CORONAVIRUS ENDS EUROPEAN SKI SEASON
14th March 2020 | The PlanetSKI Team
Last modified on March 15th, 2020
Resorts across Austria, Switzerland, Andorra, parts of the Spanish Pyrenees and others closed due to the spread of the disease. Italy had already closed. But France is holding out amid strong criticism from some quarters.
Europe is now the “epicentre” of the global coronavirus pandemic, said the head of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
He urged countries to use aggressive measures, community mobilisation and social distancing to save lives.
“Do not just let this fire burn,” he said.
“Europe has now become the epicentre of the pandemic, with more reported cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, apart from China,” he said.
“More cases are now being reported every day than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic.”
Several European countries reported steep rises in infections and deaths, France included.
Italy recorded its highest daily death toll.
There were 250 deaths recorded over the past 24 hours, taking the total to 1,266, with 17,660 infections overall.
Spain, the worst-affected European country after Italy, reported a 50% jump in fatalities to 120 on Friday.
Infections increased to 4,231.
France has now confirmed 2,876 cases and 79 deaths, up from a total of 61 deaths on Thursday.
But we are a snowsports website:
See here for our rolling blog on the closures:
And we have been following developments across the day, Friday 13th, in this new rolling blog:
VERBIER XTREME 2020 CANCELLED
FREERIDE WORLD TOUR 2020: ALL FUTURE EVENTS CANCELLED
Following the current situation concerning COVID-19, the Grande Finale of the Freeride World Tour 2020 and all Qualifier and Junior events have been cancelled.
“Due to COVID-19 and the new measures put in place by the Swiss government today, we are sorry to announce the cancellation of the 2020 Verbier Xtreme, as well as all Junior and Qualifier events.
“The situation surrounding COVID-19 is evolving rapidly, and the priority of the Freeride World Tour before everything else is to insure the health and safety of its fans, athletes, team and their peers.
“The World Champions will be discerned from the current 2020 season rankings which will remain as they currently stand.”
ALL SWISS SKI RESORTS TO CLOSE – BUT FRANCE IS STILL OPEN
The Swiss Federal Council announced in a press conference on Friday afternoon a series of stringent measures to tackle coronavirus.
The effect is that all Swiss ski resorts must close in accordance with a ban on social gatherings of 100 or more people.
The canton of Graubünden decided to close all its ski areas from Monday but later said they must close immediately.
It includes Laax.
“We are also inconsolable about the early end of the season in the LAAX ski resort. However, the safety of our guests, employees and the locals is of the utmost importance,” the resort said on its website.
We were also originally told that Zermatt in the Valais would close on Monday but it was confirmed on Friday evening that the resort was now closed with immediate effect and until at least 30th April.
Andermatt, Saas-Fee, and Verbier have also closed with immediate effect.
“We must unfortunately announce the immediate closure of our ski area and all our facilities. (Friday March 13, 2020 from 7:30 p.m.) and this for the rest of the season,” Verbier said in a statement.
“All events scheduled on the ski area for the rest of the season are cancelled as well as the Liverpool week also taking place in the resort.
“After such a beautiful first part of the season and a second which looked very promising due to the fabulous snow conditions, we are all very sad and sorry for this outcome. However, in view of the evolution of this pandemic, we must respect and apply without restraint the decisions of our authorities to resolve this public health problem.”
Meanwhile France appears to be fighting against the tide as the only major alpine nation to keep its ski lifts running. These are some of the statements put out by resorts on Friday afternoon/evening:
“To nip in the bud the rumours that are rife in the Chamonix Valley at the moment, we are delighted to confirm that all our lifts, ski areas & tourist sites, continue to offer service as normal & will continue to do so until further notice unless there are new governmental directives to the contrary.”
“The resort of La Plagne is open, snowy and maintains the welcome of its customers….To date, there is no restriction on opening the ski area….Ski schools maintain lessons for all age groups.”
“Tignes is doing everything possible remain open whilst adhering to the safety instructions given by the French government. At this time, there are no plans for a closure and the resort, which combines the Tignes and Val d’Isère skiing domains, will remain open until the 3rd May 2020.
“Tignes is prepared to adapt its position should the situation evolve and new safety instructions are given by the government.”
“Still 6 more weeks to enjoy our snow, the governmental decisions are not impacting our activities.”
EYE-WITNESS ACCOUNT FROM ST ANTON AS IT GOES INTO LOCKDOWN
Skiers have been dumping their hire skis & boots in a rush to get out of town.
The Austrian government has locked down St Anton and resorts in the Paznaun Valley, including Ischgl, for 14 days with immediate effect (see our earlier post).
“Chaos here with some lifts arbitrarily shutting and when I asked I was told ‘the valley is closed’,”PlanetSKI reader George Eykyn in St Anton told us.
