People wearing protective masks ski on the Matterhorn mountain. Reuters
Blue skies over the Matterhorn drew skiers and snowboarders to Zermatt and police to break up crowds, as Switzerland's modest coronavirus restrictions allowed near-normal operations while other Alpine resorts kept their lifts shut.
France, Italy, Austria and Germany have all ordered even the high-altitude lifts that could be running this early in the winter to remain closed for now in the hope that all resorts can benefit at peak-season, if and when the infection rate slows.
Switzerland, despite being a second-wave coronavirus hotspot with 5,000 infections a day and mounting deaths, is hoping that a middle way of social distancing, limits on gatherings and mask-wearing on lifts can prop up pillars of the economy such as tourism without fuelling the pandemic.
Some Swiss resorts, including Davos to the northwest, boast of "cold-fogging" equipment to blast the interiors of gondolas and "kill 99.9% of viruses, bacteria and spores in a minute".
The Swiss tourism association has even adopted "Clean & Safe" as its motto in the hope of easing tourists' nerves.
And there is no denying the sense of release from confinement that a day on the slopes can bring.
"It'd be worse if you couldn't go to the mountains at all," said Anne Spiegler, a German living in Zurich.
Swiss skier Jean-Francois Paschoud said that it "makes you forget the mask measures".
Swiss resorts know that the number of guests from Britain, the Netherlands, Germany or Scandinavia will inevitably be far below the levels of a normal season as the wait for a vaccine stunts cross-border travel.
Other countries will be glad to start their winter tourist season at all.
Zermatt Mayor Romy Biner-Hauser still thinks the future looks bright: "People need vacation," he says. "People need mountains."
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