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Coronavirus Impact on Skiing & Snowboarding

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

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Austria Extends Lockdown

The Austrian government has said it is extending its current national lockdown – with only essential shops open to the public.

The measures will last until at least 7th February.

The Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, said he is aware the restrictions are unpopular but the action is necessary because of the new, more infectious strains of coronavirus.

Extra measures have also been introduced including extending the minimum distance between people from 1m to 2m.

This will impact on the queuing systems in ski resorts and the amount of people allowed on gondolas and cable cars.

Restaurants, bars and hotels remain closed.

FFP2 masks are now required on public transport and in shops from 25th January.

The FFP2 masks offer better protection against the coronavirus and other pathogens, with up to 94% of aerosols filtered out.

Austria, a nation of 8.9m people, has recorded more than 390,000 cases and 7,000 deaths from the virus.

Read our full and updated report here:

Austria Extends Lockdown

Sunday 17th January

People shouldn’t be going on holiday

The Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, made the comment on Ridge on Sunday on Sky News.

He was asked by Sophy Ridge if it’s “quite selfish” for people in the UK to go on holiday right now.

Mr Raab said  people should be staying at home “unless it’s absolutely necessary” to travel.

“So no, they shouldn’t be going on holiday – I don’t think that’s appropriate.”

He adds that people should stay home “as much as possible” to help protect the NHS.

Flying to the Alps

Hats off to Chamonix!

Why?

Because the resort tells it like it is with accurate and informative news.

Er, perhaps not something we always receive from some PR departments in ski resorts and certainly not in these dreadfull pandemic times.

The latest newsletter tells it as it is:

  • Christmas holidays were much quieter than usual with an average occupancy across the 2 weeks of 23%.
  • In a normal January week occupancy would be around 25% – Current figures record 8% occupancy, a fall of 60% .
  • Lifts remain closed, as we watch the snow fall in massive quantities.
  • All bars and restaurants remain closed, except for take-aways, and from this weekend the curfew is brought forward to 6pm across the country.

“Activities such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are proving extremely popular and we are seeing an impressive growth in the ski touring and splitboarding sector.

“These activities fortunately generate some revenue for mountain guides, ski instructions and mountain leaders, but it is only a small compensation.”

Chamonix Valley, France

Chamonix Valley, France. Image c/o Chamonix.

See here for our full report:

Saturday 16th January

Top Ten for Ryding but Podium Missed

The GB skier Dave Ryding came 7th in the rearranged slalom in Flachau in Austria.

Flachau in Austria is hosting back-to-back men’s World Cup slalom competitions after racing was called off in Wengen and Kitzbühel due to concerns over coronavirus.

The Swiss resort of Wengen was initially scheduled to stage two men’s downhill races and a slalom race this weekend before a rise in COVID-19 cases in the area forced organisers to cancel the World Cup contests on Monday.

Instead, the race was relocated to Kitzbühel in Austria for two slalom events.

But coronavirus struck once again after reports of 10 new infections in Kitzbühel and a further 24 cases in nearby Jochberg – including 17 of the more transmissible variant first detected in England.

The COVID-19 outbreak led the FIS to relocate the men’s events to Flachau which staged the women’s slalom earlier this week.

Dave Ryding is 9th in the overall standings and he goes again on Sunday.

See here for our report and video on the race.

Swiss Resorts to Stay Open

Tighter new restrictions come into force next week including the closing of non-essential shops, but ski lifts continue to turn.

Covid-19 cases in Switzerland are still high, but stabilising.

The Federal government said last month that if non-essential shops closed then it would be hard to justify ski resorts remaining open.

It has changed its position and as tougher measures come into force on Monday, including the closure of non-essential shops – ski resorts will continue to remain open.

The Health Minister, Alain Berset, has defended the decision to allow skiing to continue.

“Strict measures are still required, but so far experience has shown that it works. It cannot be compared to the situation in shops.

“You ski in nature,” he said.

See the full details here:

France Requires a PCR for all International Arrivals

The French Transport Minister, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, has said all travellers will require a negative result from a lab PCR test, carried out less than 72 hours before departure.

Previously people could take a rapid test.

Hauliers are exempt.

At present only certain groups of people are allowed into France from the UK.

  • French or European citizens.
  • Those who live in France or another EU country.
  • Essential workers.

Second-home owners, tourists, people going skiing/snowboarding and those visiting family are barred.

