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Resorts Open/Close + What Rest of Ski Season May Look Like

Which ski resorts are open, what are the restrictions and when might we see the others opening? Check out our weekly review of where we now stand as the situation changes across the Alps, the Pyrenees & beyond.

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A week ago we posted a detailed update of the situation in the Alps, the Pyrenees, Scandinavia and beyond to try to keep you informed on an ever-changing situation.

35,000 people have read it, so it is clearly of interest and it’s time for an update on how things stand on Sunday 13th December.

Much has changed in the past 7 days.

In the Alps, France has confirmed its decision to close all lifts and announced the reopening date in January, while Switzerland has introduced tougher restrictions and remains very worried as cases continue to rise.

Resorts have opened in Slovenia and Slovakia. Cases in Slovenia are some of the highest in Europe.

In the Pyrenees Spain has announced it is opening some ski areas this week, with travel restrictions in place.

In Scandinavia Norway is opening more ski areas, but about to ban all UK visitors from January 1st due to high levels of Covid-19 in the UK.

Finland and Sweden are also opening more ski areas. Finland has Covid-19 under control, in Sweden it is surging.

Closer to home in Scotland resorts are preparing to open on December 19th if weather conditions allow.

La Thuile, Aosta Valley, Italy

La Thuile, Aosta Valley, Italy. Photo Credit, PlanetSKI

Perhaps the biggest development is the dawning realisation that people from the UK may not even be able to go to any EU country as the Brexit transition period ends on December 31st.

It is theoretical, but entirely possible.

At the moment UK nationals can cross EU borders under Covid-19 border rules as we are treated as part of the EU.

That ends in under three weeks.

The only non-EU countries that are exempted from the Covid-19 restrictions are those with very low rates of infection, such as New Zealand.

People can enter the EU for “essential reasons’ but going skiing or snowboarding is not classed as essential.

The EU as a block could choose to exempt the UK from these rules, and it is thought this will happen if there is a trade deal.

If there is not a trade deal, and both sides say that is the most likely outcome, then the risk of a ban is higher.

Individual EU countries are able to exempt UK citizens from this ban and create their own “travel corridor”.

See here for the full details:

So, let’s look in detail at the current state of play as there is much more detail than the headline facts of Open or Closed:

The Alps

Austria

The situation remains the same with ski resorts allowed to open on Xmas Eve, December 24th.

Hotels and accommodation providers in resorts will remain closed until January 7th.

Bars, restaurants, cafes and clubs will also remain shut until January 7th, however they may be allowed to open earlier if infection rates allow.

Skiing over the festive period is for locals only, and international visitors are not encouraged with quarantine measures in place, Austria allows skiing at Xmas, but only just & not for many

“From December 24th, individual sports outdoors such as skiing will be possible again so that the Austrian population has the chance to engage in sporting activity over the holidays,” said the Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz.

All those travellers who come to Austria from countries with more than 100 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over a 7-day period will need to quarantine for 10 days.

The neighbouring ski nations of Italy, Switzerland and Germany are all over this threshold.

As is the UK.

Austria currently has 227 confirmed cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 of population over a 7-day period.

This time last week it was 229.

France

On Friday 11th December France ratified its decision to close all the ski lifts.

It also announced that, if conditions allow, the ski lifts can start turning again on January 7th, French court confirms closure of ski lifts as date set for January opening.

France has around 300 ski areas.

People can still ski as long as they do it under their own steam, Ski touring, cross-country and snowshoeing to be allowed in France.

“Naturally, everybody is free to travel to resorts to enjoy the clean air of our beautiful mountains, and the shops which will be open, although bars and restaurants won’t be,” said the Prime Minster, JeanCastex.

Restrictions have also been put in the place to try to stop French skiers and snowboarders heading to open resorts in Switzerland, France reveals measures to stop people skiing abroad.

President Emmanuel Macron wants to avoid “creating an imbalance with ski resorts in France”.

The current lockdown ends on 15th December, and this will be replaced by a nationwide curfew from 21:00 to 07:00.

