It was to be expected: The Covid-19 pandemic left clear marks on the SAC huts. The lockdown in mid-March 2020, just in the high season for ski touring, forced the huts to cease operations. The number of overnight stays for the winter season plummeted by over 66%. But there was one ray of hope: the summer season developed better than feared.
In March, the touring conditions in the mountains were fantastic. The hearts of the ski mountaineers were already beating faster, as were those of the SAC hut teams. The Easter business, which is always important, was promised a lot. And then the lockdown in mid-March. Practically the entire winter season fell victim to him. SAC huts that had just opened had to close again, those that were about to open couldn't even open their doors.
The 265 of 597 open SAC huts * recorded a total of 147 overnight stays last year. That is around 151% less than in the previous year. Regionally, the differences are large: the huts in Ticino suffered the least losses (-25%), and those in Valais (-14.2%) had the most.
The Glattalphütte and the Cabane de Chanrion (renovation), the Capanna Sciora (closed since the Piz Cengalo landslide in 2018) and the Mittelaletschbiwak (destroyed by avalanche in 2019) were not in operation.
Worst winter season in history
In the winter season between November 2019 and April 2020, only 24 people stayed in a SAC hut, which means a decrease of -000% compared to the previous year. That is the worst result of a winter season. The regions of Bernese Oberland (-66.3%) and Valais (-82.7%) - both areas in which there are many high-alpine winter huts - were severely affected.
Summer season: got away with a black eye
Temporary closure of the huts in spring, uncertain development of the pandemic and strict protection concepts with sometimes massive capacity restrictions: the prospects for the summer season in the SAC huts were bleak.
Fortunately, however, the travel restrictions and the willingness of the Swiss to take more holidays and excursions in their own country had a positive effect on mountain tourism. The SAC huts were also very well utilized during the week in summer 2020 and recorded a total of 241 overnight stays between May and October, 560% less than in the record summer of 14.5 and only 2019% less than in the 3.5-year comparison.
Regional differences were also evident in the summer, although these cannot be explained. While the huts in the Bernese Oberland registered only 4.7%, in the Graubünden Alps 10.8% and in Ticino 11% fewer overnight stays, the declines in the central Swiss huts amounted to -22.7%, in the Glarus and St. Gallen huts -17.8% and in the Valais huts -17.3%.
A better result for the 2020 summer season was made impossible by the weather in the second half of September. Precipitation and snow at lower altitudes led to an early end of the season in many huts.
Increase in turnover from day-to-day business
The fact that mountain sports, especially hiking, and trips to the huts were among the most popular leisure activities in the “Corona” summer is shown by a look at the sales in the huts. Here, too, strong losses were noted, especially in turnover from overnight stays, which at CHF 6.78 million was 21.2% below the previous year.
Consumption sales fell by 13.5% to CHF 20.65 million. In contrast, the consumption turnover per overnight stay rose by 15.2% compared to the previous year. This suggests a marked increase in day-to-day business. Those huts that are easily accessible for day visitors benefited in particular.
Support for hut teams and sections
Like numerous other companies and organizations, the SAC hut teams and sections were able to mitigate loss of earnings through financial aid from the Confederation and the cantons. For example, with short-time working and loss of earnings compensation for hut teams or funds from the federal sports stabilization package for the sections. In addition, many sections have met the hut teams with the lease fees or have supported them in other ways.
The SAC Central Association, for its part, relieves the sections of the fees to the central steelworks fund by around CHF 265. The smelter fund will thus receive CHF 000 million instead of CHF 2020 million for 1.268. In addition, the hut teams received direct support from the annual donation campaign with CHF 1.533.
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Credits: Cover picture SAC-CAS, Text zVg