What Might a Ski Holiday Look Like Next Winter? Part 1
5th May 2020 | James Cove, PlanetSKI editor
Last modified on June 4th, 2020
In a two-part special PlanetSKI looks at what skiing and snowboarding may be like next winter. One thing is likely – it will be very different if a vaccine hasn’t been discovered and administered.
Much attention has been focused on the ski resorts themselves.
How can social distancing work in a ski resort?
From hotels, ski rental shops, apres ski bars and restaurants in town, to lift queues, the lifts themselves and mountain restaurants.
We will look at that later based on what some resorts are already doing, what is likely going to happen in Australia and New Zealand if they open next month as their measures will be watched closely by resorts in Europe and North America.
Plus we’ll report on the plans we know that are already being considered in the Alps.
But first, a far more pressing problem.
How will people actually get to the resort in the first place?
Air travel is already one of the biggest casualties of the pandemic with planes grounded, the industry is on its knees and currently there appears to be no serious and workable plan for air travel.
easyJet has talked about keeping the middle seat free, others talk of extensive cleaning with people wearing face coverings and regular sanitation measures.
There is plenty of sentiment, but few hard facts.
“While our entire fleet remains grounded, we’re working hard to maintain the aircraft and work on which measures we want to put in place to protect you and our crew when we start flying again,” said easyJet in a statement to customers.
“As we get a clearer understanding of what that looks like, we will let you know but rest assured your wellbeing remains our highest priority.”
The first problem though is at the airport itself.
Currently at Heathrow there is one to two-metre distancing at all times (excluding people who live together) for those on essential travel.
Hand sanitisers have been distributed throughout the airport and there are efforts to spread passengers more evenly across terminals
However the CEO of Heathrow Airport, John Holland-Kaye, has said social distancing simply wouldn’t work given the layout of the building and the numbers needed to make it economically viable.
He said the queue for just one jumbo jet would be 1km long.
“It’s just physically impossible to socially distance with any volume of passengers in an airport,” he said
“Social distancing does not work in any form of public transport, let alone aviation.”
He suggested health checks on entering the terminal, with passengers who are displaying high temperatures receiving further checks to ensure they can fly.
Emirates is offering passengers rapid Covid-19 blood tests prior to boarding at Dubai airport terminals.
Emirates says the tests produce results within 10 minutes.
On Monday at Vienna airport in Austria covid-19 tests are being offered to incoming passengers with a result know in 2-3 hours.
Currently in Austria people arriving either have to go into 14-days quarantine or produce a valid and up to date health certificate.
There is talk of people having so-called immunity passports.
Any quarantine period would rule out a ski holiday for most.
Testing is likely to be the key for airport safety and once done it would then be safer on the plane.
We reported on the move at Vienna airport over the weekend and here are the reactions from two of our readers:
“We’ve just cancelled a trip to Mayrhofen on June the 9th, I can’t see Austria allowing travel from the UK until at least mid/late summer, secondly, even if hotels and restaurants are open in some capacity I’m sure they won’t be happy to see travellers from overseas whilst the virus is still amongst us, and it’s difficult to relax and enjoy the setting with masks and social distancing.
I had a flight for last week to Scotland, moved that to Jan for skiing and will do the same for the June trip for next March and wait and see.
I’m in Cornwall and have a business that is heavily dependent on visitors but this summer we would prefer people stay away, we have managed the pandemic very well up until now, all it would take is a handful of carriers to spread the virus down here overwhelm our one small hospital.
Next on the cards is a trip booked to Puglia in late September, I fear that will probably still be a no go then, but me missing a few trips is a small price to pay when others have paid a far greater price and will continue to do so until a safe easily administered vaccine is here or at the very least we have drugs to mitigate the worst symptoms.”
“Health certificate, how recent? Not worth the paper it’s written on because it’ll be out of date before the inks dry.
Air travel will kill tourism if the virus doesn’t.
People will try to drive into Europe so will it still be 14 days quarantine or health certificate?
Hmm i think I’ll just sit this one out and put future ski trips on hold until global covid19 vaccine available for all.”
Restaurants in Austria are due to open on 15th May and hotels on the 29th.
A recent survey by Ski Press and Skipedia said the uncertainly of whether British passport holders will be able to travel next winter was a “key concern”, with 82% worried about freedom of movement across Europe.
This could be also be compounded by Brexit said some of the respondents.
