Coronavirus Impact on Skiing and Snowboarding

The team at PlanetSKI is reporting all the news & developments as it affects the snowsports world in our ever-popular rolling blog. If you want to see its impact and the response of skiers & snowboarders then read on… UPDATED

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Saturday 1st August

Switzerland Marks its National Day amid Covid-19 Restrictions

The day is usually celebrated with fireworks displays.

Zermatt will be having its usual display.

But in times of social distancing one event organiser has come come up with an alternative lighting display.

More than 100 kg (220 lbs) of magnesium powder were ignited at the mountain  areas of Veisivi and Dent de Perroc on Friday.

The show, which illuminated 12 sq km (4.6 sq miles) of the mountains and was visible from 20 km (12 miles) away.

“It is like 100 million candles being lit on the mountains and gives them a lovely warm glow,” said the organiser Jacques Morard to the Reuters news agency.

The Swiss government has banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people due to covid-19.

Thousands watched the three-minute-long display in the Evolene valley and it is reported that social distancing was strictly observed.

National Day marks the founding of Switzerland in 1291.

Swiss flag

Switzerland. Image © PlanetSKI.

Traces of Covid-19 Found in Sewage Treatment Plant of Australian Ski Resorts

The resorts of Thredbo and Perisher in New South Wales have had their treatment plant tested.

“Initial samples collected at the Perisher sewage treatment plant on Wednesday, 22 July, 2020 returned a positive result for the presence of COVID-19. Further sampling and analysis is required to assess the significance of this initial positive result,” said NSW Health in a statement.

The department said the virus particles could have come from someone who had recovered from the virus.

“While no cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Perisher or Thredbo to date, it’s important that anyone who was in this area get tested if they have even the mildest of symptoms,” NSW Health added.

Snow Centres  in England Delay Openings

Two were due to open today, Saturday August 1st, for the first time in more than 4-months.

Government restrictions have put things on ice.

The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead and the Tamworth Snow Dome have had to postpone their scehduled openings.

Snozone, which has indoor snow centres at Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire and Castleford in Yorkshire, were planning to open at 12pm on Monday 3rd August.

The openings have now been delayed too.

Read the full PlanetSKI report here:

Snow Centres delay Openings

Covid-19 Worries over Beijing 2022 Test Events

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Coordination Commission for Beijing 2022 has expressed concern over the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on test events for the Games.

Next winter test events are due to be held in speed skating, figure skating, ski jumping, Nordic combined and Alpine skiing.

The coronavirus pandemic as put the events in jeopardy.

“COVID-19 impacts related to travel restrictions, visa requirements and quarantine measures could pose challenges for international experts, officials and athletes to travel to China for the 2020/2021 winter test event season,” said the Coordination Commission chairman, Juan Antonio Samaranch.

Test events for the 2022 Winter Olympics are exempt from a ban on international competitions taking place in China.

Friday 31st July

International Biathlon Union Plans for Next Winter

It is looking at a number of alternative scenarios for next winter due to covid-19.

Its Executive Board met this week to look ahead to the 2020/21 season.

One of the scenarios being considered is “determining which venues have free capacities in the winter in order to host additional events as part of an alternative schedule with reduced travelling in case any Governments restrictions require such changes,” the IBU said.

The IBU said it had been in “close dialogue with all 25 IBU event organisers for next winter in recent months, to better understand the situation in their respective countries and cities”.

Kontiolahti in Finland is due to host the season-opening IBU World Cup on 27th November.

Further World Cup events are scheduled to be held in Sweden, Austria and France before the turn of the year according to Inside the Games.

Maison Sports Looks Ahead to Skiing & Snowboarding Next Season

Our friends at Maison Sport have been looking at what next winter may be like with covid-19 restrictions in place.

“With social distancing measures already in place in some resorts, enhanced cleaning in hotels and strict cleaning guidelines from companies such as Airbnb,  as well as the option of driving to The Alps as opposed to flying, we believe that this season will still be a great one – albeit with plenty of hand sanitiser!” says Maison Sport.

See here for more.

Skiing - photo Maison Sport

Maison Sport. Image © Maison Sport.

