What May Skiing Look Like for Rest of the Season?
4th January 2022 | James Cove, PlanetSKI Editor
Last modified on January 5th, 2022
When will France reopen its borders to UK skiers? Will Switzerland continue it open-door policy? What about Austria and Italy? What is the situation in the Pyrenees and Scandinavia? UPDATED
There are many questions, but precious few answers.
We will ski again under more normal circumstances, but when?
The short answer is that no-one knows.
Omicron continues to spread across Europe with its predictable, and unpredictable, consequences.
Of the skiing nations Andorra in the Pyrenees is seeing the highest number of cases per 100,000 people over a 7-day period.
It stands at 2,605.
In the neighbouring Spain it is 1,225.
In the Alps it is 1,268 in France and 1,129 in Italy.
Switzerland and Austria are lower and more stable at 542 and 236 respectively, but Omicron is yet to hit hard.
In Scandinavia Norway is on 436, Finland 541 and Sweden 403.
In the UK the figure is 2,011.
The consequences of these numbers in terms of hospital cases, travel restrictions, the numbers needing to self-isolate and the impact on ski resorts for the rest of the winter remains to be seen.
The ski resorts are open across Europe with Covid-19 restrictions in place.
For many out skiing and snowboarding at the moment, life on the slopes is different – but not that different.
There remains a hard core of UK skiers willing to jump through the necessary hoops to get to the slopes.
Some UK skiers and snowboarders are put off heading to ski as there is a need to take a pre-departure test to head home.
If positive they would have to isolate in the Alps.
There are reports that this measure may soon go which should encourage more people to ski.
The Times reports a source telling it that “Pre-departure tests were brought in to try to slow the spread of Omicron, stop it coming into the UK. Now that Omicron is dominant in the UK and everywhere it reduces the argument for having it. We have other ways of slowing the spread through domestic testing.”
We have reported on the issue on Wednesday 5th January in this separate article on PlanetSKI:
The requirement for people take a test test within two days of arriving back in England looks set to remain according to reports.
Some suggest PCR tests may be scrapped altogether and a lateral flow test will suffice
That is assuming one can get to the Alps in the first place.
In France, the most popular destination for UK skiers and snowboarders, the border continues to be closed with more ski holidays being cancelled.
However on Wednesday the French government spokesman made some interesting remarks.
The latest company to announce further cancellations to France is Travelski Express that runs package ski holidays by train to the French Alps.
“With the continued restrictions on travel between the UK and France Travelski regrets to confirm the forced cancellation of the Travelski Express departure planned for the 14th January,” it said in a statement released to PlanetSKI.
“As for previous departures all guests are being contacted by e-mail and offered a full refund or the chance to book onto a departure later in the season.”
When that later date may be is unclear.
There is no official word on when France may allow UK skiers and snowboarders to return.
Here at PlanetSKI we understand announcements are expected shortly from some of the major UK operators on further cancellations of holidays to France in January.
We looked at the issue in this earlier article, where we took some soundings on when the border may reopen.
The current indications are that there will be no change to French border rules “before January 15th” according to a well placed UK ski tour operator we have spoken to.
He said the information was from “a local political source”, but he went on to say “honestly it’s anyone’s guess”.
One resort in France has told us that the feeling is the ban may be extended until the end of January, but that seems a bit pessimistic to us.
It is currently not possible to transit through France by car for most so driving to Italy, Austria and Switzerland is also out for people from the UK.
A small crumb of comfort is Germany lifted restrictions on travellers from the UK at 11pm on Monday 3rd January.
That means people can fly to Munich to ski in Germany or access resorts in Austria and Switzerland.
It also means driving across Germany to the other alpine nations is possible, but motorists would need to enter mainland Europe from the UK in Belgium or Holland, rather than France.
It remains possible to fly to Switzerland from the UK and the resorts are open with Covid-19 measures in place.
It is a similar situation in Austria and Italy.
In Italy the omicron variant is now spreading rapidly.
Two provinces in the Alps, Lombardy and Piedmont, have moved into the moderate-risk ‘yellow’ zone category as cases rise.
Even if travel re-opens many people will be unable to head to the mountains as they test positive and are therefore required to self-isolate rather than go on a ski holiday.
In London alone 1 in 15 people is reported to have the virus and some say the real figure is much higher.
Many people who have tested positive in the UK have been double jabbed and boosted.
I am a case in point and my skiing is off this week as I am self-isolating after a positive test.
I was due to have been in Norway and then Italy.
The UK government is already warning that 25% of the workforce may need to self-isolate.
10% of rail staff are already off work.
The statistics are grim, but they need to be seen in context.
There is hope as it appears we may have passed the peak in the UK and that means fewer people will need to isolate.
There seems little question that though the Omicron variant spreads quicker, it is less harmful to those that are double jabbed and have had a booster.
Some say it is better to have Omicron rather than Delta as the dominant strain.
That brings us back to the original question – ‘What May Skiing Look Like for Rest of the Season?’
I repeat my answer – ‘no-one knows.’
But we are certainly in a much better position that 12-months ago.
Ski resorts are open and when I emerge from my period of self-isolation at the end of the week I predict I will be feeling more optimistic about skiing this winter than when I took to my room just before New Year’s Eve.
Time will tell.
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