Friday 15th January

Snow Falls in Cairngorm as Resort Remains Closed & Maintenance Continues

“Though the resort remains closed our hard-working maintenance team are up at the crack of dawn to carry out their routine work on the lifts, de-icing and running them daily to avoid any serious damage to the ropes and wheels,” said Susan Smith, the Interim Chief Executive of Cairngorm Mountain, in a social media post.

“More snow is forecast over the weekend which will add to the great base we have across the ski area; fingers crossed this cold wintry weather will continue.”

The resort remains closed due to Covid-19 restrictions in Scotland.

Covid Tests on Offer for Entire District of Kitzbuhel

It comes after an outbreak in the linked Austrian ski resort of Jochberg as the Hahnenkamm races approach.

The Austrian ski resort at Kitzbuhel is offering Covid tests for the entire district after an outbreak involving a group of 17 ski trainers, many of them British.

“As of now, the Government of Tirol plans to conduct extensive testing in the entire district to assess the security status of the region until the upcoming weekend,” said a statement from the region.

Read more here:

‘WHO’ Warns of Spread of Coronavirus with British Getting Some Blame Out in the Alps

It comes as a British infection contributes to the cancellation of the Lauberhorn race in Wengen, a group of UK skiers was stopped at St Pancras station in London heading to Switzerland + other outbreaks in the Alps involving UK citizens occur.

Some anti-British feelings rise as the UK variant spreads into the alpine nations.

A highly infectious strain that originated in the UK, has now spread to 50 countries, according to the World Health Organisation.

It has had an impact in the Alps and some Britons are beginning to be questioned for spreading the disease – accidentally or otherwise.

  • One UK man in Wengen in Switzerland was the originator of 27 cases in the resort and the outbreak of Covid-19 has caused the Lauberhorn World Cup racing to be cancelled.
  • In the resort of Jochberg in Austria an outbreak has occurred on a ski instructor course and the British appear to have been the main cause.
  • A group of UK skiers was prevented from boarding the Eurostar on Wednesday as they tried to head to Switzerland for skiing.

The BBC’s Imogen Foulkes says the relationship between Switzerland and British winter tourists has recently “frosted over to some extent”.

Here at PlanetSKI we are hearing of British people in the Alps being targeted for comment by locals with some even afraid to speak English.

See here for more:

‘WHO’ Warns of Spread of Coronavirus with British Getting Some Blame Out in the Alps

Thursday 14th January

Cross Country Skiing Takes Off In France

More and more skiers are clipping into long, skinny skis to get their snow fix as coronavirus restrictions continue.

PlanetSKI has been talking to a British Nordic skiing instructor in the French Alps about the surge in demand for cross country lessons as the lifts remain closed.

Guy Beaumont is one of only three British ‘Ski de Fond’ instructors qualified and fully licensed to work in France.

He operates in the Giffre Valley between the Grand Massif and the Portes du Soleil in the Haute Savoie region.

See here for more:

Guy Beaumont

France Imposes 6pm Curfew

France has just imposed a 6pm virus curfew that will affect all areas including the Alps and the Pyrenees.

The Prime Minister, Jean Castex, said that the curfew will remain in place for at least 15-days.

Most of France was subject to an 8pm curfew imposed in mid-December.

From Monday, travellers arriving in France from non-European Union destinations will have to present a negative Covid test less than 72 hours old, the PM also announced.

Those returning must self-isolate for seven days.

Ski lifts remain closed in resorts with a further announcement expected on 20th January.

Research Suggest 5-month Protection For Those Who Have Had Covid-19

Many skiers and snowboarders are thought to have contracted the virus last season ahead of resorts closing in the middle of March.

Any form of protection from catching it a second time has long since gone according to new research.

The research, carried out by Public Health England, says past infection gives individuals 83% immunity and it last for around 5 months.

Prof Susan Hopkins, who led the study, says the results are encouraging but protection was by no means absolute.

Some people do catch Covid-19 again – and can infect others.

Covid-19 UK Arrival Test Delayed until Monday

New rules requiring international travellers to take a pre-departure Covid test before arriving in England will be delayed until 4.00AM on Monday 18th January.

The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, said delay will give passengers more time to prepare.

“To give international arrivals more times to prepare, passengers will be required to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test before departure to England from Monday 18 January at 4am,” he said on Twitter.

“Passengers must remember to complete a Passenger Locator Form before arriving back into England. Anyone without proof of a negative test face fines of £500.”

