Coronavirus Impact on Skiing & Snowboarding
21st December 2020
Last modified on December 27th, 2020
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
Sunday 27th December
Jeff Shiffrin Athlete Resiliency Fund Approaches $3m Target
The father of the US skier Mikaela Shiffrin died suddenly last February and the funds is being run by US Ski and Snowboard.
The money raised will be used to help US Ski and Snowboard athletes through the uncertainty caused by the global health crisis.
It will also be used to help athletes prepare for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
It has currently raised $2.942m.
Switzerland Tourism Launches Overview of Regulations, Canton by Canton
Some cantons have ski areas open, others have shut them. The Federal government has closed restaurants, but in some cantons they are allowed to open. It is, to say the least, a confusing picture.
Switzerland Tourism wants to help winter sports enthusiasts and other visitors with a nationwide overview of cantonal regulations.
“Guests are confused. The lack of clarity is a major hurdle for planning holidays and excursions,” Switzerland Tourism said.
The organisation wants to help guests understand what they can and can’t do.
It is posting a comprehensive, Switzerland-wide overview of the various and varied cantonal regulations.
Restaurants in the Valais Canton and Others Close as Covid-19 Spreads
On 18th December the Swiss Federal Government ordered all restaurants across the country to close unless they had an R-number below 1.0, or a 7-day infection rate below the Swiss average.
Most French-speaking cantons met these requirements and decided to keep restaurants open.
However the situation has changed with Covid-19 continuing to spread.
Jura and Bern were the first to close their restaurants on 22nd December 2020 in line with the federal decision.
Geneva followed on Wednesday, 23rd December 2020.
Neuchâtel, Vaud, Fribourg and the Valais closed at 11pm last night, Saturday, 26th.
Vaud has made an exception for on piste restaurants in its ski resorts.
Some could have stayed open, but the four cantons decided to fall into line with their neighbours as part of a move to act together in a coordinated fashion.
The Valais is home to some of Switzerland’s major ski resorts including Verbier and Zermatt.
“From tomorrow, restaurants will be closed throughout the Canton of Valais,” said Verbier on Saturday.
“Feeling hungry while skiing? Don’t panic! The area’s restaurants offer various take-away meals, to regain your strength before tackling the rest of your ski day.”
Other ski resorts, including Zermatt, are offering takeaway food.
R-numbers: Jura (1.38), Bern (1.06), Geneva (1.05), Valais (0.93), Fribourg (0.92), Vaud (0.91),Neuchâtel (0.90).
The Federal Government also said on 18th December that non-essential shops would close if the R-number reached 1.2 and at that point it would be hard to justify keeping ski resorts open.
UK Will Have Reciprocal Health Care With EU After Brexit
The EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) will go, but another card will replace it meaning there will be reciprocal healthcare cover.
It will be called the UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC).
Here is the relevant passage in the Summary Explainer on Gov.uk:
“The Protocol will ensure necessary healthcare provisions – akin to those provided by the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme – continue.
“This means individuals who are temporarily staying in another country, for example a UK national who is in an EU Member State for a holiday, will have their necessary healthcare needs met for the period of their stay.”
It had previously been thought Britons holidaying in Europe, and Europeans in the UK, would have to pay for any healthcare needs.
Many insurance companies would not cover any Covid-19 cover in most ski areas as travel is not recommended by the UK government.
Now UK residents can be issued with a UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), although there is as yet no information on how to apply.
It is a welcome development for skiers and snowboarders who may have more cause than other tourists to call on healthcare.
It is understood the new version of EHIC will exclude Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein that are not in the EU. This is not confirmed.
Previously the four areas were covered by EHIC.
Cases of New Virus in Switzerland
Switzerland identified three cases of the new and more virulent virus
Two are British citizens currently in the country.
The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) confirmed the cases as the novel Covid-19 variant VOC-202012/01.
“All close contacts have been identified and quarantined,” a FOPH spokeswoman told Swiss public broadcaster SRF, confirming a report in the Sonntagszeitung newspaper on Saturday.
In addition, in these “special cases” the contacts of the contacts will also be clarified “and quarantined if necessary. The work is ongoing”.
The health office said it had informed the cantonal authorities and they are in German-speaking Switzerland.
It did not say which cantons the cases were in.
Switzerland banned the entry of UK citizens as the new virus was identified and ordered all people arriving in the country from the UK into quarantine.
It was back-dated to December 14th, Switzerland orders newly arrived UK guests into immediate quarantine
Thousands of tourists from Britain have arrived in Switzerland in the last couple of weeks, and it is thought many have been heading to the ski slopes.
Switzerland is the only major alpine nation that has kept its ski resorts open.
