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Skiing in Norway: A Covid-19 Success Story

One of the European countries that has battled Covid-19 well is Norway. Cases & deaths are low with skiing open for its own residents this winter. Conditions have so far been good. New restrictions have forced the cancellation of all remaining World Cup competitions.

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Unlike most of Europe, Norway has had a relatively ‘normal’ 2020-21 ski season.

Yes, there are the usual social distancing rules to be followed – for example on lifts and online booking for lift passes to keep numbers in check.

Those of us outside the country can’t travel in to ski so overseas skiers are absent, but the lucky locals have been able to get on the slopes.

And with “vinterferie” – the winter break holidays – approaching, more Norwegians are set to head to the hills.

Norway has a population of 5.3 million and the lowest coronavirus death rate per capita of any European country.

According to Johns Hopkins University, the authoritative source on Covid-19 figures globally, Norway had recorded 592 deaths and 66,501 cases to Monday 15th February.

That’s a sharp contrast to the neighbouring ski nation of Sweden with 12,428 deaths and 608,411 cases among its population of just over 10 million.

The Norwegian economy has done well in comparison to other European nations.

Its economy contracted 2.5% in 2020.

The UK saw a 9.9% fall in GDP in 2020, while the Eurozone has seen an average reduction of 6.8%.

Some commentators see Norway as a role model in how the pandemic has been fought.

So, what has this winter been like with open ski areas and common sense Covid-19 restrictions in place that are generally obeyed?

Who better to turn to than our good friend and regular PlanetSKI reader, Scott Hammond.

He is a ski instructor living year-round in the resort of Hafjell and works for the local ski school.

He is British, but pretty much Norwegian by now and prefers their style of skiing – telemark.

Scott in action. Image c/o Sam Davies

Scott in action. Image c/o Sam Davies, Hafjell Ski School

Scott in action. Image c/o Sam Davies, Hafjell Ski School

Scott in action. Image c/o Sam Davies, Hafjell Ski School

“The skiing in Hafjell and my nearby resort of Kvitfjell this winter is exceptional.

“We had lots of snow early on in December and it has now been around -20 Celsius for five weeks.

“Though there has been no snow since just after New Year, the cold temps and dry air we get up here along with sunshine and blue skies have kept the slopes in amazing condition.

“Perfect hard, grippy Scandinavian snow.

“I go as far to say, you cannot get it better than what we have here right now.

“Hafjell and Kvitfjell are doing an epic job of prepping the slopes every evening as the groomers go out.

“Sadly for what is an epic on piste winter, which Hafjell and Kvifjell are known for, very few people are getting to enjoy it due to the current coronavirus situation.

“The borders to Denmark and Sweden are shut and this is our bread and butter, so mid-week we are skiing on slopes that are empty and when I say empty, I mean totally empty.

Alone.

Hafjell, Norway

Hafjell, Norway. Image © Scott Hammond.

“Maybe 120 people is a busy day.

“This is of course great for us local skiers but bad for business. We hope this will change soon so we can enjoy a normal winter.

“Fridays it starts to pick up and weekends it is busy as normal with Norwegians.

“The Covid measures (lift access and services) that the resort has put into place have worked fantastically well.

“Each restaurant has a QR code for entering and ordering online so as little close contact is made as possible. This is working extremely well on all sides.”

“The lift staff have been out all day and everyday making sure that people follow the rules and, for the most part, except for one or two over eager people, it has gone off without missing a beat.”

Hafjell, Norway

Hafjell, Norway. Image © Scott Hammond.

Norway reports that, though foreigners are not allowed in, bookings for next winter are surging.

“Bookings from our key operators across Europe are looking extremely positive from next winter, with some operators reporting 100% + up on sales figures from last Winter prior to COVID,” said the CEO of Norway-Home of Skiing, Trevor de Villiers, to PlanetSKI.

“This is very encouraging early signs that Norway will attract lots of travellers, especially from the UK which is a key international market for the Norwegian ski resorts.

“With the hugely positive roll-out of vaccines by the UK government, it seems that the UK will indeed be a leading source of tourism to the Norwegian mountains next winter and I believe people are looking for destinations with lots of uncrowded space which Norway is synonymous with.”

Skiing in Norway

Trevor de Villiers

Message from Norway Home of Skiing

Message from Norway Home of Skiing

People in Norway are not being prevented from going on a ski holiday at the moment, whether to their cabin or a hotel, with internal travel in Norway generally allowed.

