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How Will Easing of Lockdown Measures in England Affect the World of Snowsports?

Skiers will be looking at whether it might possible to make some end of season turns or visit the mountains this summer for glacier skiing. Plus, what will be happening to the indoor snowcentres & the outdoor artificial slopes? Might skiing in Scotland be possible in the Spring?

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First the situation in the UK.

Outdoor sport will be allowed in England from 29th March and it is hoped this will mean the outdoor artificial slopes will open.

There has been no word from the slopes so far, but in theory they could re-open albeit with restrictions and social distancing in place.

The indoor centres will not be allowed to open.

With gyms and swimming pools being allowed to open on April 12th if conditions allow, the expectation is that the indoor ski centres will open their slopes on that date.

The Snow Cente in Hemel Hempstead has said it is aiming for April 12th.

“Further to our Prime Minister outlining his road map to lift the current restrictions in place it would seem we may be able to open on Monday 12th April and we are making plans to do so,” said the managing director, Ian Brown.

“As we did previously, we will view and follow the necessary guidelines with team and guest safety and our guest experience as our main priorities.

“We understand confirmation on this date is likely to be announced a week before, however we will be ready for this and hopefully we can open then as planned.

“We will be providing a similar range of activities as were back in December – Lift Passes, Family & Friends Private Lessons, Freestyle Park & Slide nights, and Junior Group Lessons from the age of 4. We hope to be able to add Adult Group Lessons from 17th May depending on the guidelines at that time.

“With our Prime Minister announcing further dates for lifting restrictions moving into summer, I am optimistic that The Snow Centre will gradually move back to more “normal” operations and we all look forward to welcoming you all back.”

The Snow Centre

The Snow Centre. Image c/o The Snow Centre.

We will be checking with the other slopes  shortly here on PlanetSKI as they make their decisions, and will be updating you as soon as we hear.

Snowsport England has welcomed the developments.

“After the PM’s address to the members of parliament we are excited to see the return of our sport,” it said in a statement.

” We see that outdoor activity can start on the 29th of March 2021 and indoor activity no earlier than the 12th of April 2021.

“However, we still do not have the actual detail to what this will look like in terms of restrictions on activity or travel.

“We will be releasing updated guidance when we have confirmation on what can happen.”

One option may be skiing in Scotland in the Spring, but that would require the easing of travel restrictions for those within Scotland.

People in Scotland have already been advised by the Scottish government not to book an Easter holiday.

For people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland border restrictions in Scotland would need to be eased to allow entry.

Currently all five Scottish resorts are closed.

The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has said there will be a tier system with different rules for different areas.

Like Mr Johnson, she has said the decisions will be driven by data, rather than dates.

She wants the country’s gradual emergence from lockdown to be “phased and sustainable”, with at least three weeks between each phase.

The first minister says the priority for now remains supressing the virus and that requires sticking to the current lockdown rules.

That of course means staying at home except for essential purposes.

The Westminster government has laid out a 4- step plan for England on its roadmap back towards normality.

Each step will be examined after a 4-week period and then there will be a further week of analysis.

The third step comes on 17th May when foreign holidays could resume and that may mean access to the mountains of Europe.

At the moment though there are more questions, than answers.

Airlines say they’ve seen a surge in bookings following the Prime Minister’s announcement.

“It is critical we start looking at a way to restart travel and we are pleased the government has acknowledged that,” said the CEO of British Airways, Sean Doyle.

“We support a data-led approach that protects public health. We want to work with the government’s taskforce on a roadmap now to ensure that aviation is in a strong position to support the UK as we emerge from the pandemic.”

The holiday giant Tui, that owns the UK’s largest ski operator Crystal Ski Holidays, reported that it had its best day of bookings in over a month on Monday.

Given what the situation was like four weeks ago that is perhaps hardly surprising.

A successor to the Global Travel Taskforce will report to the government by 12th April so that people can ‘plan for summer’, but foreign holidays will resume no earlier than 17 May.

The Association of British Travel Agents has said it is pleased to see the government is engaging with industry on a specific roadmap for travel.

It has repeated calls for tailored financial support.

“Even with the prospect of travel resuming, we renew our call to the Chancellor to use his Budget next week to provide tailored financial support to travel agents and tour operators, recognising the pressing need that travel companies have for financial assistance if they are to come through the weeks ahead,” said its CEO, Mark Tanzer.

Even though UK citizens may be allowed abroad from May 17th the winter will be long over for the vast majority of ski resorts – though year-round ski resorts like Zermatt in Switzerland and Hintertux in the Tirol in Austria should be open.