Thursday 30th July

TUI Closes 166 High Street Stores

The UK’s biggest tour operator, Tui, is to close 166 high street stores in the UK and the Republic of Ireland after changes in customer behaviour.

It also owns the UK’s largest ski tour operator, Crystal Ski.

70% of all bookings now take place online and coronavirus “has only accelerated this change in purchasing habits” according to TUI.

The firm says it plans to move 70% of the 900 affected jobs to a new “home-working sales and service team”.

350 retail stores will remain open.

Two Indoor Snow Centres in UK Open this Saturday

The Snow Centre just outside London and the Snowdome at Tamworth finally open their doors for the first time since March.

Visitors will find much has changed.

See here for our full report.

The Snow Centre, Hemel Hempstead

The Snow Centre, Hemel Hempstead

Tamworth Snowdome to reopen

Tamworth Snowdome reopens Saturday 1st August

Sharp Increase in Cases in Victoria

The Australian ski state of Victoria has seen its worst daily increase in deaths and infections.

There were 723 new cases and 13 deaths on Thursday.

Overall it was Australia’s deadliest day in the pandemic.

Melbourne is in a 6-week lockdown but it appears not to be working as well as hoped and it may need to be extended.

A partial ban on private gatherings, including weddings and funerals, is coming into force in some areas on Thursday.

Everyone in Victoria will have to wear a face covering in public from midnight on Sunday.

Ski resorts have already shut for skiing and snowboarding in Victoria.

Two resorts in Australia close due to covid-19 spike

Aspen Gay Ski Week Goes Ahead Next Season But Will Be Smaller

It is the 44th edition of the event and is to be scaled back because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It is due to take place January 17th to 24th.

There will be no opening reception and the previously scheduled Belly Up events.

It also cancelled the Downhill Competition, Top of the Mountain Party and Pool Party, organizers said.

The refined version will be called ‘Aspen Gay Ski Week Lite’.

“After monitoring the current state of COVID-19, we have decided to alter our programming for Aspen Gay Ski Week 2021,” said the organisers.

“This decision has not come without much thought and consideration. The safety of our patrons and staff is very important to us. As gathering guidelines continue to change, we will too. Plans to come back better than ever for 2022 (our 45th Anniversary) are also in the works.”

Aspen Gay Ski Week Lite

Aspen Gay Ski Week Lite

Wednesday 29th July

Aspen Skiing Co Boss Says Skiing Next Winter Will Be ‘Old School’

Mike Kaplan, the CEO of the company that runs Aspen-Snowmass, has written an open letter to skiers and snowboarders and posted it on the resort website.

He attempts to answer the question: what’s the plan for the 2020-21 ski season?

He says  the ski season certainly won’t be normal but wonders whether it would be better than normal.

He warns that there will be new procedures this coming winter, some of them annoying, and that some social activities will be ‘greatly subdued’.

But he sees an opportunity from the ‘new normal’.

“No doubt, next season will be more of an old school experience, but that could also translate to less noise, fewer distractions and, hopefully, more meaning,” he says.

Read more in our separate article:

Coronavirus Expert Added to FIS Inspection of Jasna World Cup Course

The expert is now added to the Organising Committee for the event in Slovakia and will communicate with the International Ski Federation, FIS, and authorities regarding updates on the pandemic.

The women’s Alpine race director, Peter Gerdol, has conducted an inspection of the World Cup course in Jasná in Slovakia with his team.

Giant slalom and slalom races are set to take place on March 6th and 7th 2021.

“Right after the track inspection, we had a meeting where we went deeper and talked about what the expectations from the upcoming season are,” Gerdol said.

“Several unanswered questions and uncertainties accompany it.

“We cannot tell what the situation will be in October or November, not talking about March.”The International Ski Federation is working on plans for next winter with several scenarios being examined:

FIS plans for snowsports competitions next winter

International Ski Federation

International Ski Federation. Image © FIS.

Tuesday 28th July:

Covid-19 Cost to Global Tourism

The pandemic has cost £248bn to the world tourism industry in lost revenue between January and May.

That’s according to the UN World Tourism Organization.

The figure is  three times more than the cost of the global financial crisis of 2008/9.

Tourist numbers fell by 300 million during the period as lockdown measures brought a virtual stop to international travel.