The curfew will not apply on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

France currently has 120 confirmed cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 of population over a 7-day period.

This time last week it was 110.

Germany

All resorts in Bavaria have been closed until January and restrictions put in place for people thinking of heading to the slopes in neighbouring Switzerland.

Most of the top resorts are in Bavaria but Germans also go to Arbor along the Czech border, Feldburg in the Black Forest and Winterberg the Rothaargebirge mountain range near Cologne.

“We just can’t have the classic ski holiday,” said Bavarian state premier, Markus Söder.

Bars, restaurants and entertainment venues are closed but schools and shops are open.

Most major Christmas markets in Germany have already been cancelled, but some local ones are planning to go ahead on a reduced scale.

As for New Year, fireworks displays have been cancelled while letting them off in the street is likely to be discouraged.

Current rules remain until January 10th.

Germany currently has 170 confirmed cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 of population over a 7-day period.

This time last week it was 156.

Italy

Ski resorts will remain closed until January 7th, though the slopes can be used by professional and non-professional athletes.

There are restrictions for people heading to neighbouring Switzerland to ski and returning with a 10-day quarantine for those arriving in Italy from foreign countries, beginning on December 21st.

That means people cannot head up from Cervinia and then go and ski in the linked Swiss resort of Zermatt.

Or drive through the St Bernard tunnel from the Aosta Valley to go skiing in Verbier.

The measures are in a new decree or DPCM, recently issued, Restrictions in Italy revealed with huge impact on mountain areas.

The measures are in force until January 15th.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said: “It’s not possible to allow holidays on the snow, we can’t afford it”

Restaurants can stay open, including at Christmas.

Churches are free to remain open, but a 22:00 nationwide curfew means the traditional midnight mass is unlikely to happen.

Italian Christmas markets have been banned.

Hugging and kissing, a favourite Italian pastime, is also discouraged.

Minister Giuseppe Conte has told Italians to expect a “more sober Christmas, without Christmas Eve gatherings, hugs and kisses”.

Italy currently has 203 confirmed cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 of population over a 7-day period.

This time last week it was 238.

The Aosta Valley, Italy

The Aosta Valley, Italy. Photo Credit, PlanetSKI

Switzerland

It has said its resorts can open as usual and many more have opened in recent days, but tighter restrictions have been imposed.

Ski lifts, trains, gondolas and other enclosed transport have been limited to two-thirds capacity from December 9th.

After December 22nd ski resorts will need local authority approval to remain open.

At the weekend the Federal Government ordered restaurants, bars and shops to close from 7pm across much of the country.

Regions less badly affected by Covid-19 can stay open until 11pm, if the epidemiological situation allows.

“The number of cases is rising quickly and strongly,” said the Swiss President, Simonetta Sommaruga.

Hospitals and medical staff are at their limit, she said.

The changes will remain in place until January 22nd.

The government will discuss whether to introduce more restrictions at a meeting on December 18th.

Skiing is for the “domestic market” and international visitors are being discouraged from heading to its slopes, Swiss ski resorts to open over Xmas.

There are more than 300 ski resorts in Switzerland with a total of 1,815 ski lifts.

Switzerland currently has 332 confirmed cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 of population over a 7-day period.

This time last week it was 304.

Switzerland. Photo Credit, PlanetSKI

Elsewhere in the Alps

Bulgaria

Bulgaria has no plans to cancel ski holidays in the country, with all three major resorts — Bansko, Pamporovo and Borovets — to open in December.

“There is no reason to cancel the ski season. It’s not the sport but the apres-ski parties that sparked the spread of Covid-19 in Europe,” said a statement from Bansko.

Restaurants across the country are shut until 21st December.

Hotels and holiday homes remain open.

Bulgaria currently has 278 confirmed cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 of population over a 7-day period.

This time last week it was 272.

Slovakia

Jasna in the Low Tatras, opened at the weekend.

Ski resorts are under strict rules that will last until January.

Every visitor older than 10-years of age will be required to show a negative test result taken within the past 72-hours.

On the ski lifts only one person or one household will be allowed to be on a chairlift or in a gondola.