Some flights have now resumed for citizens to return to their native country.
Saturday 26th December
Ski resorts remain open as Austria goes into third lockdown
They opened on Xmas Eve but now come under tighter restrictions.
Outdoor exercise is allowed, though most of the resort facilities remain closed.
Ski resorts across Austria opened on December 24th.
Two days later and the country is back in lockdown.
Ski resort can stay open, but they will be for locals only and strict regulations will be in place.
In Styria, ski resorts will measure the temperature of skiers – although the measure will be voluntary.
“Despite all the discussions of the last few days: We have received a lot of positive feedback that people can finally ski”, said a statement from the Salzburg lift operators.
Ischgl Remains Closed Until Second Half of January
Ski resorts in Austria have opened for local skiers only, but the resort in the Tirol that was an early spreader of Covid-19 is shut until towards the end of next month.
“Due to recent developments all around the third lockdown and the different legal circumstances in Austria and Switzerland, we have to make ski operations…. the second half of January,” said the resort
Other resorts in Austria have opened for Xmas though they come under further restrictions with a third national lockdown starting on December 26th.
Read more here:
Friday 25th December
Merry Xmas One and All!
Joyeux Noel, Frohe Weihnachten, Eguberri on, Feliz Navidad, Fijne kerst, Hyvää joulua, Buon Natale, ハッピークリスマス, Счастливого Рождества, Wesołych Świąt, Veselé Vianoce, Vesel božič and God Jul.
Thursday 24th December
PlanetSKI Hikes Uphill in the French Alps as Covid-19 Closes the Lifts
Our roving reporter Chris Moran lives year-round in Les3Vallees in France.
As the latest national lockdown lifted he went uphill, but there was danger around and he urges caution.
There were 100s of people ready and willing to head up hill on snowshoes, touring skis or split-boards.
For most this was their first turns made since the French resorts closed back on March 14th.
It seems a lifetime ago.
We were heading from Courchevel 1850 up to the Saulire.
Track were in by 9am.
But although the conditions looked to be epic the weather wasn’t ready to play ball: warm winds made the snowpack extremely unstable.
Read his full report here:
Switzerland to Allow Some Flights From and To The UK from Xmas Eve
It is to re-open its airports to flights from the UK, but only for certain travellers.
Switzerland’s Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications, DETEC, said it is only for Swiss nationals returning home or UK residents who are currently in Switzerland.
Special protective measures will be applied to people who are still in quarantine to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.
Last Sunday, Switzerland announced that all flights should be stopped until further notice due to the new mutated strain of coronavirus detected in the United Kingdom.
People returning to the UK from Switzerland will be required to go into quarantine.
See here for further details:
Wednesday 23rd December
Xmas Messages From Our Friends in the Ski World…
Norway Extends UK Flight Ban
The country’s health ministry says it will extend the ban for at least three days.
It comes after the variant of the virus was found in the UK,
Norway will decide on 26th December whether to extend the ban into the New Year.
Ski resorts in Norway are open but a mandatory 10-day quarantine is required for people arriving from the UK.
Majority of UK Nationals Recently Arrived in Switzerland Have Been Contacted
The Swiss authorities claim they have contacted nearly all the people who had arrived from Britain since December 14.
Switzerland asked telecommunication companies to send SMS messages to all holders of UK SIM cards who are currently in Switzerland.
The National Covid-19 Science Task Force of Switzerland said that although no cases had so far been officially detected, it was nevertheless “obvious” that some passengers on the incoming flights were infected.
Patrick Mathys of the Federal Office of Public Health has also said the strain is “probably” in Switzerland.
Read more here:
Xmas Messages From Our Friends in the Ski World…
Significant Avalanche Danger in USA as 3 die in Colorado
Three skiers have died in two avalanches in recent days.
With backcountry skiing on the rise due to Covid-19 restrictions in ski resorts, people are urged to be cautious.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Centre is urging people always carry emergency equipment, like a beacon, shovel and probe.
“Mother Nature is in charge when you live, work and play in the mountains,” said DeAnne Gallegos, a spokeswoman for the San Juan County Office of Emergency Management.
“Be hyper aware of the mountainous terrain around you.”
Two local men in their 50s died in the San Juan County area.
Last week a solo skier died after he was buried in an avalanche near Crested Butte.
Six people were killed in avalanches in Colorado during the whole of the 2019-20 season.
In Wyoming a 41-year old snowmobiler died on Tuesday.
What Austria Ski Resorts Will look like Under Next National Lockdown
The Federal government has ordered Austria into another full national lockdown on December 26th.
Details of the new restrictions and the path forward have been released.
Ski resorts across Austria are opening on December 24th.