Travellers can take a PCR, LAMP or antigen test.

Read more here:

Border controls

Border controls

Austria Set to Introduce Stricter Border Regulations

On Friday, January 15th, Austria is introducing mandatory online registration for people who enter the country.

Registration data include names, contact details and exact location before entering Austria.

The registered person must also fill in the address at which he/she will reside in Austria and, if possible, the duration of stay.

The 10-day quarantine remains in effect.

Those arriving from countries with low incidence of coronavirus are not quarantined, but they are also must register online.

People who enter Austria every day to work, transit passengers and arrivals for imperative family reasons are exempt from registration and quarantine.

Wednesday 13th January

Ski Group Trying to Head to Switzerland Stopped at St Pancras Station

The group was trying to board the Eurostar, but French border police prevented the people in the group from travelling.

UK citizens are not allowed into France, or indeed most of Europe, except for ‘essential reasons’.

Many countries in Europe have banned travel from the UK due to Covid-19 rules and Brexit co-inciding.

The UK is neither in the EU or Schengen, which means the UK is classed as a so-called ‘third nation’.

Only citizens from ‘third nation’ countries with low levels of Covid-19, such as New Zealand and Australia, are allowed to enter.

The group was also breaking UK restrictions as international travel is banned except for essential reasons.

The incident was revealed by the train manager ‘Justin’ who gave details in a tweet.

Justin went on to say that a ski trip “does not count as essential travel” and there are “very limited reasons for travel to France”.

He added: “I really fancy a trip with my family to eat chips in Brussels but there’s a global pandemic on right now.

“If we all do our bit and are patient for this final push, then hopefully we can get back to doing all of those things we love.”

At present only certain groups of people are allowed into France from the UK and they must present a negative Covid-19 test at the border:

  • French or European citizens.
  • Those who live in France or another EU country.
  • Essential workers.

Second-home owners, tourists, people going skiing/snowboarding and those visiting family are barred.

World Snow Day To Go Ahead

The 10th edition of World Snow Day is to take place on 17th January, the International Ski Federation has announced.

But like many major events it will have a different look and feel due to the impact of Covid-19.

“We are pleased to have so many organisers and fans who were dedicated to hosting events this year despite the challenges,” said Bring Children to the Snow Coordinator Andrew Cholinski.

“We have many who said World Snow Day has become a source of happiness and hope. As such, we released a series of Covid-19 guidelines and decided to go ahead”,

World Snow Day. Image c/o FIS.

In the past decade World Snow Day has averaged 485 events and actions per edition with an average participation rate of 958 persons per event.This year only 110 events and actions are set to take place.

Some will be virtual celebrations with posts on social media.

Countries that are allowing outdoor activities will offer discounted lift passes for children, discounted private ski and snowboard lessons, free entry to outdoors facilities such as cross-country trails, discounted food and drink and miniature fun family ski and snowboard competitions.

US Resort Suspends Twilight Skiing as People Continue to Flout Covid-19 Rules

Schweitzer Mountain Resort in Idaho will not offer evening skiing and snowboarding this weekend.

“Due to an overwhelming lack of compliance with our mask policies and social distancing in the rental shop, day lodge, and lift lines during twilight skiing, I have made the decision that we will not be offering twilight skiing,” said the resort CEO, Tom Chasse, in a blunt message to locals.

“I will not continue to tolerate the verbal abuse that has been directed towards our staff as they have attempted to enforce our safety requirements.

“We need everyone to do their part so we can slow the spread and continue to shred.

“Be kind. Be compassionate. Have patience.”

Earlier we reported the end of night skiing around Quebec in Canada as a curfew has come into force.

Ski resorts affected as Canadian province of Quebec goes into stricter lockdown

Schweitzer is a fabulous resort and one PlanetSKI visited in 2018 as part of a road trip round the little-known resorts in Idaho.

Check out the resort and the joys of ski road trips.

Back on the road: McCall to Sandpoint

And yes, we went night skiing.

Schweitzer Mountain Resort, Idaho

Schweitzer Mountain Resort, Idaho. Image c/o PlanetSKI.

French Worries if Ski Lifts Remain Closed All Season

The Reuters News Agency has been reporting from Chamonix in France.

“If we have to close to the end of season, that’s going to cost us several billion euros,” said Mathieu Dechavanne, Chairman and CEO of Compagnie du Mont-Blanc, to Reuters.