International travel is not advised.

Many countries do not have restrictions on people coming from Norway due to its low rates of Covid-19, but Norway does not want its citizens to go abroad.

“It would be a violation of our travel recommendations to go abroad during the holiday period,” said the Minister of Health, Bent Høie.

“The risk is too high. Both in regards to catching the virus, but also due to changing restrictions in countries you are visiting and your chances of being able to return.”

Norway is currently advising against international travel until April 15th.

The government has also emphasised that people who do decide to go on holiday in Norway should take extra precautions, maintain social distancing and avoid public transport.

People are also advised to do their food shopping where they live before heading to the ski slopes.

The government has issued a list of recommendations for those going skiing over the current and approaching holiday period.

·       Stay home if you suspect you may be ill. Get tested as soon as possible if you suspect you may have been infected with coronavirus.

·       Be prepared to change your plans in case of local outbreaks, either near your home or in the area you are planning on visiting.

·       Avoid public transport.

·       Be prepared that you may have to quarantine if a coronavirus outbreak happens at the hotel you are staying at. Maintain social distance to other guests and adhere to the hotel’s measures and restrictions.

·       If the measures in your home municipality are stricter than in the municipality you are visiting, you should adhere to the measures of your home municipality.

·       Minimise social contact.

·       Do not receive more than five guests in your home or cabin. Try to socialise outdoors. Minimise the number of guests that spend the night.

·       Do your grocery shopping in your home municipality before departure.

·       Avoid crowded places where maintaining social distancing is difficult.

·       Try to choose outdoors activities if possible.

·       Wash your hands often.

The Norwegian government and health officials have been praised for quick decision-making – opening and closing up sections of the economy as needed to stop a rise in infections.

On 11th February the national government imposed new rules on travel and events which led the International Ski Federation to pull all remaining World Cup competitions due to be held in Norway.

They are:

  • Cross Country World Cup Finals 12th to 14th March, Oslo
  • Raw Air Ski Jumping Tournament 12th to 21st March in Lillehammer, Trondheim and Vikersund
  • Nordic Combined World Cup 11th to 14th March, Oslo
  • Alpine Men’s World Cup 4th to 7th March, Kvitfjell

The men’s downhill and Super G which were due to take place at Kvitfjell, have since been moved to Saalbach-Hinterglemm in Austria on the same dates.

The Norwegian Ski Federation had asked for a exemption from the new restrictions for sports but the request was rejected.

Norway’s Minister of Culture Abid Raja told the online newspaper Nettavisen that the country was in a “demanding situation” due to the emergence of mutated variants of the virus.

“We understand this will mean that the events will have to moved to another location or cancelled,” said Raja.

“This is terribly sad for all athletes, for the organisers and for the Norwegian audience.”

In December, the Norwegian Cross Country team withdrew from World Cup cross country races because of the pandemic.

As well as a low rate of Covid-19 and small death toll, the Norwegian economy has done well in comparison to other European nations.

Its economy contracted 2.5% in 2020, an historic setback, but limited compared to many other nations.

It even saw growth in its gross domestic product (GDP) of 1.9% in the fourth quarter, according to Statistics Norway.

The UK saw a 9.9% fall in GDP in 2020, while the Eurozone has seen an average reduction of 6.8%.

“Preliminary accounts show that the downturn in 2020 was somewhat lower than we feared when restrictions were at their peak in March and April,” said the head of National Accounts at Statistics Norway, Pål Sletten.

The figures are better than those anticipated by the Norwegian government and the Bank of Norway.

Norway’s position is put down to a number reasons:

  • Remote geographical location
  • Low population density
  • Tough and early lockdown
  • Compliance with protective measures

Regular readers will know we are huge fans of skiing in Norway and look forward to skiing in the country again as soon as conditions allow.

The beer is silly expensive and the slopes nowhere near as steep as the Alps – but we love its other attractions.

We had planned to base ourselves in Norway for a month or two this winter.

We look forward to doing so when it is practical.

PlanetSKI in Norway 2018

PlanetSKI in Norway 2018

We have visited many times and if you want to find out more about the country and read some of our past exploits in Norway then take a look at this past PlanetSKI story: 7 Reasons Why Should Ski in Norway.

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