The ski resorts will have to set up testing stations, but the details of how, when and the costs have not been published.

In hotels, guests will require a negative test no older than 72 hours. It will not be possible to eat and drink in the shared spaces.

Restaurants and bars can operate only as takeaway or delivery. Outdoor terraces will remain closed.

So far there have been no changes made to travel or border restrictions.

“The restrictions are frustrating, wearing a mask on a bluebird day is annoying, and no one wants to spend more time queueing than skiing,” said the company, Jasna Adventures.

“But, if we want to ski at all this season we ALL have to follow the rules laid out.”

Slovakia currently has 251 confirmed cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 of population over a 7-day period.

Slovenia

The skiing season has started in Kranjska Gora, Pohorje above Maribor and at Krvavec, but only for locals.

All facilities such as bars, restaurants and ski schools are shut. Lift passes have to be bought online.

The first ski lift in Kranjska Gora turned lastThursday, although only locals may visit the resort due to the ban on travel between municipalities.

More lifts are set to open as conditions and numbers allow.

The ski season is also starting on Saturday in the Pohorje Hills above Maribor.

Skiers will be required to wear face masks, and restrictions related to the number of persons riding open-air ski lifts are also in place.

While waiting in lines and skiing, skiers are required to keep a safety distance of at least 1.5 metres.

The remaining major ski resorts in the country – Rogla, Kope, Vogel, Kanin and Golte are not open either because of the municipal travel ban or the ban on the use of enclosed gondola lifts.

Slovenia currently has 505 confirmed cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 of population over a 7-day period.

There are no known restrictions on the ski areas of Romania.

In Poland  ski slopes will remain open for locals only. Operators must follow a strict sanitary regime to ensure the safety of both skiers and workers.

The Pyrenees

Andorra

The Principality, that is sandwiched between France and Spain high up in the Pyrenees, has said it will not open its ski resorts until January, Andorra closes its ski slopes.

“It is a difficult and painful decision, but from a health point of view, it is better to postpone the opening of the ski resorts until January,” said the Prime Minister of Andorra, Xavier Espot.

It stressed it was keen to display its “loyalty” to Europe.

Andorra currently has 368 confirmed cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 of population over a 7-day period.

This time last week it was 435.

France

Resorts are to remain closed until at least January 7th, as in the Alps.

Restrictions have also been put in the place to try to stop French skiers and snowboarders heading to open resorts in Spain.

See the French section above for further details.

Spain

Some resorts are opening this week, with others remaining shut.

Baqueira Beret in the Pyrenees opens on Monday 14th after delaying its planned opening on Friday December 11th.

“We open the 2020-2021 season next Monday, December 14,” it said in a statement on Friday.

“Together with the rest of the Catalan stations we will open doors with all the relevant Covid19 security measures.”

In the Aragon region of the Spanish Pyrenees the resorts of Formigal, Panticosa, Cerler and Valdelinares and Javalambre have delayed opening until the situation is clearer.

Sierra Nevada in Grenada is set to open on 18th December, Some main Spanish ski areas set to open this week.

In Spain travel has been restricted between December 23rd and January 6th, with Spaniards only able to cross regional borders for family visits.

Other reasons include work, study and medical treatment.

The rules currently make no exception for skiing.

Spain currently has 93 confirmed cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 of population over a 7-day period.

This time last week it was 119.

Scandinavia

Finland

18 ski areas are open including the main ones in the north, Yllas, Ruka and Levi.

In Central Finland, Jyvaskyla and Vimpeli are open.

In the south of the country Kalpalinna, Sveitsi and Solvalle-Swinghill are open.

All ski areas areas are free to fire up their lifts.

The border is currently closed to leisure travellers, but people can enter Finland from 13th December without quarantine if their visit is 3 days or less and they have a negative test result.

If people wish to stay longer then they need to go into quarantine for 3 days and then have a second negative test before being free to go about their business.

Finland currently has 57 confirmed cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 of population over a 7 day period.

This time last week it was 54.

Norway

Resorts in Norway are beginning to open and there are currently no specific rules against ski resorts opening their lifts and slopes.

