File this under: Another reason to be jealous of Europeans.
Starting in December, the continent will be home to the world’s only exclusive ski airline. PowdAir (get it?) will operate flights from across western Europe to Sion, a tiny town in the heart of the Swiss Alps. From there, it’s just 45 minutes to some of the most famous slopes in the world, including Verbier and Zermatt. Plus, the airline flies bulky ski bags free of charge.
“This is a dedicated skier’s airline,” says Rob Stewart, a PowdAir spokesman. “Everyone involved are all keen skiers—they’re all enthusiasts who know the area and have passion.”
Switzerland already has plenty of infrastructure to support the 13 million some-odd foreign skiers who flood its border each winter. Skis fly free on Swiss Air too, and for about $150, you can buy a rail pass that’ll take you from any of the country’s airports directly to any ski resort and back. Trains are Swiss-watch punctual and come with plenty of ski racks for your gear, but the trek from Zurich or Geneva (where most flights arrive) to the Matterhorn still takes over three hours.
PowdAir will fly from smaller airports—including London’s Luton, Hamburg, Edinburgh, and Antwerp—directly to Sion Airport, a small airfield that’s provided runways for the Swiss Air Force for years, but is going full civilian after 2017. Sion, which sits at about 1,500 feet above sea level, is just 25 minutes from the closest resorts, Nendaz and Crans-Montana. Flights will cost around $179 each way and Stewart says PowdAir won’t jack up the prices during peak season. Tickets go on sale June 6 and flights start on December 14.
Sadly, PowdAir has no plans to expand to North America. The Rockies, which are dotted with regional airports hungry for passengers, have seen increased flight traffic in recent years—but you’d be lucky to find an airline that lets ski bags fly free these days. Smells like a business opportunity to us.