Coronavirus Impact on Skiing & Snowboarding
28th June 2020
Last modified on July 9th, 2020
The team at PlanetSKI is reporting all the news & developments as it affects the snowsports world in our ever-popular rolling blog. If you want to see its impact and the response of skiers & snowboarders then read on… UPDATED
Saturday, 4th July
Ryanair claims it will clear 90% of its backlog of cash refunds by the end of July.
The no-frills airline was one of many who failed to pay large numbers of people entitled to a refund.
Some Ryanair customers complained it made it difficult to claim the refund option, and the airline later said it had faced unprecedented demand from travellers wanting their money back.
It says extra staff have been trained to clear the backlog, and that it was processing refunds “as fast as we can”.
“We are pleased to have made such significant progress over the month of June in eliminating the backlog of cash refunds due to the Covid-19 flight cancellations,” said Ryanair’s chief executive Eddie Wilson.
“Over 90% of passengers who booked directly with Ryanair and who requested a cash refund for travel between March and June will receive their refunds before the end of July.”
See here for an earlier PlanetSKI article; Coronavirus; claiming for your cancelled ski trip
Friday, 3rd July
The Alps & Pyrenees open up for summer tourists as UK government relaxes quarantine restrictions for England.
There are more than 50 countries on the list where travellers do not have to go into quarantine for 14-days on arrival back in England.
The new rules come into force on July 10th.
They include the alpine countries of France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany and Liechenstein.
In the Pyrenees people can return without quarantine from Andorra, Spain and France.
In Scandinavia Norway and Finland are on the list, but not Sweden.
See here for further details from the government.
Each country has its own covid-19 rules and restrictions and we have detailed the ones in the mountains in an earlier article, Covid-19 restrictions in the mountains
Some have quarantine restrictions on people arriving from the UK.
Scotland and Wales are yet to decide whether to ease travel restrictions and have described the changes as “shambolic”.
The rule will also remain in place in Northern Ireland for visitors arriving from outside of the UK and Republic of Ireland.
England to relax quarantine from more than 50 countries
The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has said that more than 50 countries – including key destinations such as France, Germany, Italy and Spain – will be on the list of places exempt from England’s quarantine requirements from 10th July.
The full list will be published later today.
The travel industry has welcomed the news with “huge relief” and said it could now plan ahead and take summer holiday bookings.
“Travel businesses have been under enormous pressure since the start of the pandemic, and the industry can now start to meet customers’ pent-up appetite for travel,” said the Association of British Travel Agents.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office has also updated its global advisory against ‘all but essential’ international travel to exempt certain destinations that no longer pose an unacceptably high risk of Covid-19.
These travel advice exemptions will come into effect on 4th July and will be kept under review.
“Today marks the next step in carefully reopening our great nation. Whether you are a holidaymaker ready to travel abroad or a business eager to open your doors again, this is good news for British people and great news for British businesses,” said the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps.
“The entire nation has worked tirelessly to get to this stage, therefore safety must remain our watch word and we will not hesitate to move quickly to protect ourselves if infection rates rise in countries we are reconnecting with.”
Coronavirus cases rise in Austria
The total number of active cases in Austria is now 787, compared to 470 last week.
The alpine country had been steady through most of June.
A number of schools have been closed in several districts in the province of Upper Austria.
1,400 people are in quarantine after new outbreaks of coronavirus, including a cluster at a church.
There are currently 229 active cases in the province, 99 of them connected to the church.
Austria requires Britons to self-isolate unless they have a recent medical certificate or test negative for coronavirus on arrival.
Inghams Ski looks forward to next winter
The UK ski and snowboard operator has launched a new campaign as it tries to reassure people they will be “In Safe Hands”.
It follows an announcement of job cuts due to covid-19 and significant worries about next winter.
Read the full story here:
Thursday, 2nd July
Cortina 2021 World Ski Championships to Go Ahead as Planned
The Italian Winter Sports Federation made a formal request to postpone the 2021 event until March 2022. That request has been rejected.
The decision to go ahead as planned was made by the International Ski Federation.
The event will happen 7th to 21st February 2021.
Read more here in our separate report:
Victoria in Australia reports more cases
Just as the ski resorts in the state open, covid-19 is on the rise with 300,000 people in 36 Melbourne suburbs going back into lockdown.
There are 370 active cases and road blocks have been set up by the police to enforce the rules.
Melbourne serves a number of ski areas including Mt Buller and Mt Hotham.
The Prime Minister, Daniel Andrews warned that a state-wide lockdown was possible if people became complacent with Australia’s worst outbreak in almost three months.
Other parts of Australia have had no or very few cases.
Australia has had about confirmed cases 7,700 and 104 deaths.
Decision day on 2021 Cortina World Championships
The championships were to be held last winter but were cancelled as corornavirus spread.