“This latest data makes clear the importance of restarting tourism as soon as it is safe to do so,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili.

“The dramatic fall in international tourism places many millions of livelihoods at risk, including in developing countries.”

UK Lifts Restrictions on Five more Countries

They include Slovenia in the eastern Alps and Slovakia that has part of the Tatras mountain range.

The other countries are Latvia, Estonia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

(Yet) Another Day Under Covid-19 Starts

Now we at PlanetSKI want to start the day feeling a bit optimistic:

“Hope lights the way.”

It’s the theme behind the Japan National Tourism Organisation’s latest video, part of a global initiative that is encouraging travellers to “stay inspired during these unprecedented times” and keep Japan firmly in their minds.

It is perhaps a fitting message for the many skiers and snowboarders eyeing the 2020/21 season, which is now just four months away and looking likely to be impacted heavily by COVID-19 and the associated global travel restrictions.

Around this time last year PlanetSKI was in Japan.

And loving it.

But now reality steps in with the virus taking hold again with second spikes springing up all over the place.

See the articles below in our rolling Coronavirus blog as it impacts the snowsports world.

Read what next winter may be like in this assessment from the BBC’s Health Correspondent, James Gallagher.

It makes sobering but very interesting reading.

Coronavirus: How bad will winter really be?

And here are our earlier thoughts on next winter in the mountains:

What might a ski holiday look like next winter: Part One

What might a ski holiday look like next winter: Part Two

Meanwhile the UK’s largest ski operator, Crystal Ski Holidays, claims to be feeling optimistic.

It claims a “significant surge in package holidays, with bookings increasing by a staggering 125% in just a few weeks”.

It says website visits in July have increased 35% compared to visits in June.

“Whilst there is good demand for self-catering chalets, the most popular holiday type is half board. Italy, France and Austria remain the most popular countries,” says Crystal Ski Holidays.

Our research has also told us that financial protection is of paramount importance during these times, so an ATOL protected package holiday is a lot more appealing in the current climate than a ‘DIY’ ski holiday,” said Chris Logan, Managing Director of Crystal Ski Holidays

Value is also really important. We have currently got a 2-for-1 lift pass deal which will save customers hundreds of pounds which is proving to be a very strong incentive.”

“Many of our customers lost their time on the mountain last winter, as the pandemic forced us to cancel our entire programme in March.

“We are delighted to see that skiers and snowboarders are itching to get back on the slopes in just a few months.

“Things will undoubtedly be a bit different, with health and safety measures being introduced to protect our customers and staff, but by the time our season launches we’ll have had a year since the crisis hit and we are now used to a ‘new normal’.

“We cover every element of the ski holiday, from flights and transfers to accommodation in over 100 resorts and equipment, and there’s a huge amount of work going on to get ready for a safe and enjoyable return to the slopes.”

Crystal Ski Holidays - photo Crystal

Crystal Ski Holidays – Image © Crystal

Monday 27th July

TUI Urges Government to Resist Blanket Quarantines on Whole Countries

It is the UK’s biggest tour operator and it owns the UK’s largest ski tour operator, Crystal Ski.

TUI said the government should have a ‘regionalised’ policy with only people returning from coronavirus hotspots going into quarantine.

“Everything in life has risks, but it’s about taking a proportionate risk-based approach,” said Andrew Flintham, managing director of Tui UK and Ireland.

Tui has cancelled all mainland Spanish holidays until 9 August 9th after the government imposed a quarantine on all people coming to the UK from Spain.

Police in Australian Ski Resort Issue Fines & Threaten To Close Premises

Officers in the New South Wales ski resort of Thredbo and the nearby town of Jindabyne handed out fines totalling more than AUS$20,000 (apx £11,000/€12,000) at the weekend for breaches of social distancing rules.

They are warning that, if people continue to ignore the rules, the luxury of having a drink after a day on the slopes of the Snowy Mountains will be taken away from them.

12 individuals were given $1,000 (apx £555/€608) Penalty Infringement Notices  (PINS) following a large outdoor event in bushland near Lake Jindabyne on Friday.

On Saturday police attended a venue in Thredbo and observed a number of alleged breaches to the Public Health Act.