“Weird atmosphere. Locals and workers in St Anton were said to be taken by surprise as lifts and pistes were shut early and without warning.”
George has been told by his hotel that guests will be able to leave St Anton as planned but locals will be quarantined.
AUSTRIAN SKI RESORTS OF ST ANTON, ISCHGL & OTHERS IN THE PAZNAUN VALLEY PLACED UNDER QUARANTINE
The Austrian Government has announced drastic measures to contain the coronavirus in the Tirol.
People in St Anton, Ischgl, Kappl, See and Galtür are to be isolated for 14 days.
The Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced at a press conference that these were areas with a particularly rapid spread of the corona virus.
The government has said tourists will be able to leave but they must go straight home without stopping anywhere and then self-isolate.
Earlier this week it was revealed that 14 people had tested positive for the virus in Ischgl. The resort closed all its main apres ski bars in response before announcing the resort’s complete closure by the end of today (Friday 13th).
A few of the main apres ski bars in St Anton also voluntarily closed earlier this week
PlanetSKI has been told – but has been unable to confirm – that staff at two of St Anton’s most popular bars have tested positive for coronavirus.
A PlanetSKI reader in St Anton reports chaos at the end of the ski day with people hurriedly dumping their hire skis & boots in an attempt to make a quick exit.
Austria is also introducing border controls on Switzerland, similar to those on the Austrian-Italian border.
BAQUEIRA BERET SKI RESORT IN THE CATALAN PYRENEES IN SPAIN HAS CLOSED
“This exceptional measure is in line with the recommendations made by the Ministry of Health of the Government of Spain and also by the Ministry of Health of the Generalitat de Catalunya to avoid displacement and crowds at a time when the disease, according to official sources, is expanding in Spain,” the resort says in a statement.
“For this reason, exceptional measures must be applied to protect the health of clients, workers and the general population.”
ALL ANDORRA SKI RESORTS WILL CLOSE AT THE END OF TODAY
“Ski Andorra on behalf of all Andorran ski resorts, communicates that its stations will be closed from March 14, due to the need to increase the caution and avoid the maximum risk of contagion of the coronavirus COVID-19.
“The stations make the decision as a measure of responsibility and end the season with the firm desire to return to normality as soon as possible. The health of our customers, workers and the general population is above any other circumstance.
“We want to thank all the customers who have joined us this season and we hope give them a new welcome soon”
The Andorra resorts are Grandvalira, Ordino Arcalis, Vallnord Pal Arinsal
CORONAVIRUS – THE LATEST: IS SKIING CONTINUING IN FRANCE?
PlanetSKI understands that UK ski tour operators are frustrated at a lack of information from French resorts regarding if – or when – they will close.
With a new set of customers due to travel out to the Alps this weekend, the worst scenario for them is getting everyone out to resort only to have the logistical nightmare of trying to get them back within days if closures are announced.
We are also receiving dozens of enquiries from skiers & snowboarders due to travel to France as soon as tomorrow.
We understand that some French resorts are considering closing but there has been no confirmation from them.
The big resorts of Tignes and those in Les3Vallees, including Courchevel, Meribel, Les Menuires & Val Thorens, told us this morning that skiing was continuing as usual today (Friday 13th).
On its website today Tignes said: “To date, no early closure is planned and the Tignes & Val d’Isère linked ski area will remain open until May 3, 2020. Tignes is ready to adapt its posture according to changes in official recommendations.”
Morzine, Avoriaz and the neighbouring resorts in the Portes du Soleil ‘remain open at the moment. The situation is rapidly evolving and we will have to follow any decisions made by the prefecture,’ according to a social media post this morning.
On Friday lunchtime the French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced a ban on gatherings of more than 100 people.
The French Ski Federation, meanwhile, is suspending all ski racing and training from midnight tonight until further notice.
The ban affects all competitions in all disciplines, of all levels and of all categories ”in order to avoid any regrouping which would be likely to promote the spread of the virus’
If the French Ski Federation believes groups of racers in its clubs could ‘promote the spread of the virus’ what does that mean for recreational skiing?
Outside France, the latest situation as we understand it is this:
Italy – all resorts closed for the season
Norway – all resorts closed for the rest of the season
Austria – most resorts will close for the season on Sunday with the exception of Ischgl which closes at the end of today. The remaining open ones are meeting today to make a decision.
Switzerland – ski resorts in Ticino (near the Italian border) are closed.