“From December 24th, individual sports outdoors such as skiing will be possible again so that the Austrian population has the chance to engage in sporting activity over the holidays,” said the Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, earlier this month.
Then last week the Chancellor Kurz order a full national lockdown two days later on December 26th as covid-19 continues to spread.
It was unclear exactly how this might affect skiing and snowboarding.
Ski resort can stay open, but they will be for locals only and strict regulations will be in place.
“There are additional, extensive minimum requirements, such as the mandatory wearing of FFP2 masks in cable cars and capacity restrictions for gondolas,” said the Austrian government in its now published rules.
Outdoor sports such as cross-country skiing and ice skating are allowed.
The authorities add that “outdoor exercise is strongly recommended”.
See here for the full details:
Tuesday 22nd December
Cairngorm to Close Due to Covid-19
The Scottish resort shuts at the close of the day on Xmas Eve following the new rules announced by the First Minister.
Scotland goes into Level 4 restrictions from Boxing Day.
“We are very disappointed to be in this position, but firmly believe it is the right course of action in light of the First Minister’s statement and for the safety of our colleagues, visitors and the local community,” said Susan Smith, Interim Chief Executive, Cairngorm Mountain
The resort will retain a small team on site for care and maintenance.
“In the meantime, we would like to thank our customers and stakeholders for their understanding, wish them all a very happy Christmas and look forward to welcoming them back to Cairngorm,” she added.
Glencoe says it is continuing while the Nevis Range is closed for the foreseeable future.
We await to hear from Glenshee but the Lecht plans to open.
See here for our full story:
European Commission Recommends Lifting of Total Travel Ban from UK
The Commission says EU countries should lift the restrictions that have seen them close their borders to anyone travelling from the UK and allow essential travel to resume.
The recommendation is being put to EU Ambassadors later today.
Individual countries are, however, allowed to make their own decisions.
The ban has been enforced following the discovery of a new variant of Covid-19 which appears to be spreading rapidly in the UK.
The recommendation does not call for a full lifting of restrictions.
The Commission says residents of EU countries should be allowed to travel back to their home countries providing they take a test or self-isolate.
It is also suggesting that transport workers, such as lorry drivers, should be exempt from travel restrictions and from the need for mandatory Covid-19 tests.
Zermatt Issues Instructions for UK skiers and snowboarders who now need to quarantine
Zermatt is just one resort now issuing these instructions to stop the potential spread of the mutated coronavirus:.
“British guests must be quarantined immediately in order to prevent the spread of the mutated virus in Switzerland, all British guests must immediately go into quarantine for 10 days.
“This means that British guests are not allowed to leave their domicile or hotel room.
“This quarantine obligation applies to all British guests who entered Switzerland after December 14, 2020.
“In addition, reporting to the respective canton doctor is mandatory.
“Please support them in organizing their (quarantine) stay.
“And make sure that other guests and local employees who have been in close contact with British guests and have any kind of (even minor) symptoms get tested immediately and also contact the cantonal authorities to determine how to proceed.
“If there is a local accumulation of infections, the canton doctor must be contacted immediately so that measures such as testing all hotel guests can be arranged.
“This is the only way we can all work together to stop the further spread of this highly contagious virus immediately.
“If this new virus mutation also spreads in Switzerland, further measures will be inevitable.
“We all want to prevent that together!”
See our latest report here:
EU joint response expected this afternoon
Almost every EU member state has now stopped people arriving from the UK following the new covid-19 mutation.
The EU is finalising a united response and set of recommendations.
All the main ski nations in the EU have blocked travel from the UK.
Switzerland has also done so and gone a step further by ordering anyone who has arrived from the UK since December 14th into quarantine.
Many skiers and snowboarders are affected:
The EU Commission is set to devise a set of technical recommendations later on how to coordinate the flow of goods and key cargo between the UK and other countries.
It will also make recommendations on how best member states can repatriate their nationals who are trying to get home.
The World Health organization’s European chief, Hans Kluge, has said travel bans are “prudent”.
He tweeted: “Limiting travel to contain spread is prudent until we have better info. Supply chains for essential goods & essential travel should remain possible.”
Xmas Message from Ski Weekender
The short break specialist to France decided to keep its main alpine based closed this season a while back.
That decision that now looks rather sensible given the current conditions and likely what may happen.
Or rather not happen.
The company has been operating for 17-years and its main hotel, The Aravis Lodge, can accommodate more than 40 guests
“It’s a strangely quiet time at our French base the Aravis Lodge.
“In our 16 years of running the Lodge, we have never had a pre-season without the buzz of an excited new team busy getting ready for the arrival of guests for Christmas and New Year, and the start of the ski season.
