The safe way to slope off: Masks, Covid ‘safety angels’, no dancing on tables -ski holidays will be different this year. Here’s the lowdown on and off the piste
- There’ll be social distancing in place on chairlifts and ‘bubbles’ on the gondolas
- In hotels, expect to use face masks in public areas such as breakfast buffets
- The big trend this year will be stays in self-catering apartments…
The travel industry took a massive hit during the pandemic — but spare a special thought for ski companies.
Sadly, some of them are no more. And everyone agrees that, from now on, a ski holiday is going to be different.
After talking to ski insiders, here is our lowdown on what is most likely on and off the piste.
From now on, ski holidays are going to be different – both on and off the piste
NOT GOING OUT
The big trend will be stays in self-catering apartments. Customers say they want to be by themselves rather than sharing public spaces at hotels.
Meanwhile, due to a post-Brexit end to the ‘posted worker’ scheme within the European Union for British workers, chalet operators are reported to be having trouble finding staff.
This means fewer chalets and higher prices. There is also an unwillingness to book individually into a chalet sharing with others, says Iglu Ski (igluski.com). Those booking chalets are tending to take entire properties.
In hotels, expect social distancing and face masks in public areas such as breakfast buffets. Also, expect having to book slots and using face masks and sanitiser as well as plastic gloves.
THE ‘SKI VAN’ IS COMING
Systems may vary but most ski rental companies will require booking a specific time for fittings. Some will also be offering a service whereby you give your weight, boot size and ski length preference online and then a ‘ski van’ will come to your accommodation with a selection of skis and boots for you to try. This could, of course, be an advantage.
Some hotels will be offering this, too, with service in rooms. Ski drop-off kiosks are likely to pop up outside shops for returns, so owners can spray them with sanitiser and have the equipment ready for the next customers.
BUBBLES ON THE LIFTS
Winter ride: On board a ski lift in Verbier, Switzerland. Post-pandemic, social distancing will be in place with seats taped off on chairlifts
Social distancing will be in place with seats taped off on chairlifts and use of gondolas limited to family/friend ‘bubbles’.
This will be for gondolas usually taking six people — larger ones will have numbers limited appropriately. Face masks will be required in queues and on enclosed rides. On exposed chairlifts, it will be usual to have two passengers instead of four, and to not wear masks. The rules will be set in each country according to public transport laws.
It is feared that limiting the number of lifts could mean longer queues at peak times.
One American ski resort — Jackson Hole in Wyoming — did cut lift pass sales by 15 per cent last winter and discovered that slopes were much less crowded and more pleasant. It is sticking with the policy this winter.
ON THE SLOPES…
Some operators are now reporting interest in smaller resorts among those wary of crowds. Instead of Avoriaz in France, customers have been booking Les Gets (pictured) or Morgins, all within the Portes du Soleil ski area
There is huge pent-up demand for skiing and so it is unlikely all the slopes will be significantly less crowded due to the pandemic. Because many ski customers postponed their breaks from last winter to this, sales of holidays are extremely strong.
Some operators are now reporting interest in smaller resorts among those wary of crowds. Instead of Avoriaz in France, customers have been booking Les Gets or Morgins, all within the Portes du Soleil ski area.
In Verbier in Switzerland last winter, ‘Covid Angels’ were stationed at pinch-points on the mountain. They were there to make sure people maintained social distancing and were deemed a success. Other resorts in Europe may well follow suit.
In Verbier (pictured) in Switzerland last winter, ‘Covid Angels’ were stationed at pinch-points on the mountain
DON’T FORGET TO CHECK YOUR SKI INSURANCE
Insurance companies are now offering winter sports packages that include cover if you fall ill from Covid and have to cancel your trip ahead of going, as well as protection if you are sick abroad and need to self-isolate.
Policies usually provide a pay-out to cover extra accommodation costs and flights. Just Travel Cover has week-long policies from £12 for 30-year-olds and from £17 for those aged over 50 (justtravelcover.com).
Also see postoffice.co.uk/travel-insurance/ski and skiclub.co.uk/ski-club-travel-insurance.
Always check the exact cover before booking.
Last winter also saw an increase in ‘ski touring’ — exploring off-piste areas by climbing slopes and then skiing down. It proved popular, especially among those fearful of sharing lifts. This will probably continue, as well as a growth in cross-country skiing.
… AND IN THE RESORTS
Each country’s Covid rules will apply to ski resorts as they would outside the mountains.
France, for example, has dropped its requirements for face masks in exposed public places but they are still required in enclosed public spots. On top of this, France has a pass sanitaire, effectively a Covid passport (see ‘Fun In France’, page 3).
Other countries including Austria, Italy and Switzerland are expected to have similar systems for ski resorts in time for winter — exactly how these work will differ and may be required for using cable cars, as will be the case in Austria.
For each country’s latest Covid rules go to the ‘Coronavirus travel health’ section of gov.uk.
RULES FOR KIDS
This is where it gets tricky. Children who have not been fully vaccinated will not be able to qualify for pass sanitaires in France. Meanwhile, unvaccinated children will not be able to take cable cars in Austria, unless they have a negative PCR test from within 72 hours or a lateral flow test from within 24 hours — or documents demonstrating a previous Covid infection.
It is unclear if France, Italy and Switzerland will follow Austria’s lead. The result could be two PCR tests for unvaccinated children during a week.
BOOK FOR DINNER
You will most probably have to book restaurants ahead — even those on the mountains where there is waiter service, as was the case in Verbier and Baqueira-Beret in the Spanish Pyrenees last winter.
The requirement to book restaurants in advance may restrict freedom of skiing a little, as you will need to be on time. Lots of delivery services for food will be in place.
Do not expect ‘crowd surfing’ at music events.
In France, nightclubs have reopened for those with a pass sanitaire, while in Italy, dancers must keep two metres apart, with clubs outdoors, so expect such apres ski in outside bars with heaters.
To enter nightclubs in Austria, you need to show you have been fully vaccinated or have taken a PCR test with a negative result within 72 hours (see ‘Update on the Coronavirus Situation’ at austria.info).
Clinics are opening up in resorts so skiers can arrange Covid tests easily to meet return travel requirements. The latest to open are in Val Thorens, St Martin and Les Menuires in France.
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