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Austria Goes into Lockdown but Skiing Can Continue

Two more resorts have re-opened as others consider their position. Skiing has been classed as a ‘recreation outdoor’ activity but many resorts have chosen to remain closed. They are planning to open on December 13th after lockdown is lifted. UPDATED

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The Molltaler glacier is the latest ski area to re-open.

Skiers and snowboarders need a Health Pass plus an FFP2 mask to access the slopes.

“Don’t forget, the lifts are open for you daily from now on,” said the resort in a post.

A daily ticket costs €29 and can only be purchased online.

The glacier resort of Kitzsteinhorn above Kaprun in Salzburg has also reopened.

Salzburg has one of the highest rates of Covid-19 in Austria.

They join Stubai that is open to all and Kitzbuhel that has opened some slopes for training  purposes only.

The lockdown came into force on Monday and is Austria’s fourth national lockdown.

“The news of the lockdown in Austria is of course concerning, being so close to the start of the winter ski season, but we remain optimistic about the winter ahead,” says Joe Ponte, CEO Hotelplan UK, the parent company of Inghams.

“We’ve planned for countless eventualities and are arguably better prepared than ever before

“In the meantime, our customers can remain assured that we are continuing to closely monitor the situation and when it is safe to do so, we will be ready to deliver the ski holidays people want.”

Ski resorts assumed they would have to close or delay any planned openings.

The Austria Chancellor,  Alexander Schallenberg, said the lockdown would be for 20 days.

This would take it to December 13th and give time for the majority of ski resorts to open under more normal conditions ahead of Xmas.

One change from the draft proposals is that skiing remains possible, though people will need proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19 to use the lifts and slopes.

An FFP2 mask is required in cable cars and gondolas.

Skiing has been defined as “outdoor recreation” which is allowed under the current lockdown rules.

FFP2 mask on the ski slopes of Austria

FFP2 mask on the ski slopes of Austria.

After thinking they would have to close the slopes, the resorts can now offer some skiing and snowboarding.

Most are choosing to remain shut and are currently waiting, consulting and deciding whether to open or not.

Stubai in the Tirol in another resort that is now open.

It is ‘with limited operations under the legal requirements’.

“We will be open from tomorrow!” it said in a statement on Monday.

“After a short break, we are back for you with limited ski operation from 23.11.2021! This is literally our hearts open.”

Much of the ski resort’s services in terms of restaurants and bars will be closed.

Currently hotels are closed to tourists though anyone already on a holiday is allowed to complete their stay.

No other glacier resort in the Tirol is set to open.

Training groups, such as racers and instructors, will be able to ski in a part of the Kitzbühel ski area.

The glacier resort of Kauntertal in the Tirol remains closed.

“Thank you for this amazing fall with you all,” it said.

“We were allowed to experience and enjoy countless unforgettable glacier moments with you together.

“We are already looking forward to seeing you again in mid-December,” said the resort in a post on social media.

Hintertux. Image c/o Tirol Tourust Board.

Hintertux. Image c/o Tirol Tourist Board.

“The lockdown is a very hard blow to the industry and means a postponement of the winter start,” said a statement from the Tirol Tourist Board.

“Tirol’s tourism hosts have prepared themselves comprehensively for the upcoming winter season.

“Due to the very good summer season and the positive demand for the winter, we are still optimistic that the season will start after the lockdown.

“The safety and health of locals, guests and employees are our top priority and if these restrictions are necessary to ensure health care, then we will of course support these measures.

“As the end of the lockdown for vaccinated and convalescents is set for December 12th, we remain confident that a winter season can take place.”

Tirol, Austria

Image c/o The Tirol

It remains the hope of the whole ski industry in Austria that the national lockdown will stem the rise in cases allowing the season to go ahead.

The next few weeks will be crucial for the whole of the coming winter and it is too early to tell how things may develop – some believe the short, sharp shock will work.

Others fear for the season ahead.

“A lockdown, a relatively tough method, a sledgehammer, is the only option to reduce the numbers [of infections] here,” the health minister, Wolfgang Mueckstein, said in an interview on ORF TV on Sunday night.

He said that the government had to “react now”.

The overall rate of cases per 100,000 of population over a 7-day period has risen to 1,050 according to the Austrian Agency for Health, Food and Safety.

It is one of the highest rates in Europe.

The lockdown in Austria means people are only to leave home for essential reasons such as medical appointments, shopping and exercise.

People need to work from home.

Restaurants, bars, hotels and non-essential shops have to close.

We reported on the lockdown as it was announced with the full details of cases, vaccination rates and reaction:

We have also looked at the immediate effect on the ski resorts:

Austria. Image © PlanetSKI

Austria. Image © PlanetSKI

On Monday the lockdown came into force.

Some ski resorts have already been open this season, but they closed.

Those that had been open include Hintertux, Stubai, Pitztal, Kaunertal, Moltal, Kitzbuhel, Kitzsteinhorn and Schladming.

“The current situation is very challenging and uncertain for everyone,” said a statement from Pitztal on Sunday.

“Due to the still very high infection rates, the Austrian federal government has decided that all ski areas and shelters must temporarily close from tomorrow, Monday (22 NOV 2021).”

“We remain optimistic, have a positive look into the future and hope that we can welcome you in person again at Pitztaler Gletscher very soon.