The event is due to be held February 9 to 21 in 2021.
It was initially said they would be postponed until 2021 but earlier the organisers requested a further delay as they feared the financial cost and efforts might come to nothing if they had to be moved again.
We reported on the move at the end of May, Cortina wants to postpone next winter’s World Championships to 2022.
It is reported that the International Ski Federation has been considering the request and will be announcing a decision on, Thursday July 2nd.
The resort has been continuing with preparation for a 2021 event and is ready to stage next winter if required.
Cortina is set to host the 2026 Winter Olympics.
A postponement to March 2022 would mean the event takes place less than a month after the conclusion of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.
The Austrian and German Ski Associations have said they are ready to hold the planned FIS World Cup events in the coming winter season of 2020/21.
We reported the news yesterday, Wednesday July 1st, and there is further information lower down this rolling blog.
The two nations are both working on the different conditions which may apply to sports events next winter under covid-19 restrictions.
They are working with their Health Authorities and respective Organising Committees.
Wednesday, 1st July
Austria and Germany ready to hold FIS races next season
The Austrian and German Ski Associations have said they are ready to hold the planned FIS World Cup events in the coming winter season of 2020/21.
They are both working on the different conditions which may apply to sports events next winter under covid-19 restrictions.
They are working with their Health Authorities and respective Organising Committees.
At a recent conference of the Austrian Ski Federation the COVID-19 pandemic dominated proceedings.
“Sport is our lifeline and that of the active, we have to make sure that we can carry out all of our events if possible, even if we cannot allow spectators, because only then can we create the necessary conditions for the active,” said the Austria Ski Federation President, Peter Schröcksnadel
One of the potential measures presented included adapting the programme of the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup season opener in Sölden, with the women’s race taking place on Friday instead of Saturday and the men on Sunday.
This would ensure manageable health conditions for athletes, plus spectators if they are allowed to attend.
The German Ski Association is feeling optimistic about holding all its planned World Cup events.
The Association has taken into account the status of the pandemic, possible travel dates, political decisions to ease the current restrictions, the creation or revision of hygiene and safety concepts,.
Plus the impact on the athletes.
Hubertus Schwarz, Chairman of the DSV Board: “We assume as things stand today all World Cups planned in Germany will be carried out, even if competitions would have to take place with limited spectator numbers or without visitors.
“At the moment we are enhancing the hygiene concept, which takes into account the conditions on site on the one hand and the demands of the respective disciplines on the other hand, in order to do everything in our responsibility for the safety of the athletes as well as the spectators.”
EU opens its borders to more countries
The EU has agreed to allow in visitors from 15 countries outside the bloc.
They include Canada, Japan and New Zealand, but excludes countries with high infection rates such as Brazil, Russia and the USA.
China is on the list but is subject to a reciprocal agreement that is being finalised.
All EU states have the right to make their own rules and can chose which countries to open up to.
The so-called “safe travel destinations” are China: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.
The non-EU contires of the UK, Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, are automatically included as ‘safe’.
Brothels Open in the Austrian Alps
Brothels in Austria re-open today.
The health ministry has worked with groups representing the country’s 8,000 registered sex workers to develop hygiene measures.
Many sex workers have been struggling to survive as a result of the pandemic.
Elsewhere in Europe, Holland also to reopened brothels on July 1st.
One in Greece opened last month.
Rules brought in by the Greek government include card-only payments, a time limit of 15 minutes per customer, compulsory face masks and workers taking a list of clients’ contact details in case they need to be traced.
Utah was Set for Record Breaking Season… then the pandemic hit.
The ski state had 4.4m skier visits last winter.
Ski Utah said it was the fourth highest total ever and came with the end of the season cancelled.
Skier visits declined 14.3% from the previous season, though they finished 2.4% above the 10-year average.
PlanetSKI was in Utah last winter before coronavirus struck as we based ourselves in the ski town of Park City and hit the surrounding resorts writing a daily blog across the week:
Nathan Rafferty, president and CEO of Ski Utah, said the premature end to the season was “devastating for our ski resorts and for our community.”
Despite experiencing the highest per-capita spending on record over the winter, Utah’s ski industry lost $232.4 million due to the early resort closures, according to expert estimates.
“I am proud of our industry and the difficult but responsible decisions made by Utah resorts to prioritize the safety of their guests and employees,” said Nathan Rafferty.
“While it’s sure to look different next winter with new safety measures in place, I am optimistic that skiing and riding will be better than ever during the upcoming 2020–21 ski season.”
The National Ski Areas Association, meanwhile, recently said the pandemic resulted in losses of at least $2 billion for the U.S. ski industry as a whole, US ski season on course for bumper season before pandemic
Tuesday, June 30th
Intersport has refunded all its customers and launches new flexi-ski system for next season
The winter sports rental company has issued full refunds to over 18,000 customers who were out of pocket as the virus led to ski resorts closing in March.
