Swiss ski resorts hit by drought

Safiental valley near Tenna, Grisons, Switzerland, on 1 December 2011 Swiss mountains have remained snow-free this year

The traditional start of Switzerland's ski season has been marred by a shortage of snow across the Alps.

The autumn has been the driest on record in the country.

Correspondents say the continuing drought is bad news for the country's tourism industry which is already suffering from the strong Swiss franc.

Big resorts such as Davos or St Moritz have been able to open a few runs with the help of snow cannons. Others have delayed the start of the season.

The franc has risen sharply this year against the euro, the dollar and the British pound, making a skiing holiday in Switzerland far more expensive than in France, Italy or Austria.

Praying for snow

The BBC's Imogen Foulkes says now the lack of snow has added to the worries of hoteliers, ski instructors, and lift companies.

There was some snow in parts of the Swiss Alps early on Saturday, but observers say this was not enough to kick-start the struggling ski season.

Alpine resorts in neighbouring countries are also experiencing shortages of snow.

A hotel in Austria's Katschberg mountains has hired 15 chimney sweepers - which are associated with good luck in the country - to pray for snow.

"We're confident things will go well now!" hotel manager Wolfgang Hinteregger said.

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