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Amazing Ski Resorts and COVID-19: Can We Expect good in 2021?

December 23, 2020

As we enter the first winter season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many avid skiers and snowboarders are wondering if they’ll get a chance to hit the slopes in 2021.

As of Christmas 2020, prospects are grim: few ski resorts are open and those that are, often only give access to nationals. 

In this article, we present an overview of the current situation for ski resorts in France, Switzerland, Italy and Austria. 

You will learn: 

  • What the main rules are for each country regarding the opening of ski resorts 
  • What the prospects are looking like for 2021
  • Initiatives from local business communities, municipalities and chambers of commerce to address the consequence of the ski resorts closing

The current situation

The French government has announced that ski resorts would be allowed to reopen their lifts from 7th January. Of course, this will all depend on the COVID situation. This was declared after a meeting held between Prime Minister Jean Castex and the representatives of ski resorts earlier on in December.

France had started easing its second lockdown in November. However, Emmanuel Macron, the French President, announced winter sports resorts would not be allowed to reopen before the end of 2020, due to a new increase in cases.

Back in November CCI France network had requested the opening of ski stations and ski lifts as soon as possible.

The CCIs of mountainous regions, in conjunction with CCI France, were very concerned about the extremely distressing situation of ski-tourism professionals, while the ski season was looking like it could be postponed by nearly two months.

They insisted on the absolutely essential nature of this economic activity which directly supports more than 120,000 people in France, not to mention the very many jobs involved. For the 325 French ski resorts, Christmas represents 20% of the year’s turnover.

However, there is support out there. The CCI Haute-Savoie, for example, is offering support to local businesses affected by all these changes, such as training, webinars, diagnostics and follow-ups. 

For more information about ski resorts in France and how they are dealing with COVID-19, check out:

Switzerland resorts: Open but only for Swiss residents 

Faced with the growing number of infections, the Federal Council has once again stepped up measures to combat coronavirus on October 28, 2020. The goal is to significantly reduce physical contact. Therefore, skiing is also affected by the restrictions.

These measures define the framework and conditions for continuing snow sports training in Switzerland, both competitive and recreational. These measures are valid from November 2, 2020 until further order.

The Swiss Government did decide to allow ski resorts and regions to open during the festive season. However, these will only be open to domestic visitors. This has been allowed despite other countries having to close their own facilities due to growing numbers of cases.

Here is the statement the Swiss Government released earlier on in December:

‘Ski areas should be allowed to open for domestic tourism. Where the epidemiological situation is critical, measures must first be taken to allow it to improve. From 22 December, ski areas will require a permit from the cantonal authorities in order to operate. The prerequisite is that the epidemiological situation so allows, and that hospitals, contact tracing services and testing sites have sufficient capacity. Ski resort operators must also put in place strict precautionary measure plans that reflect the national standardised requirements. The aim is to prevent the virus from spreading in tourist destinations.

Ski areas themselves are not subject to capacity restrictions. However, from 9 December only two thirds of maximum capacity will be permitted in all closed forms of transport, such as trains, gondolas and cablecars. This applies to seating and standing room.

Face coverings must be worn when queuing for and travelling on all forms of transport, including drag- and chairlifts, and distance must be maintained when queuing. Guests at restaurants in ski areas will only be allowed inside the premises if there is a table available. The current rules continue to apply to indoor and outdoor areas: customers must be seated with no more than four people per table, with the exception of parents and their children.

The cantons have a duty to monitor compliance. If significant problems arise, ski resort operators will be issued with a warning. If the situation is not rectified, the permit must be withdrawn. The cantons must also provide a report to the federal authorities on the number of checks carried out, the number of warnings issued and permits withdrawn, as well as on hospital capacity.’

For more information about ski resorts in Switzerland and how they are dealing with COVID-19, check out:

Resorts in Italy are closed for now 

Due to the emergency linked to the spread of COVID-19 in March 2020, the Italian Authorities decided to impose the immediate closure of all the lift facilities on national territory, anticipating therewith the closure of the winter season.

Ski enthusiasts could therefore not use the lift facilities until the official end of the winter season 2019/2020.

Travelling between different regions in the country has also been banned over the festive period, meaning many are unable to go to their secondary homes or to visit relatives and friends.

“It will be necessary to avoid potential gatherings in places of tourist attraction linked in particular to skiing activities,” said the health minister, Roberto Speranza, in a recent address to parliament.

Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, said it is not possible “to allow holidays on the snow. We cannot afford it”.

“From December 21st 2020 to January 6th 2021, travel between different regions (including those to or from the autonomous provinces of Trento and Bolzano) will be prohibited, with the exception of travel for proven work reasons, situations of necessity or health reasons,” said a statement from the government.

On December 25th and 26th 2020 and January 1st 2021, travel between different municipalities will also be prohibited, with the same exceptions.

Planetski offers very helpful information about skiing in Italy and more generally across Europe.

For more information about ski resorts in Italy and how they are dealing with COVID-19, check out:

Ski resorts in Austria: Open but only for locals

Ski has been allowed in Austria this year, although it was a close call.

Austria decided that it would open its ski resorts on Christmas Eve. However, this will only be for locals. This is because there won’t be any hotels open to leisure travellers and tourists. There are also strict entry restrictions for people entering Austria at the moment. Indeed, all visitors coming from countries with more than 100 cases per 100,000 (nearly all of Western Europe) will have to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival to Austria.

Restaurants will also only be able to offer take-away or delivery services and all events have been cancelled.

You can find more detailed information about this on the official travel portal for Austria.

For more information about ski resorts in Austria and how they are dealing with COVID-19, check out:

Conclusions

All in all, the next few weeks aren’t looking too great for ski-lovers. Most people hoping to spend Christmas on a ski holiday in France, Switzerland, Italy or Austria will be disappointed. 

Even for those locals who are able to go skiing this Christmas, there won’t be much in the way of entertainment on site, with events being cancelled and restaurants closed in most places.

However, if the coronavirus situation improves, you could be hitting the slopes next January!

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