Grimentz-Zinal: The downside of the MagicPass

During the winter and spring, the Swiss press has been really active and wrote a lot about the Magic Pass. With more skiers on the slopes and increased ski lift turnover, sesame seems to be the perfect solution to the ski crisis in the French-speaking Switzerland. On paper, the Magic Pass is a beautiful promise. Too beautiful?

The 2018 winter season will stay in all the memories; in the past 50 years, the “Valaisans” hadn’t seen that much snow: about 15 meters of snow on the Grand St-Bernard pass! Lots of snow yes, but only 33 sunny days from November to April, against 58 the previous winter. Looking at the different ski resorts in the small area of the Valais, big changes has been noticed and it doesn’t seem to be in relation to sun or snow. Why did the turnover in the Valais only increase by 5.75% while it went up to 13.2% in Grimentz-Zinal? A detailed look into in the data, suggests, that the big winners of the 2018 winter season are ski resorts like Grimentz-Zinal who worked with the Magic Pass. On the next graph, you can notice that the skidays during the winter 2018 in Valais increased more than the two last years.

Introducing a new Pass

March 2016, 20 skiresorts in the french speaking part of Switzerland decided to indroduce the MagicPass which replace the old anual Pass. 459CHF fot un ulimited ski on more than xx km of slope. The price of the Pass increased during the summer. Most of the people buied it 8 Month before to know if any snow would come. On the next graph, you notice, that twice more skier with a Pass went skiing in 2018 than in 2017.

of the 25% increase, 10% are due to the snow conditions and 15% to the MagicPass Sébastien Travalletti, Board Member of the Magic Pass

Grimentz-Zinal is situated in the Val d’Anniviers, on the side that isn’t exposed to the sun. “The resort is famous for skiing, because the snow is guaranteed five months a year” argues Pascal Bourquin, the president of the RMGZ[1]. Since 2015, 15km of the ski slopes are whitened with artificial snow. During the winter 2017, 362’000 peoples went skiing there. After introducing the MagicPass, this number increased to 409’696, with 43% of the RMGZ’s user owning the new Pass. The growth of the number of skiers could of course be a directly due to the huge amount of snow, this hypothesis can be easily excluded, because it is known that the average increase of skiers in the whole Valais was of 3.9%, of which 90% were made by ski resorts working with the MagicPass. Pascal Bourquin explains it : “Even if the weather was bad, owners of the MagicPass went skiing, though maybe not the entire day. It is interesting to notice that during the week, about 40% of the skiers owned the MagicPass, while during the weekend this went up to 60%”. Sébastien Travelletti, president of Télé Anzère and board membre of Magic Mountains Cooperation, think that the weather conditions have boosted the numbers: « of the 25% increase, 10% are due to the snow conditions and 15% to the MagicPass».


Not a big impact on the altitude restaurants

Even if 13% more people went skiing, the difference isn’t notable on the restaurants located on the slopes. From the point of view of the director of RMGZ, it’s logical: “ If the weather isn’t good, people eat inside. To make a good day, the restaurants should make 2 full services: inside and outside. If the weather is bad and inside is full, the people leave and eat in the village or in their apartment.”  This is exactly what we noticed with the restaurant Alpina, which is right at the foot of Grimentz’s slopes. This Restaurant is also an Après-Ski were persons like to have a drink at the end of the skiday. That’s probably why this place did a good turnover, Besso in Zinal did the same.

The director of the Tourist Office Val d’Anniviers, Mickael Moret, there is two sorts of customers: the one who already had passes and the one who never went skiing at all or maximum one or two times. For the first category, Mickael Moret thinks that the common habits changed: “The people spent less money to ski and are more comfortable to drink a beer or go to the restaurant. ” The other one took less risks: ”People who weren’t used to ski took their old stuff to ski, but the next winter they will probably invest in new equipment, which will make a bigger difference on the sportshops turnover.”

More than 25% increase reservation per agency

In comparison with the increase of night in Switzerland (+ 4.6%) and in the Valais region (+5.75%) , Grimentz Zinal (+19.71%) made an incredible season. But the Professor Kate Variani, specialized in Profit Optimisation at the HES-SO in Sierre nuance the impact of the MagicPass on the ski resort: “ One season is not enough to see the benefit of Magic Pass and Nobody knows how many guest owned a MagicPass, so no proof that there is a relation.”

One season is not enough to see the benefit of Magic Pass Professor Kate Variani, specialized in Profit Optimisation
The total increase of overnight stay in Grimentz is of 19.71%, distributed between the various lodgings possibilities: 55% is for the agencies, 40% for hotels, and the rest is for B&Bs, chalets and campings. “We never saw that, the Hotel Alpina was booked for all the weekends at the end of january” said Pascal Bourquin. This is very optimist, but we have to keep in mind that: “ We compare with Winter 2016/17 which was one of the poorest season since 13 years. There are also other factors than Magic Pass: Good snow conditions, good exchange rate CHF/€ and better economic situation in the european Union”, argue the Professor Variani.

Distribution of the total nights increase in Grimentz-Zinal between 2017 and 2018 (in %)



More people, better business

Some private economic actors in the region have agreed to disclose their figures as a percentage difference between the winters of 2017 and 2018. For instance, the number of visitors to the bank increased by 22% this winter. And as the numbers speaks, the big winner of the winter should be the small food market in Zinal, with a turnover increase of 17%. The well-know market Coop did only an increase of 6%. Unfortunately, we were not able to get the number from the Swiss Ski School who would like to keep this information confidential.

The future of the Magic Pass will not be a long quiet river.

MagicPass version 2 (25 ski resorts and summer included) has been already sold more than 96’000 times against 81’000 in total the last year. Wich means, that: “We already overtake the minimum due” Pascal Bourquin rejoiced. More passes sold means more potential guest in the ski resort. The infrastructures like the parking isn’t ready to welcome a lot more cars and chairlifts are already crowd during the big periods. Without mentioned the security! These are big problems for Kate Variani: “ We need to consider the issues related to overcrowding and consider the cost of these very carefully. If this is simply a disparate measure to get people to winter destinations because of the fear of declining snow levels, then it needs to be rolled out much more carefully.” Another problem, is that the introduction of the MagicPass is a non-comeback point: “Many people purchasing a Magic Pass will be paying less for skiing than they did in the past. These people may never again be willing to pay full price to ski.” Having all the ski resort in this pass isn’t a solution: “ The Magic Pass should create an incremental number of skiers, not the same people skiing more for less money.” explains the director of the RMGZ.  

Many people purchasing a Magic Pass […] may never again be willing to pay full price to ski. Professor Kate Variani, specialized in Profit Optimisation

  As everything in the tourism sector is constantly in evolution and tend to adapt to the demand, so should do the MagicPass. According to the tourism expert Varini, the future of the MagicPass would be a flexible Pass: ”MagicPass should have conditions attached to it and not allow the same benefits are someone who pays full price to ski e.g. there should be pistes reserved for those paying a full price day ski pass or blackout days when you cannot use your MagicPass for example some weekends in February.”

Mélanie Beney