The French president, the Italian Prime Minister and the leader of southern Germany’s ski state of Bavaria have all called for ski holidays over the Christmas and New Year holiday period to be cancelled due to the pandemic risk.
The three are calling for a pan-European approach to stop the danger of actually increasing travel to ski resorts if one country closes its areas but resorts in another remain open, leading skiers to travel further to the slopes.
President Macron of France said last night that he hoped a collective decision could be made by the 4th of December, saying he favoured ski areas remaining closed until mid-January as he thought it “impossible” they could open safely.
The Italian prime minister did not specifically say Italian resorts would stay closed when the country’s November lockdown ends, but said Italians should not take a Christmas ski holiday. In Bavaria the primary concern was about German skiers heading into Austria to ski, which millions do each winter. Austria is considered ‘high risk’ for the virus in Germany and Germans currently have to self-quarantine for 10 days upon their return if they travel there.
Reports from Austria, also in a November lockdown through to December 6th, indicate that as yet the government there are less keen on shutting resorts down into the New Year, but there’s no official announcement.
The news of the possible/probable closure of many European ski resorts into January came as the UK announced a new international arrivals testing regime to coming in to force from mid-December. Currently skiers need to quarantine for 14 days if they return from a country not on the UK Government’s safe destinations list. That currently includes virtually all ski nations. From December £15th arrivals will be able to pay £60 to £120 for a private test 5 days after their return. If the result, due within 24-48 hours, returns negative they can then leave self-isolation, effectively cutting the self-isolation period to 6-7 days.
A survey by ski rental giants Intersport of 1500 customers over the weekend of the 21st November found that 80% of skiers still expecting to be hitting the slopes this winter, and more than half (59%) would be happy to take a five-day quarantine in exchange for their regular week on the slopes, compared to only 10.1% who said they were able to quarantine for 14 days.
Last winter ski resorts were seen as major hubs for spreading of the virus in the first wave but resorts argue they have extensive spread-prevention safety measures in place now and have proved they can operate safely through the summer.
“Of course we all want to see British skiers out here this winter,” said Arnaud Coppell, head of Intersport Rent in France. “And we know that the quarantine on the way back in to the UK is a real problem for our British friends. We welcome the UK government’s change in the number of quarantine days, and we can assure our customers that our shops are ready for this unusual winter, with a virtual queueing system, obligatory alcohol gel and masks and a no-questions-asked refund policy. To our friends in Great Britain we say this: whenever you can get here – no matter how late in the season – we’re ready!”
This late-season sentiment is backed up by Ski Sunday’s Ed Leigh, who has identified perhaps the perfect week for Brits to hit the slopes through the Ed Leighs’ Money Saving Snow Tips series.
“I’ve been pushing Easter as the best time to go skiing regardless of covid,” says Ed. “But with this change in quarantine regs, it actually means that for 2021 there’s actually a perfect week lining up: Easter is early this year, so book a day off work and take the kids out of school for Thursday the 1st of April, and get everyone to the Alps. As soon as you arrive, Friday the 2nd and Monday the 5th are bank holidays, so if you stay all the way through until the following Sunday, you’re looking at 10 full days on the mountain with only 5 days needed to be declared as holiday. Get back late on Sunday the 11th, and by Thursday the 15th you’ll have done your quarantine period. That means in total you’ve had ten days on the hill, and only taken 9 days off work in total.”
Swiss resorts are continuing to operate at present and Switzerland is not in the EU. It also recently dropped the requirement for people to self-isolate on arrival in the country.
(Picture top is from Chapelco in South America during the brief 2020 season there)