“We are expected to open again for you on 13 December 2021.”

Pitztal glacier. Image © PlanetSKI

Pitztal glacier. Image © PlanetSKI

Resorts such as Ischgl were due to open at the end of the month.

“The Austrian federal government has decided a new nationwide lockdown, which means that our Idalp will have to wait a longer time for enthusiastic winter athletes,” said Ischgl.

“The 2-G regulation is supposed to come into force again and thus allow the vaccinated and recovered to have a vacation.

“We currently don’t know when exactly this will happen.

“Of course, we will keep you updated with the news in the coming days and ask you for a little patience until then, as we do not know all the details yet.”

St Anton was due to open in a few weeks and that has currently been delayed.

“In light of the current infection situation and the resulting overload of intensive care stations, the Austrian federal government will again order a nationwide lockdown from Monday, 22.11.2021, to mark the fourth wave of Covid-19 in Austria to break.

“The measure should be in all areas for the entire population by 12 at the latest. December is valid.

“Of course, the entire holiday region of St. Anton am Arlberg and the Arlberg mountain trails will open the winter season as soon as circumstances allow.”

St Anton has posted answers to some Frequently Asked Questions.

The number of people in hospital in Austria with Covid-9 currently stands at 2,871 – a daily rise of 84.

520 patients are in intensive care.

The government has also announced that it will be mandatory to be vaccinated from February.

There were protests following the announcement including one in Innsbruck, the capital of the Tirol.

Tens of thousands of people were out on the streets in Austria’s capital, Vienna.

Some waved national flags and banners saying “Freedom”.

Some demonstrators shouted “Resistance” and booed the police.

Chancellor Schallenberg said the Covid anti-vaccine campaigners who are spreading misinformation are to blame for the country’s record Covid cases.

“Whipped up by radical anti-vaxxers, by fake news, too many among us didn’t get vaccinated,” he said.

“The results are overcrowded intensive care units and enormous suffering.”

“Increasing the vaccination rate durably is the only way of getting out of this vicious circle,” he added.

He described vaccination as the “exit ticket” from the pandemic.

It is expected that when the lockdown ends the agreed rules in ski resorts will continue.

People will need a vaccine passport to use the lifts and slopes, plus to access bars and restaurants.

FFP2 masks are compulsory in places.

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Last Friday after the Austrian authorities made their announcements our editor, James Cove, gathered his thoughts and we reproduce his analysis of where we are and where we might be heading:

PlanetSKI Ponders

Our editor, James Cove, considers what the approaching winter may look like. Based on current facts and likely scenarios.

PlanetSKI Ponders. Image © PlanetSKI

PlanetSKI Ponders. Image © PlanetSKI

This time last year it was obvious that skiing and snowboarding at Xmas, New Year and January were off the cards for most.

I mentioned it to anyone that cared to ask and was labelled a ‘pessimist’ by some.

I preferred to think of myself as a ‘realist’.

Beyond the start of winter, it was too early to predict but it seemed highly likely a ski season would not happen for the majority in any recognisable form.

The virus was spreading and there was no vaccine.

And so, it turned out to be.

This time it is altogether more complex, and unknown.

There is credible set of circumstances where the ski season will happen, albeit with some undoubted hiccups along the way.

We may all be making some turns and having a different, but highly enjoyable time in the mountains.

There is another credible set of likely circumstances where it gets pretty much cancelled as too few people are vaccinated and hospitals come under pressure as the virus does its winter worst.

There may be skiing for locals only, but not visiting Brits.

Make no mistake, central governments in ski nations will introduce restrictions if hospitals are threatened with being unable to cope.

The ski resorts have a degree of influence over central government in Austria and Switzerland, but much less so in France and Italy.

It is though simply too early to tell.

If anyone tells you otherwise, then they perhaps need questioning – if the last 18-months have told us anything it is that wishful thinking gets one nowhere in a pandemic.

As does uninformed opinion.

There are usually plenty of both flying around.

The news from Austria has led some people say “here we go again”, but it might just be the tonic to prompt the unvaccinated to get vaccinated.

After February 1st it will be compulsory.

That would stem the spread that leads to hospital admissions and ICU beds becoming full.

Vaccinations are the key.

It is all about vaccination levels and hospital admissions.

Of the ski nations vaccination levels of total population in Austria, Andorra & Switzerland are generally poor.

Don’t even mention Bulgaria.

The UK is better (but not by much) but France is better still.

Spain and Italy are looking rather good.

So too is Norway, Japan and Canada.

The USA is lagging behind somewhat.

I have no real idea what will happen this winter as there aren’t enough facts and likely outcomes to make a sensible judgment at this stage.

Not very helpful for winter plans, but there you go.

Here at PlanetSKI we have made some ski plans for December and January – mostly in France and Italy.

At this stage they are not on the same trajectory as Austria, and to a lesser extent Switzerland.

But in truth we shall just have to wait and see.

We will attempt to make sense of how Covid-19 affects this season – based on facts rather than wishful thinking.

We will remain neither ‘optimistic’ or ‘pessimistic’, but just try to be ‘realistic’.

We’ll keep you posted…

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Do check back for further developments on the significant implications for the approaching ski season in Austria…

Image © PlanetSKI

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