath, and include dinners as well as breakfasts (half-pension), about $300 (per person) per week will be added to the minimum 10 - person group bed and breakfast rate quoted above.
Add GIT plane fare and departure tax from Boston to the minimum-rate Zermatt bed and breakfast deal and it works out to $580 for one week, $724 for two weeks. There will be other expenses, of course - ski-lift tickets, meals, and incidentals. These items can vary greatly in price. A ski lift ticket good on just one multilift area is far less expensive than a ticket for all the areas. (In Zermatt the all-areas ticket costs about $105 per week at the current exchange rate.) Eating at the cafeteria of a supermarket is far less expensive than eating at a four-star restaurant with superb international cuisine. Calculating prices in US dollars, gracious living is not exactly inexpensive in the Swiss Alps, but it is very attractive.
Of course, it doesn't have to be Zermantt or St. Moritz or Davos. Engleberg, a resort less-well known to Americans, is not too far from Zurich and Lake Lucerne. Dominated by titlis Mountain which towers 10,000 feet, it offers a 6, 500-foot vertical drop, a number of ski lifts, cross-country trails, and an attractive community. Prices here are modest indeed, and off season means most of the winter! A seven-day arrangement with transportation from the airport by train (special bus if your group numbers at least 20) is $208 per person in a double room complete with bath or shower in a spacious, comfortable hotel. Dinners at the hotel will add another $67 for the week. In Engelberg a one-week ski lift ticket costs approximately $75.
Another possibility in engleberg: moving into a modern one-bedroom condominimum for a week (minimum occupany three persons, the living room doubles as a second bedroom), and the package costs a thrifty $117 per person. Here in your own apartment with cooking facilities two weeks with Swissair GIT rate from Boston, and the ten-person minimum group for land arrangements adds up to only $ 670.
Swissair has put together comparable group package proposals are eight different Swiss resorts in all: Crans, Davos, Engleberg, Grindelwald, Interlaken , Leysin, St. Mortiz, and Zermatt. The Swiss National Tourist Office, 608 Fifth Aveue, New York City 10020 can supply brochures about these and other Swiss resorts upon request.
The ski slopes of Swtizerland are just as beautiful, the secnery just as enchanting in January which is low-season, as in February when rates are higher, the slopes and liftlines more congested. You will have just as much fun skiing the Swiss alps whether you are roughing it in a room without a private bath in a modest small hotel or living in luxury in a hotel which is a favorite with the jet set.
Don't write Switzerland off your list this winter just because you have read about a columnist's $80 lunch in Zurich. Look over the figures with your travel agent. The Swiss are anxious to have Americans return to their ski slopes and their ski resorts this winter and have priced their group ski packages accordingly. Check out the price of a Swiss winter holiday for yourself before you decide to settle for Colorado, Utah, or a South Sea island.