“The economic impact will be catastrophic.”

The closure over Xmas and New Year led to an 80% drop in the economic activity of ski resorts in France compared to the previous year.

Some resorts are described as ‘ghost towns’ with barely a soul around.

Winter tourism is vital to the mountain economies.

The French government had planned to open lifts on January 7th but that was cancelled.

Ski resorts in France ordered to keep lifts shut

Now a decision is expected by January 20th with some hoping the lifts may turn in early February.

The news agency reports that rental shops and restaurants have seen takings slashed.

The Le Serac restaurant is shut, except for takeout orders, and owner Francois Montorcier said he was taking just 10% of normal revenues.

“It’s a catastrophe,” he said. “We don’t see things getting better.”

With the lifts closed people have been hiking up in the Chamonix Valley.

Tuesday 12th January

Sweden Tops 500,000 Coronavirus Cases

Hospitals are struggling to cope with a surging second wave of the virus.

More people are being treated for coronavirus at hospitals in Sweden now than at any other time during the pandemic.

“It’s quite obvious that the healthcare system is as strained now (as during the spring),” said the Chief Epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell.

“We are near the limit for what the healthcare system can handle.”

Sweden, which has never imposed a full lockdown, has seen more than 500,000 cases and 9,667 deaths out of a population of 10m.

Its Scandinavian neighbours of Norway and Finland have populations of 5m each.

They imposed strict lockdowns early on and have seen 478 and 597 deaths respectively.

Ski resorts in Sweden continue to remain open though travel is advised against in some areas.

Support for the government’s approach is falling.

In December 47% of Swedes said they had relatively high or high confidence in the strategies.

In November it was 52%.

Germans Warned of Tough Measures into Spring if Covid-19 Cases Continue

The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has warned of another 8-10 weeks of “tough measures” to defeat Covid-19, according to Bild newspaper.

It says she’s told officials that if the British variant of Covid-19 isn’t kept at bay, there’ll be a 10-fold increase in German cases by Easter.

Germany has reported another 891 deaths in the past 24 hours – and another 12,800 cases.

Many ski resorts in the country remain closed and last week police were out in force at the Winterberg resort near Duesseldorf.

Police say there were 176 violations issued for not wearing masks, 94 violations of social distancing restrictions and two criminal charges.

Covid-19 Testing for International Travellers from Friday

Mandatory Covid testing will be introduced for everyone arriving in England from 4am on Friday 15th January.

People will need a negative Covid-19 test taken no more than three days before departure.

The majority of ski resorts in Europe remain closed or open for locals.

Many countries in Europe have banned travel from the UK due to Covid-19 rules and Brexit which means the UK is classes as a ‘third nation’.

That means travellers from third nation countries are only allowed if they come from countries with ow levels of Covid-19, such as New Zealand or Australia.

The measure is being introduced due to increasing instances of Covid-19 around the world, including the emergence of new variants.

Anyone arriving in England from a country not on the travel corridor list will also have to self-isolate for up to 10 days, even if they have proof of a negative Covid test.

People are able to end their quarantine early if they have a second negative Covid-19 test taken after five days of quarantine.

Read more here:

Border controls

Border controls

EHIC Replaced by GHIC but Four Ski Nations Are Not Included

They are just letters but quite important ones for us skiers and snowboarders and those that like to travel in Europe.

Travel is off the cards at the moment due to Covid-19, but when it comes back coronavirus will still be around.

With restrictions likely in place.

UK residents can now apply for a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) to access emergency medical care in the EU when their current EHIC card runs out.

Under a new agreement with the EU, both cards will offer equivalent healthcare protection when people are on holiday, studying or travelling for business.

This includes emergency treatment as well as treatment needed for a pre-existing condition.

“Our deal with the EU ensures the right for our citizens to access necessary healthcare on their holidays and travels to countries in the EU will continue,” said the Health Minister, Edward Argar.

“The GHIC is a key element of the UK’s future relationship with the EU and will provide certainty and security for all UK residents.”

There is though, a significant change.

It won’t include Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland.

The EHIC did offer coverage for these four countries until January 1, but this entitlement no longer applies.

We understand talks are ongoing with Norway to establish reciprocal care.

Monday 11th January

Lauberhorn World Cup Race Called Off

One of the most anticipated World Cup alpine racing meetings of the ski season – due to take place this weekend – has been called off.

