Ischgl, the Austrian ski resort that found itself, more than any other, the subject of criticism as the pandemic spreads in Europe in the late winter, and is now facing a huge class-action lawsuit from those who claim they caught the virus there, have launched the most comprehensive programme to make the resort virus-free this winter.

Stressing that “health is the top priority” and signalling a permanent shift from the hedonistic apres-ski scene for which it was infamous, resort managers said there would be a focus on the area’s natural beauty and attributes instead. There will also be more promotion of the extent of the ski area, one of the biggest in the Alps, stretching over to Samnaun in Switzerland.

Along with the demise of the bars at the base of the slopes the traditional Top of the Mountain concert at the start of the season will not take place this year.

Among the long list of measures, anyone working in the resort should ensure they have a current negative Covid-19 test or will be tested on site before the start of the season. Then during the winter season all employees are offered an ongoing test option to protect both guests and work colleagues as best as possible.  Temperature checks will also be carried out daily and all staff who work with customers will be expected to wear suitable PPE.

For skiers and all other tourist arrivals in the resort it is recommended that guests present a negative test result that is not older than 72 hours at check-in.  Guests who don’t hold this will have the option of a voluntary test in a guest screening station in resort.

In addition the guest’s temperature should be measured at check-in and a short questionnaire answered and signed. A personalized contact tracing app is currently being developed by the resort which will then track the contact circle of individual guests around the resort.

Ischgl and the wider Paznaun area will also be working with the University of Innsbruck on wastewater tests.  These can give an early indication of the overall levels of coronavirus infection in resort and work as an early-warning system if numbers are rising.

On the slopes Ischgl say they will meet and generally exceed all legal safety requirements. The lift company has purchased 600,000 facemasks which will be handed to skiers when they buy lift passes. Gondola cabins will be continuously disinfected using cold fogging devices in order to eliminate 99.99 percent of viruses, bacteria and spores. The same method will be used daily in ski buses as well as in sports shops, ski depots, toilet facilities, elevator cabins and first aid stations.

Social distancing, one-way systems and reduced occupancy will also be the norm on lifts, in lift queues and mountain restaurants.