The reaction in terms of how skiing is treated during the pandemic in countries around the world continues to vary, slightly, against a common approach of minimising risk of spread. The approaches vary from a complete ban in most places to limited access at others, normally with very strict health protection measures in place.
Although all countries agree that it’s important to stay home and avoid travel and social-interaction for non-essential activities, and most say that means shutting ski resorts and in most cases banning or at least strongly-advising-against backcountry skiing/ski touring; a few countries have decided skiing can continue if there’s plenty of social distancing between skiers and other efforts to minimise the spread of the pandemic.
Now there is also increasingly the issue that some countries have been hit harder by the pandemic than others, and governments are also taking different approaches to ease restrictions, so some that did ban skiing and boarding in one form or another are starting to ease the restrictions making it possible for some ski areas to re-open.
But that is against a background of, firstly, the season is ending at many anyway so there’s not enough snow to re-open for most and more importantly, stringent health and safety measures.
In all cases travel from any distance to these re-opened/ still-open ski areas is virtually impossible/strongly discouraged and for now, they are open only for locals. The message is if that’s not you, for now, stay at home!
So where are we at as of mid-April? Here’s what we know:
As we reported separately earlier this week, Austria plans to allow ski touring to resume from May 1st – a week on Friday. It has a number of glacier ski areas that usually open in spiring and summer and it now seems may re-open later in the spring as the country’s lockdown rules are due to be further relaxed, although that’s not certain yet.
China was of course first to go into lockdown in mid-January and the first to come out of it in March. Ski areas there, including indoor snowdomes, have been able to re-open although for many the season was over by the time the pandemic restrictions there were eased. A few are believed to be still operating but skiers must have government certification that they do not have the virus, and wear facemasks on the slopes before they can apply to buy a lift pass.
The Czech Republic eased its lockdown rules slightly last week resulting in one small area re-opening. Almost all of the country’s ski areas normally closed by mid-April anyway each season so it looks like the season is really over even if centres are able to re-open under stringent health restrictions.
The tight lockdown on life in France was extended this week to May 11th. The country has three summer ski areas that normally open from June but the latest government advice suggests ‘mass gatherings’ won’t be allowed until at least the autumn so it is unclear whether they will be able to open this year, unless possibly in some highly restricted way.
Japanese ski areas kept operating through the first stages of the pandemic in February and March when a state of emergency was declared in Hokkaido. Many centres there closed in late March as they world anyway but a number do normally stay open to May. However, the pandemic has unfortunately started to get worse again there and more centres have decided to close now a little earlier than they might have otherwise. Hakuba and Nozawa Onsen have closed this week. Others, including Niseko, are still open though – there’s no national requirement to close.
Norway has eased its lockdown slightly and allowed people to travel to their holiday homes. Smaller ski areas that want to re-open for a final few weeks of the season under strict health regulations are able to apply to their local authorities to see if it is considered safe for them to do so on a case by case basis. Only one area, Al, is known to have re-opened so far, others have applied but been turned down, Roldal (pictured top today), which had the deepest base in the world at over 5.5 metres (18 feet) when it closed five weeks ago says it has applied to its local authority and will hear on Monday if it can re-open or not.
Norway has three glacier areas which are usually open in late spring/summer although it is not yet clear if they will be able to open this year or now. One, Fonna, pictured below, says it has been digging out its access road for a month with the snow 12 metres/40 feet deep.
It’s believed that ski areas in the 2018 Winter Olympic nation kept operating but the season is over here.
Most Swedish ski areas decided to close following a tightening of government advice a few weeks ago – after most other countries in Europe. However the rules are not mandatory and four centres in the north of the country have remained open including the world-famous ‘spring skiing capital of Europe’ Riksgransen (below), where skiing under the midnight sun should be offered next month if it stays open. It currently has the deepest snow in the world of a still-open resort at 5.8 metres, it’s best snow cover this century.