With just days to go, the Swiss canton of Bern decided to prohibit racing following a new analysis of the current Covid-19 situation in Wengen.

The Swiss Ski Federation announced the news on its website this afternoon.

“The decision hurts enormously – all the more because the organising committee has done excellent preparatory work,” says Bernhard Aregger, CEO of Swiss-Ski.

“The cancellation of one of the most prestigious race weekends in the World Cup calendar makes the heart of every ski fan bleed. Nevertheless, it is our job to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Even with difficult decisions like this, health is in the foreground.”

The men’s downhill on the Lauberhorn is one of the classics in the calendar.

The racing is being moved to Kitzbühel in Austria.

Read the details in our separate article:

Two Snowboarders in UK Fined for Covid-19 Travel Breach

The two were travelling from the West Midlands to Shropshire looking for somewhere to give their boards a run after the recent snow.

The police stopped them in Shrewsbury to check their movements and issued the fixed penalty notices.

Police said the pair, who had travelled from the West Midlands, were searching for a suitable location to snowboard.

Officers stopped the duo before issuing them with a fine for breaching lockdown restrictions for non-essential travel.

Following the incident, a statement from the Local Policing Priority Team North, part of West Mercia Police, said: “Two males have been issued Covid fines this morning having been stopped passing through Shrewsbury.

“They had travelled from the West Midlands to find somewhere to snowboard.”

The cost of a first offence is £200 – which is lowered to £100 if paid within 14 days – and £400 for a second offence.

The fine is doubled for each further offence up to a maximum of £6,400.

Sharp Drop in Passenger Numbers at Heathrow

They fell by almost three-quarters in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, the airport says.

22.1 million people used the airport last year – down 58.8 million on the previous 12 months.

The Heathrow chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, is calling for business rates to be waived for the industry, saying aviation was the “cornerstone of the UK economy but is fighting for survival”.

Ski Sunday: It Skis for All of Us and Still Surprises

It’s back on TV & for most of us it is likely to be the closest we get to skiing anytime soon with Covid-19 surging.

Our editor, James Cove, can’t remember the last time he saw the programme recently as he’s always out in the Alps away from TVs.

He did though see its very first episode back in 1978.

So, what did he make of it?:

The iconic theme tune sounded so familiar and brought back so many memories.

Thoughts of David Vine, the Bell brothers, Zurbriggen, Maier, Miller, sketchy camera angles, skiers out of focus, bright colours, arms flailing, looking at the scenery to see what the snow conditions out in the Alps were like and much else besides came flooding back.

Above all Ski Sunday was, is and always should be about passion.

Passion for skiing – to reflect and inspire.

I grew up with Ski Sunday as a backdrop.

My Mum and Dad were keen skiers and it was a must on our TV.

Back in the day on the Sabbath, some watched ‘Songs of Praise’ with Harry Secombe.

The Cove household watched ‘Ski Sunday’ with David Vine.

It was our religion.

On Saturday as a 9-year old I hid behind the sofa for Dr Who as he battled with the Daleks and the Cybermen – the next day I sat on the front, on the edge, enthralled by the skiers.

I was sitting on the sofa with my Mum and Dad in 1978 as the first credits rolled.

I have no recollection of it but my Mum, now 93-years old, says I was there and I always believe my Mum.

See here for more…

 

CoronavirusHere are our earlier rolling coronavirus blogs if you want to look back at all the relevant developments over the past months as we have 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:

January 4th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

December 28th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

December 21st: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

December 14th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

December 6th : Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

November 30th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

November 23rd: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

November 16th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

November 9th: Cornoavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

November 2nd: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

October 26th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

October 18th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

October 11th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

October 4th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

September 27th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

September 20th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

September 13th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

September 6th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

August 30th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

August 23rd: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

August 16th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

August 9th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

August 2nd: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

July 26th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

July 19th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

July 12th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

July 5th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

June 28th: Coroanvirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

June 21st: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

June 14th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

June 7th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

May 31st: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

May 24th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

May 17th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

May 10th: Coronavirus impact on snowsports

May 3rd: The coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

April 26th: Covid-19 impact on skiing & snowboarding continues

April 18th: Coronavirus impact on skiiing and snowboarding continues

April 12th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

April 5th: Coronavirus impact on snowsports

March 29th: Our rolling blog on the impact of Covid-19 continues

March 23rd: PlanetSKI’s rolling blog on the coronavirus impact on skiing continues

 

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