Two thirds stating they would want to see social distancing measures in place at airports
At Hong Kong International Airport, testing is under way on a full-body disinfectant device.
It is claimed it can sanitize users within 40 seconds, using sprays that kill bacteria and viruses on skin and clothing.
It is likely the roll out of coronavirus apps would also be used in airports and elsewhere– for practical purposes and for people to feel safe.
The key requirement seems to be testing, social distancing and face coverings, plus increased sanitation in order to meet any requirements and ensure people feel safe.
The one thing that is certain is that the situation is fast-changing and the winter is some months away so other solutions and advances will undoubtedly present themselves.
On the plane itself it will be an altogether different experience.
There will be extensive cleaning and already both Swiss and Austrian airlines are insisting all passengers wear face coverings. Others will likely follow suit.
Other airlines have already gone further.
Korean Air says it plans to issue cabin crew with full personal protective equipment (PPE) – gowns, gloves and eye masks.
Another factor to consider is that border regulations, such as those currently in Austria and across other alpine countries, may potentially still be in place beyond summer.
We have been told by a reliable source that the regional tourist office at one large ski area in the Alps has been advised by its governing authorities there may be border restrictions until March 2021 to stop the virus being brought back in.
We shall have to wait and see if that turns out to be correct, but it is being actively discussed.
France though has said it will not introduce a quarantine period for countries in the Schengen agreement, the EU or the UK.
France remains the most popular destination for British skiers and snowboarders.
The New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has said international tourists will not be allowed into the country for “a long time to come”.
Tourism employs one in ten people in New Zealand.
Most visitors are from Australia, followed by China, the US, and the UK.
The country is judged to have done well in beating coronavirus and has had fewer than 1,500 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 20 deaths.
It is set to open its ski resorts toward the end of June.
See the details here:
There is then the question of the transfer from the airport to the ski resort.
Most is done in buses which again would be extremely difficult and more costly, if people were required, and wanted, to keep to social distancing rules.
In the USA Mt Baldy in California has reopened and in Norway Myrkdalen is also currently offering weekend skiing after it reopened.
Neither has introduced local ski buses to transport people.
It is thought train travel might be slightly easier that flying, both in the carriage and at the station.
But train travel to the Alps is used by just a fraction of GB skiers & snowboarders and there is not the capacity to expand it significantly.
Again social distancing will be difficult but perhaps easier than on a plane.
As of Monday face coverings were made compulsory on the Eurostar in France and Belgium.
Any type of mask is suitable, authorities have said, as long as it effectively covers the nose and mouth.
Those without masks may be refused travel.
Fines could be imposed for anyone without a mask.
If you want to find out more about train travel to the Alps, whether on the Eurostar, or any others routes then we recommend you take a look at the snowcarbon web site run by our good friend and colleague, Daniel Elkan.
It specialises in train travel to ski resorts
“Coronavirus is of course a big challenge for the ski and travel industry but it is also an opportunity for people to discover new ways to travel to the Alps,” said Daniel.
Then there is self-drive which seems at the moment the safest way, if people travel with members of their own household in a vehicle and keep all interaction with others to a minimum.
There would be human contact at ticket booths and customs, but that could be managed.
It’s thought many people who drive might want to self-cater too and bring with them food and drinks so they can limit excursions to supermarkets and avoid the need to go to restaurants and bars.
“We believe self -drive ski holidays will be the safest way to get to the Alps next winter,” said the MD of Erna Low, Jane Bolton.
The company specialises in self-drive and self-catering in the French Alps.
“By taking the Eurotunnel you can stay in the car during the crossing and the benefits of the Flexiplus that our clients enjoy mean that you can avoid the busy terminal if you wish to.
“Once in resort, a self catering apartment offers the ideal solution for social distancing with your family.
“You can also take supplies in your car minimising the need to venture out too much.
“Of course once you are on the mountain, we wait to see what resorts will be providing in terms of social distancing solutions, but perhaps resorts with doorstep skiing or access by chair lift where you can upload with your family will be more popular.”
Which brings us on to what resorts may look like next winter.
We will be posting Part Two of this report later in the week as we examine what a ski resort might look like.
We stress the winter ski season is some months away and it is a rapidly changing situation so, as we said earlier, new solutions and advances will undoubtedly present themselves.
And we have had further reaction from PlanetSKI readers.
We’d be really interested to hear your views so do please add your thoughts over on the PlanetSKI Facebook page.