Coronavirus Impact on Skiing & Snowboarding
2nd August 2020
Last modified on August 8th, 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 8th August
Covid-19 Cases in France Rise as Does Chance of Quarantine into UK
France has recorded another 2,288 new confirmed cases of coronavirus over the past 24 hours – an increase of more than 40% on the previous day.
From Wednesday to Thursday, an additional 1,604 people tested positive for the virus.
There are indications people coming into the UK from France may have to isolate.
France is now on a “watch list” and some commentators say the country has just a few days to reverse the trend or a quarantine will be imposed.
It is thought there are 100s of thousands of British people holidaying in France at the moment, some in the mountains of the Alps and the Pyrenees.
Many more are planning to go later this month.
The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, was asked by the BBC whether tourist destinations such as France might be added to the quarantine list.
Mr Sunak said told the BBC the government was keeping the situation “under constant review” and that people should “be mindful” of the risk of disruption to travel given the global pandemic.
He told holidaymakers they should constantly look at government guidance and “make the best decisions they can, knowing we live in uncertain times”.
The Alps and the Pyrenees in France have proved to be popular this summer.
“The French mountains are doing very well with the French market this summer as French people aren’t going abroad so they are all doing better than last year,” said the co-founder of Peak Retreats, Xavier Schouller, to PlanetSKI.
The company specialises in holidays to the French mountain resorts.
“This is good news for the industry, as for the ski product to be good for next winter the various accommodation providers such as hoteliers and residence owners need money to invest.”
Many people have headed to the mountains and the cooler temperatures to escape the recent heatwave across Europe.
The city of Toulouse, gateway to the Pyrenees, has introduced new rules requiring face masks in its busiest streets.
Other cities are expected to follow suit.
PlanetSKI is hoping to head to the Italian Alps shortly where the virus remains under control, but it would necessitate driving through France so we are watching the situation closely.
People in Italy have been warned to remain cautious as the number of coronavirus infections detected shows an “upward trend”, especially asymptomatic cases.
“Widespread transmission of the virus persists and, if conditions are favourable, can lead to significant outbreaks, often linked to the importation of cases from other countries,” said the Ministry of Health and Higher Health Institute.
402 cases were confirmed on Thursday, up from 384 on Wednesday and 190 on Tuesday.
Preparations for New Zealand Air Corridor
Auckland International Airport is to be separated into two zones in preparation for a link with the Cook Islands.
Zone A would be for countries that have a “bubble arrangement” with New Zealand and for people who have been in New Zealand for more than two weeks.
Zone B would be for travellers from countries without a safe travel arrangement and for those who would have to go into quarantine, along with others transiting through the airport.
There are plans for similar moves at Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown airports.
Friday 7th August
UK Advises Against All but ‘Essential’ Travel to Andorra
The UK government has advised against all but essential travel to Andorra, Belgium and the Bahamas, while the destinations have also been taken off the government’s ‘travel corridor’ list.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said anyone arriving from one of the three destinations from 04:00 on Saturday 8th August will have to self-isolate for 14 days.
Andorra sits high up in the Pyrenees, sandwiched between Spain and France.
It has no international airport with people arriving by road after usually flying in to either Barcelona in Spain or Toulouse in France.
Andorra has had 944 confirmed cases and 54 deaths.
It reported 5 new cases on August 5th.
Italy Threatens to Suspend Ryanair Flights
Ryanair flights to Italy may be suspended after “repeated violations of the Covid-19 health regulations” by the budget airline, the country’s civil aviation authority has said.
The authority said that “Ryanair systematically does not comply” with the Italian government’s coronavirus rules.
“Not only is the obligation to distance passengers not respected, but the conditions for making an exception to that rule are also being ignored,” it said in a statement.
If Ryanair continued to break the rules the ENAC would “suspend all air transport activities at national airports, requiring the carrier to re-route all passengers already in possession of tickets”.
Ryanair rejected the accusations as “factually inaccurate” and defended its practices, which it argued are compliant with Covid-19 regulations.
The number of new cases in Italy is currently far below that of other European countries.
PlanetSKI has posted a special report on the situation as we consider returning to our winter base in the Italian Alps for a summer visit.
Three More Indoor Snow Centres in England Open Today
The Snow Centre at Hemel Hempstead and the Snozones at Castleford & Milton Keynes restart after government covid-19 restrictions are eased.
“It may be the hottest day of the year so far, but the snow is ready & waiting, and we can’t wait to see you back on the slopes,” said the Snow Centre.
