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 sticky situation over the 2020/21 season. Some countries have opened their ski lifts, whilst others are taking a far more cautious approach.
We take a look at the latest news, country by country.
Since the end of last year, France has opted to keep its ski lifts shut to discourage people from travelling to ski destinations. Ski resorts remain open, which means that snowshoeing and cross-country skiing can take place.
Resorts had hoped that the lifts would be able to reopen on February 1 in time for the half-term holidays – an extremely busy period in the ski calendar. However, the French government decided to keep them closed and admitted that this ski season would be a ‘write off’. France’s Tourist Minister, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, also warned that reopening in mid or late February “seems highly unlikely”.
French Prime Minister, Jean Castex, has been working with the ski industry to “finalise the economic support measures” for jobs and companies affected.
The opening of Italy’s ski resorts has been postponed until at least the middle of February. They were originally scheduled to reopen sometime in January. After considering the country’s ongoing battle against the pandemic, the government decreed that they will not be allowed to open until at least February 15, and this date could be postponed once more.
Italy is tightening its restrictions as infection rates increase. The region of Lombardy and the semi-autonomous province of Sud Tyrol in the Dolomites are areas in Italy which are renowned for skiing. However, they have recently been made ‘red zones’, meaning that they have been placed under the toughest restrictions.
Taking a different approach to its neighbours, Austria made the decision to keep ski resorts and lifts open during the pandemic. Despite this, restaurants and hotels are closed, so only those who live near the slopes can enjoy the skiing or snowboarding. A ban on international travel also means that tourists from neighbouring countries, such as nearby Germany, aren’t able to enjoy Austria’s slopes.
So, although resorts have stayed open, they are still suffering. The Austrian government is providing some financial aid to businesses affected.
Like Austria, Switzerland has gone against the wishes of other European countries and has kept its ski lifts open. Despite closing restaurants and bars at the beginning of the year, skiing is still possible. The Health Minister, Alain Berset, defended the decision to allow skiing to continue, saying that “strict measures are still required, but so far experience has shown that it works. It cannot be compared to the situation in shops.”
However, this hasn’t come without some consequences, as an outbreak of the new COVID-19 variant in St Moritz forced the health authorities to place two hotels under quarantine.
Where can I ski this season?
For many countries, it looks unlikely that ski lifts will open before the season ends. With bans on international travel continuing and lockdown measures being introduced across Europe, the ski industry has suffered enormously. Despite this, there are hopes of a ski renaissance next season, brought about by pent-up demand and a long-held desire to return to the slopes.
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