Austria’s Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler has announced a wide number of non-team sports will be able to resume in Austria from 1st May as the country gradually moves out of pandemic lockdown.
Tennis, golf, horse riding and athletics will be able to resume operations.
Asked at a press conference whether ski touring would also be allowed, Vice Chancellor Kogler said yes, but urged anyone doing so to stick to “something easy” to avoid accidents.
Austria has been in lockdown for a month and several of its ski resorts have been identified as ‘hot spots’ for coronavirus infection, accused of spreading cases around Europe and further afield, but the country itself has reported relatively few infections and deaths compared to many other nations.
It is home to more than half-a-dozen glacier ski areas, several of which including Hintertux (pictured), Kaunertal and Stubai, are normally open in May and June. Hintertux had previously said it would reopen as soon as it was safe to do so and it and Kaunertal and Stubai have been publishing pictures of pristine slopes this week saying there are great spring skiing conditions waiting when it is deemed safe to reopen.
“Our skiing area was closed by Austrian authorities so we need their confirmation for a re-opening. At this time we have no exact date but we are hoping that this will happen in the (late) spring,” said a spokesperson for the Hintertux lift company in March.
Some other Austrian centres that can open in late spring or summer like the Kitzsteinhorn above Kaprun had previously said they did not expect snowsports to resume until September.
Ski touring or back country skiing has been a very contentious activity, particularly in countries hardest hit by the virus including France, Italy and the USA where it remains either banned or strongly discouraged under pandemic lockdown restrictions.
A number of countries have relaxed their lockdowns over the past few weeks allowing a small number of ski areas in the Czech Republic and Norway to reopen for a few end-of-season weeks. Some centres have remained open throughout in Iceland, Japan and Sweden too.
However all are stressing strict measures are in place to limit the danger of COVID-19 spread and that the slopes are only open for socially-distanced and mask-wearing local skiers. There’s no suggestion that people should try to travel to the slopes from outwith the area, and most borders remain closed with little or no travel options reopened yet.