More than 50 Austrian ski areas are now open for the 21-22 season, although the country is currently closed to tourism.

Austria went in to a 20 day lockdown in late November in a bid, which currently seems to be working, to cut down surging coronavirus infection levels in the country.

Ski areas though are allowed to open to local people although restaurants and hotels must remain closed.

But the 20 days is due to end next Sunday, 12th December – before the main ski season is due to begin – and many of the country’s leading ski regions are clearly hedging their bets that they will be able to reopen to tourism again in the same way that the rest of Europe’s ski areas are currently operating – with testing, COVID passports, masks, cleaning and social distancing.

Austria also has some of the best early-December conditions of recent years with resorts posting 30-90cm (1-3 feet) of fresh snowfall in the past week.

“With nearly a metre of snowfall in parts of Austria and across social media, skiers are getting excited.  Bookings in Austria are picking up a little, now it’s possible to get the crucial second jab for teenagers, but expect bookings to soar when their lockdown ends next week. Late season is most popular, as it gives teens more time to get the second jab,” said Richard Sinclair of ski travel agency SNO.

Ischgl opened the largest ski area in the Alps, and the second largest in the world (after Val Gardena in the Dolomites) at the weekend with 126km (79 miles) of slopes skiable.  Other big name ski areas also opened terrain and almost all say they’ll be open next weekend whatever the government’s announcement, due this coming Thursday 9th is on re-opening tourism.

 “Ischgl has opened its slopes with fabulous conditions and is looking forward to opening to international skiers when the government deem it is safe. The lifts will be open for locals from tomorrow as this is a sport activity but nothing else will be open. A comprehensive package of safety and health measures has already been put together in advance for winter 21/22 in Ischgl, which together with the legal requirements ensures the greatest possible safety for all,” a resort spokesperson said.

About a dozen Austrian ski areas, mostly glacier centres, had already opened  and operated safely for around two months of autumn skiing before the lockdown began.

Last year there was a complete lockdown in Austria, as well as several neighbouring countries, in November and December.  This year only the Slovak Republic has so far announced a similar short lockdown and Austrian ski areas can run their lifts as they could from January last season.  Back then though most only opened small amounts of terrain due to the limited revue possible to obtain from locals and some could not open at all due to the financial losses involved.