Thredbo, Australia

Thredbo, Australia. Image c/o PlanetSKI

They included a breach of capacity limits for the size of the venue, including people waiting in line and not physical distancing, more than 10 persons seated per table, no COVID-Safe marshals and patrons not seated whilst socialising.

Officers returned an hour later and observed further breaches.

The licensee was issued with two $5000 PINS (apx £2770/€3043), and a travel company owner who had organised for a large number of patrons to attend the venue was issued a $5000 PIN.

See our separate story with more details:

Covid-19 Outbreak at St Wolfgang in Austria

It is a popular summer resort and sits at the foot of the Schafberg mountain in Salzburgerland in central Austria.

53 cases have been reported and more than 1,000 people have been tested.

52 of the cases are workers in the town’s accommodation and restaurant sector.

The other person infected was a visitor.

The town has a resident population of 3,000 and is popular with German tourists.

People are now cancelling their visits and it is feared the summer holiday season is all but over for the resort as people decide to stay away.

There are concerns that similar outbreaks may affect ski resorts next winter if the virus is not brought under control.

Many ski resorts were seen as super-spreaders of the virus last winter as the pandemic spread:

1,800 cases of covid-19 linked to Ischgl

40% of people living in Ischgl have covid-19 antibodies

Ski resorts contributed to the wide spread of coronavirus in Europe

Ischgl is currently offering visitors a free covid-19 test in an attempt to reassure holidaymakers.

People arriving in Austria from the UK need to have a test at their entry point into Austria or arrive with a up-to-date certificate of a negative test.

Overall Austria is judged to have done very well in battling the virus.

It has recorded 20,510 cases and 713 deaths, however the number of cases has been rising in the past month.

Restrictions Relaxed for Children in Buenos Aires, Argentina

The lockdown in the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires,  is being relaxed and children under the age of 16 can leave their homes for an hour every day, rather than just at weekends.

Argentina imposed a strict quarantine in March.

It was eased in May but when cases rose, many restrictions were reimposed.

The ski resort of Cerro Catedral opened last week and another Cerro Castor is set to open this week.

South America opens for skiing and snowboarding

Both resorts are for locals only.

Face Coverings Compulsory in Australia Ski Resort from Today

From Monday 27th July a face coverings will be required for people visiting Perisher in New South Wales.

An appropriate face covering can include a neck buff, balaclava, facemask or similar and should fit closely around the mouth and nose.

It comes as Australian sees a sharp rise in the neighbouring state of Victoria with resorts there closing.

Two resorts in Australia close due to covid-19 spike

Perisher, in New South Wales, opened in June with covid-19 restrictions in place.

Another ski resort opens in Australia

Australia has its deadliest day during the current pandemic on Sunday with 10 deaths recorded and a rising number of infections.

459 new cases were reported in Victoria with about a dozen more recorded elsewhere in the country.

The Australian death toll now stands at 155 with around 14,000 cases.

Police have also been patrolling the Victoria state border to prevent all but essential travel and enforcing quarantine restrictions.

Here are the current Perisher resort rules and they act as a prediction of what may be to come in the ski resorts of the northern hemisphere next winter:

FACE COVERINGS: From Monday 27 July all Perisher guests and employees will be required to wear a face covering while on Perisher premises including at The Station, including but not limited to: arriving and departing the resort in car parking facilities, while using lifts, on Skitube and shuttle buses, in public places, and while skiing and snowboarding.

Guests are kindly requested to supply their own face covering.

PRE-PURCHASE YOUR PASS OR LIFT TICKETS: Due to resort capacity limits, guests must pre-purchase season passes or lift tickets online well in advance.

Same-day lift ticket sales are not available.

MAINTAIN SOCIAL DISTANCING: Guests are requested to maintain 1.5m physical distance from other people at all times in the resort.

Guests who live together will be allowed to ride lifts together while others will need to physically distance. Guests will be requested to refrain from congregating in large groups.

We will be limiting the number of people in rental, retail and ticket outlets as well as using signage to indicate safe distancing indoors.

All our premises will be cashless this season.

DOWNLOAD THE RESORT APP: Stay informed with the most up-to-date resort information.

FOOD & BEVERAGE: Food and beverage operations and indoor seating will be limited.

We encourage you to pack your own snacks and lunch.

