There has been a barrage of news over the past week about travelling to ski destinations and whether ski resorts will open for the 2020/21 season. With many countries in Europe relying on ski tourism to support their economies and worries over rising COVID-19 cases, ski destinations have found themselves in a dilemma. We take a look at the situation as it stands, country by country.
The end of the Brexit transition period is also fast approaching. If you plan to buy a ski holiday home in 2021, this shouldn’t affect your plans, but there are a few things to consider.
Will resorts be opening for the 2020/21 ski season?
This week, President Macron revealed that France will be closing its slopes over the festive period, with the possibility of reopening on January 20. Prime Minister, Jean Castex, noted that people would not be prohibited to visit the resorts, they would just be unable to ski. He also said that he would like to see this approach "harmonised at European level as much as possible".
President Macron said that he wants to put a plan in place for resorts to open in January under “favourable conditions”. He also explained that there will be border checks to ensure that French holidaymakers aren’t travelling to other EU countries for a ski holiday.
Germany also supports ski resorts closing over the festive period and is urging all EU countries to follow suit. German Chancellor, Angela Merkel said, “We will try to reach an agreement in Europe on whether we could close all ski resorts”.
Germany has extended its national lockdown until December 20. Their goal is to get the number down to a maximum weekly rate of 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants. However, when the decision to extend the lockdown was made, the figure was still above 200 in 62 areas.
Like Germany and France, Italy has followed suit and is closing its ski slopes over the festive period. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte voiced concerns about Italians travelling to ski resorts in other countries and bringing the virus home. He has, therefore, also backed a coordinated approach.
The latest COVID-19 restrictions announced for Italy specifically mention ski resorts. “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. He added, “everything that revolves around holidays on the snow is uncontrollable.”
Austria has been reluctant to fall in line with Germany, France and Italy. The Austrian government announced that from December 24, slopes will reopen, but accommodation and restaurants on the resorts will remain closed. This is to discourage foreign visitors and to leave the skiing open to locals only.
The maximum capacity in gondolas will be reduced to 50% and an extensive list of new safety measures will be introduced, including face coverings and social distancing.
In Switzerland, the slopes are already open, and they have pledged to keep them open throughout winter. This has faced opposition from France, Italy and Germany.
This week, Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset presented a plan to reduce the risk of infections on the slopes this winter, which includes reducing the capacity in resorts and on cable cars, enforcing social distancing and wearing face masks everywhere apart from when skiing.
The World Health Organization has said that the nature of skiing itself is not the problem but travelling to the ski slopes and mixing with others could pose a significant risk. Most countries are erring on the side of caution for now, but there are hopes that resorts can reopen in January.