Andorra – all 6 resorts announced on Friday they were closed for the season
Spanish Pyrenees – a few resorts, including Formigal, are closed. Baqueira Beret has also closed
Slovakia – Jasna closed from today until at least 26th March
FRENCH SKI FEDERATION SUSPENDS ALL SKI RACING & TRAINING
“Following the address by the President of the French Republic and the national measures announced on this occasion, the French Ski Federation has decided:
• To suspend from Friday March 13, 2020 at midnight and until further notice all competitions in all disciplines, of all levels and of all categories
• To ask its affiliated clubs to suspend all activity (training, leisure or others) from Friday March 13, 2020 at midnight until further notice in order to avoid any regrouping which would be likely to promote the spread of the virus
Only athletes from the French Teams already abroad on the competition sites and entered in the World Cup events currently underway until Sunday are still authorized to participate.
The Federation requests all of its affiliated or recognized structures to scrupulously respect these instructions of national interest.”
“Following the statement made by Macron last night (Thursday) and the recent closures in Austria, we would like to assure everyone that Morzine, and the neighbouring resorts in the Portes du Soleil remain open at the moment.
“The situation is rapidly evolving and we will have to follow any decisions made by the prefecture.
“We advise everyone to follow the government advice in order to limit risks and check the current advice at the time of travelling.
“As of today :
– the lift system is open with no adverse affects
– the ski schools are open, including the Piou -Piou for young children.
– Restaurants, bars, shops, hotels are open without any changes to usual procedures
– an update on events will be coming later
“We ask everyone to remain vigilant and to follow the government advice. Up to date information can be found here.
…THE POST BELOW WAS BEFORE THE NEWS THAT ALL 6 ANDORRA RESORTS ARE NOW CLOSING…
VALLNORD PAL ARINSAL IN ANDORRA REMAINS OPEN WITH RESTRICTIONS (update Friday 13th March)
“At Vallnord – Pal Arinsal, following the recommendations of Government and with the aim of ensuring the safety of customers and the station team, we will increase prevention measures from today.”
The measures include:
Cancellation of all events – Solidarity Skimo, Triblanc, Ski & Bike Race.
Cancellation of group lessons and the closure of the kindergarten.
The capacity of the gondola (Pal & Arinsal) and the cable car will be cut to a max of 30%
SOME SKI RESORTS IN THE SPANISH PYRENEES ANNOUNCE THEY ARE CLOSING
“The ski resorts of the Aramón group announce the closure of their centers since March 14 due to the situation created by the coronavirus.
“Cerler, Formigal-Panticosa and Valdelinares ski resorts end the season as a more responsible decision and in line with health recommendations.
“We want to thank all the skiers who have joined us this season and we regret the inconvenience this exceptional measure, which puts the health of customers, workers and general population above any other circumstances.”
We currently have no information about closures of ski resorts in France.
The big resorts of Tignes and all those in Les3Vallees, including Courchevel, Meribel, Val Thorens & Les Menuires are still open today, Friday 13th March.
The situation is constantly under review…. we’ll keep you informed here
CRYSTAL SKI UPDATE (Fri AM)
“Due to the number of Austrian resorts that have confirmed they are closing from this weekend, we’ve sadly had to cancel our ski holiday programme to Austria and Germany for the rest of this season. We’re proactively contacting all affected customers.
“Due to Norwegian resorts confirming that they are closing early we are no longer able to operate our holidays to Norway for the rest of this season. We are proactively contacting all affected customers.”
Crystal had earlier cancelled all holidays to Italy after the country closed all ski resorts, as well as those to the French resorts of Les Orres, Montgenèvre and Serre Chevalier (which involved flying into Turin).
Holidays to all other areas are currently going ahead as planned.
INGHAMS SKI UPDATE
“Please note we are experiencing a high volume of calls at the moment.
We ask you to be patient and we will contact customers affected by this update who are departing this weekend as a priority.
“On the evening of 12 March, many authorities across Austria confirmed their decision to close all the ski lifts from 15 March.
“Even though the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice has not changed, as a responsible tour operator, we will not be operating Inghams ski holidays to these resorts for the rest of the 2019/2020 winter season: St Christoph, St Anton, Ischgl, Galtür, Obergurgl/Hochgurgl, Sölden, Seefeld, Kühtai, Igls, Mayrhofen, Alpbach, Niederau/Oberau, Westendorf, Kitzbühel, Söll, Ellmau, St Johann, Zell am See, Saalbach/Hinterglemmm, Filzmoos, Obertauern, Lech, Zürs, and Bad Kleinkirchheim.
“”If you are currently staying in one of the affected resorts, your departure back to the UK will go ahead as planned this weekend. Your Inghams Representative can also provide support and can be contacted via the number in your Welcome Pack.
“If you are due to travel to these resorts in the next few weeks we will contact you in due course with further information regarding your holiday. We will contact those due to depart soonest first and we kindly ask for your patience and to only contact us if urgent. If you have booked via a travel agent, they will be your point of contact.”