On Thursday the Tamworth Snowdome opened as we reported: Snow centres in England reopen
“We are excited to announce The Snow Centre will re-open this Friday, 7th August,” said the Snow Centre earlier this week.
We will bring you details later as the slopes open.
People Urged to Stay Away from Busy Areas of Cairngorms National Park
The Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) has asked visitors to avoid the “extremely busy” areas of the park this weekend.
Some popular spots have been having “major issues” with traffic, litter, human waste and fires.
Visitors are being asked to consider less well-known locations in the park to visit.
“Loch Morlich resembling Brighton beach today,” said one local, Iain Cameron, as he posted a picture on social media.
The Cairngorms National Park – the UK’s largest national park – includes parts of Aberdeenshire, the Highlands, Moray and Perthshire.
“We love to welcome visitors to the park. We really want you to have a safe and enjoyable time so for the best experience you will need to carefully plan ahead and be prepared to change your plans if an area is too busy,” said the head of visitor services at the CNPA, Pete Crane.
At the beginning of the pandemic hundreds of people arrived in the area, including ski resort car parks, in their motorhomes and campervans.
They were urged to leave.
Thursday 6th August
Melbourne Lockdown Rules Tightened
Most businesses and shops are closed today leaving streets virtually deserted in Victoria state’s capital.
The city has a population of 5m.
The nearby ski resorts of Mt Hotham and Falls Creek have announced they will not be reopening as their winter ski season ends.
Many visitors came fromMelbourne.
In Melbourne, a night-time curfew has been imposed and residents have been told to stay at home, unless they have work or care commitments.
On Thursday Victoria recorded another 471 coronavirus cases, and eight new deaths.
Australia has 20,000 reported Covid-19 cases and 255 deaths.
It comes as heavy snow falls in the mountains.
Victoria has announced new penalties for people who ignore orders to self-isolate because of the virus.
Those who break the rules will face an on the spot fine of about A$5,000 (£2,725).
There have been 800 instances of people not being at home when they were supposed to be.
Police have reported being assaulted by people breaking the rules.
They say they have had to smash car windows to pull out passengers who have refused to give their names and addresses.
Snow Centres in England reopen
Tamworth Snowdome has opened today.
The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead and the Snozones in Castleford and Milton Keynes are firing up their lifts on Friday.
Here was the scene at the Tamworth Snowdome on Thursday morning as the slope re-opened.
Posted by SnowDome on Thursday, 6 August 2020
Read our full story here, Snow Centres in England reopen
Opening World Cup Races Moved Forward to Avoid Crowds
The curtain raiser is always held in the Austrian glacier resort of Soelden.
The women’s giant slalom will now take place on Saturday October 17th followed by the men’s race the next day.
The announcement was made by the Austrian Ski Federation.
“By moving the races forward, it will be possible to use the Rettenbach glacier area almost exclusively for the World Cup competitions, to separate the participants, officials and employees from tourists and to arrange the accommodation for the teams according to needs and regulations,” said a statement from the Federation.
The International Ski Federation is making plans for next season including various scenarios:
Before Christmas there are due to be races in the USA and Canada and there are questions about whether they will go ahead.
F1 has already cancelled races in the USA and moved them elsewhere.
The majority of the World Cup season takes place in Europe.
Austria and Germany have said they are ready to hold their events.
US Resorts Fear Fall Off in International Visitors Next Winter
They comprise up to 20% of the market in major ski areas like Aspen in Colorado.
International travel has been restricted and airlines have cut back on flights due to the pandemic.
No change in conditions is anticipated soon.
“January is going to be significantly impacted by our lack of international,” Rich Burkley, Skico senior vice president of strategic planning, said at a community teleconference meeting last week in Aspen.
“We’re expecting international business to be about zero.”
The US areas are now looking at attracting more from the domestic market.
Wednesday 5th August
Leading UK ski tour operator goes into administration
Harris Holidays Ltd that trades as Ski Weekends has been placed into administration. Observers fear it is one of the first of more as the fallout from Covid-19 continues.
Ski Weekends has been organising tailor-made flexible ski trips to the slopes for groups and individuals for over 30 years.
It’s aim, has been “to help you ski when, where and for as long as you want, to some of the best and well-known ski areas in Europe.”
It offered travel from 17 UK airports to a full range of 2-5* chalets and hotels in ski resorts across Europe.