NO TOBOGGANING & SNOW PLAY: Following NPWS advice tobogganing and snow play is not permitted.

The Toboggan Slope and Tube Town will be closed for the season.

STAY HOME IF UNWELL: Please stay home if you are sick or are considered high risk.

Do not visit the resort.

RESPECT THE RULES: You may respectfully be asked to leave the resort if you do not follow all hygiene and physical distancing guidelines.

Skiing in Australia

Skiing in Australia. Image © PlanetSKI.

Sunday 26th July

New Restrictions Introduced in Spain

All nightclubs and late-night bars in the Spanish region of Catalonia are to close.

Cultural and sports events have been cancelled and gatherings of more than 10 people have been banned.

The new restrictions will be in place for 2-weeks in the first instance due to a spike in covid-19.

The Spanish area includes large parts of the Pyrenees mountains.

The Spanish health ministry reported more than 900 new cases of the virus on Friday.

From today people returning to the UK from Spain will have to quarantine for 14 days.

The Foreign Office is advising against all but essential travel to mainland Spain.

“Protecting public health is our absolute priority and we have taken this decision to limit any potential spread to the UK,” said a spokesman from the Department of Transport.

France has warned people not to travel to Catalonia while Norway has said people arriving from Spain will need to go into quarantine.

The Spanish epidemiologist, Andrea Buron, has told the BBC that there was a high infection rate among young people in Spain.

She said they were gathering in large numbers “not only official places like discos and so on, but also gatherings on the street, at beaches and so on”.

As the bars and nightclubs close it raises the issue of what bars and apres ski venues may look like next winter if the virus is still present, What may apres ski bars look like next winter?

A PlanetSKI reader who lives in Barcelona says many Spaniards are blaming the influx of British and German tourists some of whom ignore social distancing rules, refuse to wear a facemask or covering and pack out the bars.

Spanish officials have  warned a second wave could be imminent as major cities see cases surge.

Belgium has banned travel to Huesca and Lleida, with recommendations against travel to a number of other areas in Spain.

Germany has not imposed any measures against those arriving from Spain specifically, although the government advises tourists against travel to the Balearic Islands, Navarra, Catalonia and Aragon.

Elsewhere in Europe

Cases are growing in other countries with territory in the mountains.

In France, the number of new daily infections rose above 1,000 for a second day running on Saturday.

It is now back to the level where it was when lockdown restrictions were eased in May.

On Friday, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced on-the-spot testing for travellers arriving from 16 high-risk nations.

He said he wanted to avoid a return to a full lockdown to protect the economy.

France has advised its citizens not to travel to Spain’s north-eastern region of Catalonia.

In Germany, the number of new cases rose sharply on Friday to 815, the biggest tally since mid-May, and remained high on Saturday with 781 new cases.

The government is considering introducing compulsory testing for people arriving from high-risk destinations.

In Austria British arrivals need to self-isolate unless they have a recent medical certificate or test negative for coronavirus on arrival into the alpine country.

In Iceland visitors can either choose to pay for a test or go into quarantine.

Dogs Trained to Detect Covid-19

Sniffer dogs can be trained to detect people who have Covid-19 researchers in Germany have found.

A study published by scientists at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover found that the trained dogs detected the coronavirus with a relatively high rate of accuracy, see here for more.

Eight dogs from the German army were used in the study.

After only a week’s training they could distinguish between the mucus and saliva of infected and non-infected patients.

Here are our earlier rolling coronavirus blogs if you want to look back at all the relevant developments over the past months as we reported its impact.

We have updated daily since the pandemic began.

All you need to know about the pandemic and its impact on the world of snowsports:

July 19th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

July 12th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

July 5th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

June 28th: Coroanvirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

June 21st: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

June 14th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

June 7th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

May 31st: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

May 24th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

May 17th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

May 10th: Coronavirus impact on snowsports

May 3rd: The coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

April 26th: Covid-19 impact on skiing & snowboarding continues

April 18th: Coronavirus impact on skiiing and snowboarding continues

April 12th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding

April 5th: Coronavirus impact on snowsports

March 29th: Our rolling blog on the impact of Covid-19 continues

March 23rd: PlanetSKI’s rolling blog on the coronavirus impact on skiing continues

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