“We’ve seen an abundance of both rental companies and airlines making it difficult for customers to get a direct refund from their cancelled holidays, with many companies offering limited vouchers,” said the UK Marketing Manager, Chris Moran.
“We decided to offer all customers affected by the pandemic a full refund, with a no questions asked policy, to ensure their hard-earned money wasn’t lost.”
To encourage risk-free rental for the 2020/21 ski season, Intersport has introduced a ‘Flexi-ski’ system.
It is quick and easy for customers to not only book discounted ski rental, but also cancel their booking up to 24-hours before their scheduled equipment pick up.
The company is guaranteeing them an immediate refund should their holiday plans change.
No questions asked.
“It is excellent to see that Intersport has given out full refunds and the flexi-ski system means people can book with confidence for next winter,” said the PlanetSKI editor, James Cove.
“Last winter our readers had a special promotional code to get significant discounts and 100s benefited from up to 50% off. Next winter we will be expanding the offering with some huge discounts and are just in the process of finalising the details. Watch this space!”
NZ Prime Minister Opens Cardrona ski resort
Jacinda Ardern was in Queenstown to promote the ski season and took time out to open the nearby resort.
Hundreds of people on foot came just to see the Prime Minister.
That was in addition to the 1,850 skiers and snowboarders who were there for the riding.
“It was an incredible day, much bigger crowds than we had expected,” said the resort general manager, Bridget Legnavsky.
“It was amazing how the community just came together and showed so much love and appreciation for our prime minister, which was really inspiring.”
The sister resort of Treble Cone has also opened with other south island resorts opening too.
Coronet Peak is up and running with the Remarkables set to kick off this weekend.
New Zealand has beaten the pandemic and resorts are opening with no restrictions in place: NZ resorts open for skiing and snowboarding
However international visitors remain barred as we reported in last week’s rolling blog: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding.
And guess which GB freestyle legend is currently enjoying the skiing in New Zealand?
Step forward Woodsy.
See here for why James Woods is in New Zealand, in June’s News in Brief.
Monday, June 29th
US Ski Resorts Criticise President Trumps Restrictions on Visas For Immigrant Workers
President Trump says the pandemic has caused huge unemployment and he has extended visa restrictions on foreign workers.
Ski resorts across the USA rely on visa workers, especially those who have a J-1.
Last winter more than half of the country’s 400 ski areas were unable to fill vacancies.
“Tourism is the hardest hit business sector from COVID-19…. our ability to open back up come November and December is really going to be strained if we don’t have a labour force to help us,” said Dave Byrd, the policy director for the National Ski Areas Association.
“J-1s are not taking American jobs. We have tapped every single person in local communities who would be interested in taking short-term, temporary jobs. Without these workers, we are losing economic activity,” he added.
With covid-19 precautions in place there will be smaller groups for ski lessons, increased cleaning and big changes in lodging, dining and gatherings.
All these are likely to require more staff like more ski instructors, cleaners and cooks.
“Under the extraordinary circumstances of the economic contraction resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak, certain non-immigrant visa programs authorizing such employment pose an unusual threat to the employment of American workers,” said President Trump.
“The entry of additional workers through … non-immigrant visa programs , therefore, presents a significant threat to employment opportunities for Americans.”
3 in Italian National Alpine Team Test Positive at Training Camp
Three members of the Italian national ski team – two coaches and an athlete – have tested positive for Covid-19 while training on the glacier at Stelvio.
The Italian Winter Sports Federation (FISI) says on its website that one coach was taken to hospital with a mild fever.
The unnamed athlete and the other coach tested positive but have no symptoms.
They are now going into quarantine at home.
The tests were carried out on Saturday at the team hotel and the results have been reported to the health authorities.
FISI says approximately 150 tests have been carried out over a short period.
“It is important to reiterate that the athletes are continuously monitored by the FISI and that, in the event of anomalies, the procedures for verifying any positivity to the virus are triggered immediately, as per the national protocol.”
All other skiers and coaches who were at the training camp in Stelvio are said to be well and showing no symptoms.
The Federation says activity will continue as normal for all other team members who will remain at the glacier camp.
Mikaela Shiffrin Promotes Wearing a Face Mask
The US skier has made this comment on social media:
THIS IS NOT A POLITICAL STATEMENT.
“I wear a mask for my mom, my brother. For anyone out there who is high risk and knows it, anyone out there who may be high risk but doesn’t know it.
“For the people who have been sick and survived, and for those who have not made it…”
She has recently been back on snow training at the ski resort of Copper in Colorado.