It was though hit hard by coronavirus and was unable to raise the necessary finance to refund all its customers after ski resorts closed in mid-March.
“We have been failed by all the government schemes and a business that was a going concern in its past format has now gone,” said the Managing Director of Ski Weekends, Dan Fox, in an interview with PlanetSKI.
“I have tried everything in my power to keep the business going, but have been unable to.
“On a personal level I have lost much money and it has been devastating.
“It has been a nightmare for the past 4-months to be honest.”
Read more here: Leading UK ski tour operator goes into administration
Two Ski Resorts In Australia To Stay Closed
Falls Creek and Hotham Alpine Resort in the state of Victoria will not re-open for Spring skiing, the owners, Vail Resorts, have announced.
Skiing and snowboarding at the two resorts were suspended on 9th July until 19th August as the coronavirus crisis worsened.
Now it’s clear there will be no snowsports at the two ski areas for the rest of the Australian winter.
“Due to the continued COVID-19 health crisis and the introduction of new restrictions by the Victorian Government, we have made the decision to not reopen our lift operations,” Vail Resorts said.
The company said the earlier suspension of operations was introduced to help public health officials address the growing challenge of Covid-19 in the region and protect the health and safety of employees, guests and the local community.
“It was a difficult decision which has unfortunately been reinforced by the worsening COVID-19 trends and the declaration of a State of Disaster in Victoria until 13 September.”
For more on this, see our separate story:
Quarantine Arrivals From Europe
The Home Affairs committee of MPs says the spread of coronavirus in the UK could have been slowed if the government had acted earlier to impose restrictions on people arriving in the country from Europe.
During February and early March arrivals from Hubei Province in China, parts of South Korea, Iran and later Italy were asked to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival.
This was the information given to travellers arriving back at Heathrow:
The MPs criticised the decision not to include Spain on the list and said government advice had focused on Asian countries. They did not appreciate soon enough the risk of importing the virus from Europe.
They said a later decision to end self-isolation advice for international arrivals not displaying symptoms had been “inexplicable”.
That decision to end self-isolation advice came on 13th March when thousands of British skiers and snowboarders were still in the Alps.
It was the day that Austria and Switzerland shut all their resorts and the day before France announced it was closing its ski areas.
Some ski resorts were hit hard by coronavirus and many skiers and snowboarders arrived back in the UK with the infection.
One was our reporter, George Eykyn, who developed symptoms soon after he got back from St Anton in Austria on 14th March.
The Home Office says the committee’s assertions are incorrect, pointing out that all its decisions have been guided by the science with appropriate measures taken at the right time.
Read more on the BBC.
And if you’re after some more positive news about coronavirus in the UK, then have a look at this interesting analysis by the BBC’s Health Correspondent Nick Triggle:
Tuesday 4th August
EasyJet Adds More Flights with Winter Timetable on Sale
It restarted flying in June and carried over two million passengers in July.
It is expanding its schedule to 40% of what it normally is.
“I am really encouraged that we have seen higher than expected levels of demand with load factor of 84% in July with destinations like Faro and Nice remaining popular with customers,” said the CEO, Johan Lundgren
He said bookings for the remainder of the summer “are performing better than expected” and as a result, it has expanded its schedule over the July-to-September quarter to fly at around 40% of normal capacity.
Winter flights are already on sale.
The airline is calling called on the Government to offer more support for the aviation sector by temporarily removing Air Passenger Duty.
The airline is set to reduce its workforce by up to 30% with up to 4,500 job losses.
Snow Centres to Open this Week
Tamworth Snowdome opens on Thursday with the Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead plus the Snowzones at Castelford and Milton Keynes firing up their lifts on Friday.
The indoor snow centres had to postpone their scheduled reopening last Saturday after changes in government advice, but now they are set to go.
They sought clarification from the government and have been assured that their facilities are covid secure.
Read here for the full article: Snow Centres in England to Open this Week
More Areas in France Make Masks Compulsory
Lille, St Malo and Nice are the latest.
Brest in Brittany requires people to wear them in outdoor markets.
In the Alps they are compulsory at outdoor markets in Annecy, Albertville and Sallanches near Chamonix.
The French Prime Minister, Jean Castex, said “the virus has not gone on holiday and neither have we,” he said, as he urged everyone to “remain very vigilant.”
It is compulsory in France to wear a face mask in all indoor public spaces.
Those breaking the rules face a €135 fine.
France’s scientific committee has warned that a second wave of the virus in autumn or winter is “highly likely”.
