Skiing in the Corona year: What ski resorts are planning in winter

TDespite increasing numbers of infections with the corona virus, many people should hope for a winter holiday. The ski resorts and holiday regions want to do their utmost to ensure that tourists do not stay away despite the pandemic.

Mask requirement, distance and disinfection determine the precautionary measures almost everywhere. Some places also rely on technology. Here is an overview of measures that ski resorts are planning in European countries:

Austria: fun in the snow without après-ski

“Skiing fun, yes, but without après-ski” is the slogan issued by the Austrian government. Food and drinks are only available while seated, in gondolas it is mandatory to wear a mask. In addition, authorities, tourism associations and operators rely on different measures depending on the federal state and ski area.

“Winter sports areas like Ischgl have become synonymous with the pandemic in the course of reporting. Of course, this does not correspond to reality, but nevertheless many people have reservations about traveling to these areas. We take that very seriously, ”says the director of the St. Anton am Arlberg tourism association, Martin Ebster.

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There is a wide range of measures: a multifunctional cloth for mouth and nose protection can be bought in some ski resorts, elsewhere directly with the season pass. When queuing for the ski lifts, keep your distance.

Hotel and ski resort employees should be tested more frequently for Corona, in some cases a fever should be measured every day before starting work. Registration of guests and contact tracking should also be done via mobile phone. Some places want to keep an eye on the situation with wastewater monitoring.

Several ski areas guarantee reimbursements when purchasing season tickets in the event that the lockdown occurs again. Everyone involved is afraid that German tourists could be absent because of the travel warnings from the Foreign Office – they made up more than half of all overnight stays in Tyrol and Vorarlberg.

Germany: Ski areas hope for day-trippers

Germany does not play a major role in alpine ski tourism. Because the ski areas in the Bavarian Alps are too small to keep up with the competition in Austria and Switzerland – not to mention low mountain slopes in the Black Forest, Fichtelgebirge or Sauerland. Day trippers are therefore important.

There are not yet any hygiene concepts coordinated with ministries, but the specifications for winter will be based on summer operations. That means it is mandatory to wear a mask for gondolas and lifts and distance requirements.

Several ski areas want to hire additional seasonal workers to guide visitors. An app for “guest tracing” will probably not only be used in Bavaria, the use of which would be voluntary and could help in tracking chains of infection.

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In the Black Forest, there is also hope for the season. “After all the Corona-related restrictions in the summer, I expect the guests to yearn for a Black Forest winter as they haven’t for a long time,” says Adrian Probst, chairman of the Feldberg lift network.

Lift tickets will only be available online. This would avoid queues in front of counters – “and we know exactly how many people come to us on which day,” they say. If the infection process requires it, the number of tickets will be limited. In addition to the mask requirement and distance rules, there should be stations with disinfectant dispensers. Personnel should ensure that measures are observed.

Switzerland: Keeping your distance on ski slopes is not a problem

The Swiss winter sports regions rely on optimism. “As always, we are planning a winter with some news with a lot of anticipation,” says Markus Meili, Managing Director of Engadin St. Moritz Mountains AG in Graubünden.

In Zermatt at the foot of the Matterhorn, all lifts are opened and the slopes are covered with snow. Zermatt Tourism has developed its own tube scarf, which, when pulled over the nose, is supposed to protect almost every protective mask from viruses.

“With the exception of the mouth and nose protection in closed means of transport and the distance rules in the queuing area, there are no changes to other winters when practicing snow sports,” says Meili. Simona Altwegg from Zermatt Tourismus says: “Nothing changes on the slopes because you are in the fresh air and the minimum distance is given when skiing anyway.”

With the Jungfrau Railways in the Bernese Oberland with the Grindelwald, Wengen and Mürren ski areas, you don’t see any problem. It is compulsory to wear a mask on trains and gondolas, and windows can be opened almost everywhere.

Switzerland: Switzerland: A skier who wears mouth and nose protection goes on the opening day of the ski area "Glacier 3000" in Les Diablerets with a chair lift

On the opening day of the “Glacier 3000” ski area in Les Diablerets, a skier who wears mouth and nose protection takes a chairlift

Source: dpa / Leandre Duggan

“There will be no mask requirement for the ski lifts and chairlifts,” says spokeswoman Kathrin Naegeli, as the guests are in the fresh air and the journey time is usually less than 15 minutes. The cantons are still likely to determine whether mouth and nose protection is necessary when queuing at ski lifts.

It is said that partying after a day on the slopes hardly plays a role in Switzerland. For the majority of guests, sporty skiing and gastronomy are in the foreground, says Altwegg. And Meili: The Upper Engadin is not known for extravagant après-ski. It is clear to everyone that the season is not going to be booming. A slump in the number of foreign guests is very likely, says Switzerland Tourism spokeswoman Martina Bieler.

Italy: Preparations for winter in South Tyrol

Preparations for the new season have been going on in the Italian ski areas for weeks. “We will take all the necessary precautions so that ski and winter tourism in South Tyrol is also possible this winter,” says the regional councilor in South Tyrol responsible for tourism, Arnold Schuler.

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The author with his son in the mud room of the family hotel “Nature Family Resort Feuerstein” in South Tyrol

The precautionary measures include the mandatory wearing of mouth and nose protection in cable cars and distance rules. All gondolas would be disinfected on a regular basis, protective barriers installed and the frequency of ski buses increased.

In many areas, visitors can buy ski passes online in advance and collect them in a ticket box on site. According to the authorities, ski schools, ski rentals as well as restaurants and hotels are also developing their own concepts.

France: Vacationers can cancel at short notice

Some of France’s winter sports regions have changed their cancellation policy. Travelers can also cancel at short notice if the Corona situation makes it necessary. Every traveler should check the conditions beforehand.

The winter sports area Courchevel in the French Alps advertises with two pharmacies and three medical centers that are open throughout the winter.

In La Plagne, which is not far away, it is emphasized that hygiene regulations and a nice skiing holiday are not mutually exclusive. Some accommodations offer online check-in to shorten the waiting time in common rooms.

Ski passes can be canceled up to 48 hours before the first day of validity. There are still childcare and ski courses. Helmets could also continue to be borrowed, they would be disinfected regularly.

A mask on chair lifts, in queues or in gondolas is compulsory in most ski areas – including in the winter sports resort Val Thorens in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. In general, the ski areas advertise that sufficient disinfectants are available everywhere and that lifts are cleaned regularly.

Czech Republic: Optimism despite many Corona cases

Traditionally, the ski areas in the Giant Mountains, the Ore Mountains, the Bohemian Forest and the Beskids are popular with tourists from Germany and Poland. However, when it comes to the number of new coronavirus infections, measured by population, the Czech Republic is now at the forefront across the EU. The Federal Foreign Office has issued a travel warning for the Czech Republic.

The Czech Association of Ski Areas is preparing a hygiene guide for the winter season. This is done in consultation with health authorities and the Ministry of Health in Prague, says association manager Libor Knot: “Sport and exercise in the open air is one of the safest activities.”

There will be restrictions on après-ski. Currently, in gastronomy, every guest must have a seat. In addition, no more than six people can sit at one table. All restaurants, bars and cafés have to close at 10 p.m. “We remain optimistic – if the weather plays along in winter, we could achieve visitor numbers comparable to the previous year,” says Knot.

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