Hemsedal, Geilo, Hafjell, Trysil and Kvitfjell are open.

Local authorities can close down sports facilities but this has so far only happened in cities.

However from January 1st UK citizens will be bared due to our higher levels of Covid-19, Norway set to bar people from the UK

The Prime Minister has advised against travel between different Norwegian regions.

No more than 20 people are allowed to attend private events at public places. There is also a national ban on serving alcohol after midnight.

Norway currently has 49 confirmed cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 of population over a 7-day period.

This time last week it was 46.

Sweden

In Sweden the ski resorts of Idra Fjell and Hemavan are open with others set to follow suit.

There is guidance for travel, requesting people not to travel between regions.

Sweden’s Public Health Agency is expected to issue new recommendations in mid-December, but so far there are no specific guidelines for ski resorts.

Up to eight people in the same group can eat at restaurants and the sale of alcohol is banned after 10pm.

Sweden currently has 387 confirmed cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 of population over a 7-day period.

This time last week it was 346.

Scotland

This might be one of the few options for British skiers and resorts are set to open on December 19th.

There are though travel restrictions in Scotland and England.

And of course the snow conditions are, er, ‘changeable’.

Here at PlanetSKI we will be looking at the prospects of skiing in Scotland shortly and updating.

The UK currently has 171 confirmed cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 of population over a 7-day period.

This time last week it was 159.

The Nevis Range has said it will not be opening in December, Scottish ski resort suspends its upcoming season

PlanetSKI in Glenshee

PlanetSKI in Glenshee. Image © Rod Frazer.

In Greece all slopes and skiing facilities are closed.

Elsewhere around the world both Canada and the USA have closed their borders to international travellers.

As has Japan.

So, what about the future, what may the rest of the 2020/21 season look like?

That is the million-dollar question.

All the European nations that have closed their slopes say it is only until January.

However, that will depend on the state of the coronavirus spread.

President Macron has said the French ski resorts could only reopen in January “under favourable conditions”.

Some predict circumstances will not change, and that by January Covid-19 will once again be on the rise after the relaxations over the festive period produce a rise in cases and predicted cases.

“We remain optimistic and hope that with all the news measures and regulations, we can still look forward to better times in January,” said a statement from the Tirol to PlanetSKI.

“Unfortunately this is not good for tourism, this does not make it easy in this situation. But as a consequence, the infection rate should decrease, so that this can change again.

“Let’s hope that in this way, the numbers can decrease. Health and safety are simply the top priority.”

There are real concerns that Switzerland’s more relaxed approach could encourage the virus to spread.

Some senior Swiss medical professionals predict a new wave of hospital cases will reach a daily peak of nearly 1,000 by the end of January — two-thirds higher than that of November.

“The circulation of the virus is still strong in Switzerland,” said Isabella Eckerle from the University Hospitals of Geneva. She is co-head of the Centre for Emerging Viral Diseases.

“If we continue to relax the restrictions and people move around a lot at Christmas, there will be an upsurge in cases from mid-January, followed by the third wave in February,” she added.

Here at PlanetSKI we dearly hope conditions allow the ski areas to open in January, but some predict they will be opening and closing again across the winter depending on surges in the virus.

As happened in the ski areas of New Zealand and Australia last summer.

Most of the scientific experts say coronavirus will not be brought under control until Spring at the earliest.

We repeat what one reader said to us earlier this month.

“I am going to book a holiday for 2020/21 to keep my spirts up. I might even book two,” he said.

“I will remain in a position to move quickly if the situation changes in the mountains this season and I can get there, but I am not so hopeful about January and February.

”With luck, things may look better towards the end of the season and, hey, April is my favourite month to ski anyway.

“Whatever happens the mountains will be there when this dreadful pandemic is over.”

Here at PlanetSKI who are we to disagree?

PlanetSKI in the Alps

PlanetSKI in the Alps. Image © PlanetSKI.

The situation is changing on a daily, if not hourly, basis and readers should make all their own checks to ensure they are familiar with the current restrictions.

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