“The short term future of the pandemic mainly lies in the hands of the population,” said a statement from the scientific committee.
France isn’t the only European country to see a rise in cases in recent weeks – Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain have all seen a spike.
Germany to Test Travellers from High Risk Areas
Germany is to introduce compulsory testing for people that come from areas with a high risk of Covid-19, according to the health ministry.
Health Minister Jens Spahn said: “We have first drafts. We want to co-ordinate this well with the states because they need to implement it at airports and train stations.”
On Monday, the number of confirmed cases in Germany rose by 509 to 210,402.
The death toll rose by seven to 9,148, according to the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s disease and control prevention agency.
World Travel Market Plans to Go Ahead
WTM is insisting this November’s London event will go ahead, with fewer delegates and enhanced social distancing measures.
It is the largest travel event in the world with the skiing nations across the world usually represented.
The theme for this year’s show is to be ‘Recover, Rebuild and Innovate’.
The travel industry is one of the hardest hit sectors of the global economy.
Aisles will be wider and a one-way system will operate.
There will be no lanyards, electronic payments only and all food will be pre-packaged.
Organisers claim 200 exhibitors have signed up to attend.
The event is due to take place November 2nd to 4th.
It will take place at its usual venue of the ExCel Centre in East London which is currently a mothballed Nightingale Hospital.
“We are excited to welcome the travel industry back to ExCeL,” the organisers said.
“We are dedicated to helping recover and rebuild and shape the travel industry.
“We want to facilitate a show this year which will focus on business connections; recovering old ties and building new ones.”
“We are putting our attendees’ safety first and following full guidelines and measures to make sure the planned event is safe for you to attend.”
On November 10th and 11th ‘WTM Virtual’ takes place for those unable to attend the event in person.
“We guarantee that we will address the impact the global health pandemic has had on the travel and tourism industry and discuss a road map to recovery, identifying the trends and innovation shaping the future of the industry and show you path that lies ahead,” added the organisers.
Monday 3rd August
Ski Dubai to Host Snowsports Competition
It will take place at the indoor slope on August 15th to encourage the safe return to snow sports following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in the Emirates.
It will be one of the first snowsports competitions in the world to be held in the pandemic and will have social distancing measures in place.
The ‘Return to Safe Sport’ competition is open to all competent racers, freestyle skiers and snowboarders.
It is free to enter.
There will be Slalom Skiing and Giant Slalom and two freestyle disciplines: Slopestyle and Big Air.
The competition will be adjudicated by a panel of freestyle judges and competitors are in with the chance of winning medals as well as a host of prizes.
“Ski Dubai is proud to collaborate with Dubai Sports Council to launch the world’s first snow sports competition since the COVID-19 closures,” said the Director of Majid Al Futtaim Global Snow, Mohammad El Etri.
“Dubai is leading the way and showing the rest of the world that, when the right measures are in place, sporting events and competitions can safely resume.
This competition is also aligned with our goal to make the UAE and Ski Dubai an international destination for sport and we look forward to welcoming both competitors and spectators for what promises to be a fun-filled day.”
The decision to resume sports competitions is part of a series of decisions taken by Dubai Sports Council to gradually reopen the sports sector following weeks of closures due to COVID-19.
Ski Dubai is exceeding recommended health and safety guidelines and has implemented a sanitation and physical distancing plan.
Open Ski Resorts in Victoria Assess Position as New Restrictions Introduced
The resorts of Falls Creek and Mt Hotham in the ski state of Victoria in Australia closed for skiing and snowboarding on 9th July, shortly after they opened.
Mt Buller has remained open and the resort of Baw Baw has been open at weekends.
Now they are considering their positions as coronavirus continues to spread and tough new restrictions are brought in.
We understand Mt Buller may close on Wednesday as restrictions are introduced in regional Victoria.
Infections in the Australian state of Victoria are surging with hundreds of new cases reported daily.
Victoria is to close non-essential shops along with some manufacturing, construction and administration.
Ski resorts will likely fall into this category.
The state’s premier, Daniel Andrews, has already announced that non-essential services will shut in Melbourne for six weeks.
Supermarkets, grocery stores, pharmacies and banks will remain open.
Under the current regulations in Melbourne, only one person per household can go to the supermarket.
The person can only visit shop within 5km (3 miles) of their house and are only allowed out for an hour.
“Today is a tough day and there are many more of those to come,” he said.