We reported on the training in last week’s blog: Coronavirus Impact on Skiing and Snowboarding
There are so many athletes out there who are not able to practice their sports at all, so many people who are still hardly even able to get outside, so trust me I know how lucky we were to get even a little bit of training on-snow the past two weeks. Many of our competing nations have had access to training on-snow over the last month and will continue to have that throughout the summer on the glaciers, some competitors were never forced to go off-snow at all, and still some have yet to touch their skis and may not have the chance until the fall or winter, so I am incredibly grateful to be among those who have been able to click into my skis for any amount of time at all. I want to send a huge THANK YOU to Copper Mountain and U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team for joining forces and putting in such a big effort to make this camp so productive for everyone involved, while still keeping us safe and healthy. Given everything that is going on in the world, it is absolutely incredible that this even happened and we do not take that for granted. Thank you 🙏❤️ (🎶 Kerala- Bonobo )
Posted by Mikaela Shiffrin on Saturday, June 20, 2020
There was covid-19 precautions in place for the training camp.
There were no more than two skiers on a chair lift at any one time with face coverings worn everywhere, except when skiing.
The athletes were in team bubbles with the speed team not mixing with the tech squad.
Everyone’s temperature was taken twice a day and no positive tests have been reported.
Sunday, June 28th
FIS Announce September 4th as Deadline for Presidential Nominations
The next President will be elected at the FIS Congress, scheduled for October 4th – if the coronavirus pandemic allows.
The Swedish billionaire Johan Eliasch has been nominated by GB Snowsport.
Swiss-Ski has nominated its President, Urs Lehmann.
The position is up for grabs after the current President, Gian-Franco Kasper, announced he was stepping down, FIS boss to stand down.
The timetable for re-election has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Whether it can go ahead will depend on Swiss Government guidelines on mass gatherings and air travel regulations.
The FIS will examine the situation on August 1st to confirm the date or once again reschedule the meeting.
The Post Office Reopens Currency Services
The Post Office deals with about one in four travel money exchanges, is to end its suspension of services such as delivery, plus click and collect.
It comes as the chances of a summer holiday in the Alps or the Pyrenees improves amid government plans for air corridors with countries including France, Italy and Spain.
Read ore here in last week’s blog: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding
Other providers have continued with online orders but closed bureaux.
Online orders for foreign currency at the Post Office are being accepted, with a £400 minimum order.
Click and collect will available again from various branches nationwide from 1 July, also with the £400 minimum.
“We have been monitoring the position carefully in recent weeks and are aware of growing consumer interest in holidays as lockdown rules have relaxed,” said the head of Post Office Travel Money, Nick Boden.
“We’re following FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) advice closely and we advise holidaymakers to do the same.”
The FCO has advised against all but non-essential travel from the UK.
The Post Office rate is 8.2% lower than the February peak, with £1 buying €1.08 now rather than close to €1.18.
However, it is only 1.4% worse than the €1.095 rate of a year ago.
Norway is one of the countries expected to be on the list of air corridors, and the pound is 10% stronger against the Norwegian krone than it was a year ago.
PPE Stored near Ski Fields in Australia
The Australian Government is providing personal protective equipment including gowns, masks, gloves and goggles, to general practices in the ski fields in NSW and Victoria.
It is to help protect frontline health workers during the ski season.
The Minister for Health, Greg Hunt said it was “critical general practitioners were able to quickly and effectively respond to potential cases of COVID-19.”
“We need to continue to have the right controls in place to test more people, trace those who test positive and respond to local outbreaks when they occur,” he said.
The ski season in Australia is now underway, Australian ski resorts are now open.
“The opening of the 2020 ski season is a welcome milestone after many months of COVID-19 restrictions, but we must remain vigilant to the threat posed by the virus,” said the Minister for Regional Health, Mark Coulton.
“Australians heading to the snow are still required to practise the 1.5 metre physical distancing rule, good hygiene and follow limits for public gatherings. Everyone is encouraged to download the COVIDSafe app.”
The government says the delivery of PPE to clinics near the ski fields is a last line of defence.
“It is not a replacement for physical distancing and good hygiene practices.”
If visitors feel unwell, no matter how mild, they must stay home or in their accommodation.
There has been a spike in cases in the state of Victoria with 49 reported cases of the virus on Sunday, its highest total in more than two months.
One outbreak may have come from a cigarette lighter that was shared among staff working at a hotel.
“They were keeping their distance but sharing a lighter between each other,” said the State Premier, Daniel Andrews.
“There also seems to be carpooling arrangements between staff, which meant they were in closer contact than we would like,” he added.
Victoria, with its ski resorts of Mt Buller and Mt Hotham, is making testing mandatory for all people returning from overseas trips.
Here are our earlier rolling coronavirus blogs if you want to look back at all the relevant developments over the past months as we reported its impact and updated daily.
All you need to know about the pandemic and its impact on the world of snowsports:
May 10th: Coronavirus impact on snowsports
April 12th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding
April 5th: Coronavirus impact on snowsports