A handful of others may open if conditions allow and there is demand.

Some ski resorts in northern Scandinavia will likely still be open too.

But there is one big question for the second half of May and visiting the Alps, the Pyrenees, Scandinavia over the summer months – will those countries even allow in people from the UK?

The UK has left the EU so its citizens have no automatic right to enter the EU or Schengen countries.

The UK is currently classified as a ‘third nation’ country by Brussels and only people from those countries with very small levels of coronavirus, such as Australia and New Zealand, are allowed in.

The UK is a long way off the low level of cases required and will likely not be at the required level in three months.

Individual countries can set their own rules on who they allow in and do not have to stick to the general ‘third nation’ status decided by the EU.

There could also be strict border controls and quarantine measures.

Negative tests will likely be required and then there is the issues of vaccine passports.

Switzerland’s president, Guy Parmelin, says that a certificate of vaccination against Covid-19 could soon be mandatory on international flights.

The fourth step in England, when all restrictions are set to be lifted, is June 21st.

Some observers believe a total lifting of restrictions and rules to be somewhat fanciful as all the scientific evidence indicates coronavirus will be around for years to come.

It was interesting there was little mention of social distancing, mask wearing or other limiting measures.

The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock,  says it is “too early to say” how long social distancing measures will need to be in place.

He said he wants it to become “social norms” rather than through legislation that people would, for example, chose to wear face masks if they were travelling on public transport.

Much therefore remains unclear, but there is now a plan for travel to resume and the indoor/outdoor slopes to reopen.

Here at PlanetSKI we will be keeping a close eye on the situation and hoping for some summer skiing in the glacier resorts of the Alps.

We have been skiing many times in the summer and hope to be doing so again this year.

Four conditions need to be met at each stage of easing the restrictions.

  • The coronavirus vaccine programme continues to go to plan.
  • Vaccines are sufficiently reducing the number of people dying with the virus or needinghospital treatment.
  • Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospital admissions.
  • New coronavirus variants do not fundamentally change the risk of lifting restrictions.

For a full review of the 4-step approach by England here is a summary from the BBC:

STEP ONE

·       From 8 March – All schools will open with outdoor after-school sports and activities allowed. Recreation in an outdoor public spaces – such as a park – will be allowed between two people, meaning they would be allowed to sit down for a coffee, drink or picnic.

·       From 29 March – Outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed. It is understood this will include gatherings in private gardens. Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis or basketball courts will reopen and organised adult and children’s sport, such as grassroots football, will also return

Secondary school pupils can access tests and will be required to wear face coverings in classrooms and shared spaces like corridors.

STEP TWO – from 12 April

·       Non-essential retail opens, hairdressers and some public buildings like libraries

·       Outdoor settings like alcohol takeaways, beer gardens, zoos and theme parks

·       Indoor leisure like swimming pools and gyms

·       Self-contained holiday accommodation, such as self-catering lets and camp sites

·       Wider social contact rules will continue to apply in all settings – meaning no indoor mixing between different households will be allowed.

·       Johnson confirmed the end of hospitality curfews – and requirements to eat a substantial meal alongside alcohol.

·       He said a review of international leisure travel restrictions would be announced by 12 April at the earliest.

·       Funerals continue with up to 30 people, and weddings with up to 15 guests.

STEP THREE – from 17 May

If the data allows, this step will see the “rule of six” abolished for outdoor gatherings, replaced with a limit of 30 people:

·       Two households can mix indoors – with the rule of six applied in hospitality settings like pubs

·       Cinemas, museums, hotels, performances and sporting events reopen – though social distancing remains

·       Up to 10,000 spectatorscan attend the very largest outdoor seated venueslike football stadiums

·       Up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings, receptions, funerals and wakes.

·       Mr Johnson said this step would also “consider the potential role of Covid status certification” – which could refer to so-called “vaccine passports” – in helping indoor venues to reopen safely.

STEP FOUR – from 21 June

·       Before this step, ministers will carry out a review of social distancing and other “long-term measures” designed to reduce transmission, including the “one metre plus” rule and the wearing of face coverings.

·       They will also consider whether to lift the “work from home” guidance, which the government says people should continue to follow until the review has been completed.

·       The fourth step will potentially see all legal limits on social contact removed, with the final closed sectors of the economy reopened – such as nightclubs.

·       The government hopes that – from this date – restrictions on weddings and funerals will also be abolished.

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