A curfew is already in place in the city from 20:00 to 05:00 as we reported on Sunday 2nd August in this rolling blog.
Ski areas in the northern hemisphere are watching developments closely as similar circumstances may occur next winter, with similar restrictions and reactions by the authorities.
Nepal Opens Mt Everest to Climbers & Trekkers Despite Rises in Coronavirus
Nepal is to open all its mountains in the Himalayas including Mount Everest for the autumn season.
Nepal has 8 of the world’s 14 tallest mountains.
It shut down climbing and trekking in March as the pandemic spread.
The autumn season runs from September to November.
“We have reopened mountaineering and will issue climbing permits for the autumn season,” said a statement from the country’s tourist department.
The autumn season runs from September to November.
The government has announced international and domestic flights can resume from August 17th.
The shutdown of the April-May season caused Nepal significant loss in tourist revenue.
Estimates put it into millions of dollars.
Hundreds of foreign people did not visit and around 200,000 sherpas, guides and porters were affected.
Sunday 2nd August
New Restrictions in Victoria as Main Ski Resorts Remain Closed
The Australian ski state of Victoria has declared a ‘state of disaster’.
671 new coronavirus cases had been detected and seven more people had died in the past 24 hours.
The Premier, Daniel Andrews, said the recent restrictions and measures introduced were working, but too slowly.
“We must go harder. It’s the only way we’ll get to the other side of this,” he said.
The new rules include a night-time curfew, between 20:00 to 05:00, and stricter limitations on leaving home for residents in the state’s capital Melbourne.
Ski resorts, including Mt Hotham and Falls Creek, have already shut for skiing and snowboarding in Victoria.
Though they are offering others activities on snow.
Other resorts are assessing the situation.
Mt Buller remains open but some observers wonder for how much longer.
Here is a summary of those new restrictions in Victoria reported by the BBC:
- Victoria will move into stage-four restrictions at 18:00 (09:00 BST) on Sunday, placing further limits on the movement of people
- A night-time curfew, between from 20:00 to 05:00, will be implemented across Melbourne
- The only reasons for leaving home during these hours will be work, medical care or care-giving
- Melbourne residents will only be allowed to shop and exercise within 5 km (3.1 miles) of their home
- Exercise outside of the home will only be allowed for one hour at a time
- All students across the state will return to home-based learning and childcare centres will be closed
- Regional Victoria will move to stage-three restrictions from Thursday, meaning restaurants, cafes, bars and gyms will close
The new rules will remain in place until at least 13th September.
Traces of Covid-19 Found in Sewage Treatment Plant of Australian Ski Resorts
The resorts of Thredbo and Perisher in New South Wales have had their treatment plant tested.
“Initial samples collected at the Perisher sewage treatment plant on Wednesday, 22 July, 2020 returned a positive result for the presence of COVID-19. Further sampling and analysis is required to assess the significance of this initial positive result,” said NSW Health in a statement.
The department said the virus particles could have come from someone who had recovered from the virus.
“While no cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Perisher or Thredbo to date, it’s important that anyone who was in this area get tested if they have even the mildest of symptoms,” NSW Health added.
Election for New Head of FIS Postponed Again
The International Ski Federation Congress, where a successor to President Gian-Franco Kasper is due to be elected, has been put back until June 2021.
The Congress was due to be held in Zurich in October but has been cancelled due to the pandemic.
Kasper has been the president for 22-years.
Swiss-Ski has nominated its President, Urs Lehmann, for the role of FIS President, while Swedish billionaire Johan Eliasch has been nominated by GB Snowsport.
“The current status of the COVID-19 outbreak globally and the resulting travel restrictions made it clear that this was not the time to bring our global FIS family together,” said Kasper.
“However, it is very difficult for FIS to delay the Congress until next spring.
“The Congress is the backbone of our democratic process and governance and we do not take its postponement lightly.
“Nevertheless, we look forward to the day when all FIS stakeholders will meet together.”
Other parts of FIS business will go ahead online.
The FIS Council is set to meet online on October 3rd to elect hosts for the 2025 World Ski Championships in Alpine and Nordic skiing.
Crans Montana in Switzerland, Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany and Saalbach in Austria are competing for the 2025 Alpine Wolrd Ski Championships.
Trondheim in Norway is the only candidate resort to host the 2025 Nordic World Ski Championships.
The International Ski Federation is meanwhile working on competition plans for next winter with several scenarios being examined:
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.
We have updated daily since the pandemic began.
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