“At this time we would normally be experiencing the smells (and tastes) of new cakes and recipes being tested in the kitchen, the clatter of the rental skis being racked up in the ski room, the minibuses being stickered up in their Ski Weekender livery – and a general feeling of excitement and anticipation amongst the team about skiing and snowboarding in these beautiful mountains.
“But – please remember We Will Ski Again!
“We continue to work hard behind the scenes in order that we can offer some great holidays in 2021 and 2022 – despite all the tricky issues that the pandemic, Brexit and anything else can throw at us!
“We remain positive for the future and despite the challenges ahead, you can be confident that we will be here and looking forward to providing you with an amazing and convenient ski short break whenever its safe and sensible for us all to travel and take ski holidays again.
“From all at Ski Weekender we wish you all a Healthy and Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year!
“Stay safe, and as they say in France, “Bonnes Fetes”
Monday 21st December
Quarantine chaos for UK Skiers in or Heading to Switzerland
All flights are banned for the foreseeable future and all people who have arrived from the UK since the 14th of December are required to go into a 10-day quarantine.
Switzerland is the only main alpine country with its ski resorts open and there had been no quarantine requirement going into the country.
More than 60 flights from the UK landed at Geneva airport last weekend.
They would have had around 10,000 people on them – some of them skiers heading to the open slopes of Switzerland.
Skiers and snowboarders in Switzerland will not necessarily have to start a ten-day quarantine from today, Monday 21st, according to the Federal Office of Public Health.
If they feel healthy, they can leave their quarantine ten days after their arrival.
Someone who arrived in Switzerland eight days ago, and who is not showing any symptoms, must only stay in their hotel or home for another two days.
The Swiss government said it was considering a “temporary derogation from the flight ban” for people resident in Britain currently staying in Switzerland so that they may return home.
Switzerland has also withdrawn freedom of movement privileges from UK citizens which were due to end on January 1st as the transition period for the UK leaving the EU ended.
“People from the UK are therefore subject to a general ban on entering Switzerland,”said the Federal Council.
No cases of the new strain of Covid-19 have been found in Switzerland so far.
See here for our full story:
Alpine Nations Banning All Travel From UK as Europe Seals Off UK
Many of the alpine and skiing nations have introduced bans and restrictions.
Switzerland, the only main alpine nation with ski resorts open, has banned flights arriving from the UK.
It has also ordered people who have entered from the UK since December 14th go into a ten-day quarantine.
On Sunday evening, France shut its border with the UK for 48-hours, meaning no lorries or ferries can sail from the port of Dover.
Flights are also suspended.
Germany has stopped all flights until 11pm on New Year’s Eve.
Italy put a flight ban in place on Sunday night that lasts until 6th January.
Austria is introducing a 24-hour ban that comes into force at midnight on 22nd December.
Bulgaria has suspended flights to and from the UK from midnight. Unlike the short-term measures in many other nations, the Bulgarian ban lasts until 31st January.
European Union member states are currently meeting in Brussels to discuss a co-ordinated response.
Spain has said it will cut flights if there is no joint EU response to the threat of the new strain.
Norway has also banned UK flight arrivals.
Sweden says it plans to introduce similar measures but has not released the details.
Coronavirus cases in the UK have risen by 35,928 – almost double the number recorded last Sunday.
Public Health England medical director Yvonne Doyle said the “sharp” rise in cases was of “serious concern”.
It comes as Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned that a new variant of the virus was “getting out of control”.
Anyone hoping to head to these alpine nations can not now do so.
The Eurostar train to Belgium has also been banned.
The new mutated virus has spread fastest in London and the South-East England.
The UK has introduced a new Tier 4 level of restrictions, scrapping a planned relaxation of rules over the Christmas period for millions of people.
Health officials say the new variant is likely not more deadly, nor is it expected to react differently to vaccines.
It is proving to be up to 70% more transmissible.
The UK has alerted the World Health Organisation about the new strain of Covid-19.
More Swiss Cantons to Close Their Ski Resorts Over Xmas?
Later on Monday the canton of Graubunden meets to consider whether to close its ski resorts.
9 out the 26 cantons have already decided to close their ski areas – the well-known resort of Andermatt has some of its slopes shut as parts of the ski area are in the Uri canton.
Uri decided on Saturday to close its ski areas.
Other parts of the Andermatt ski area are in Graubunden.
The majority of ski resorts in Switzerland remain open.
The decisions to close have been taken at a regional, cantonal level, rather than a national level.
The Federal Government has said they may have to close resorts if the R-rate goes above 1.2 as all but non-essential shops will need to close at that point.
It has said it would be hard to justify keeping ski resorts open.
The canton of Bern has said will remain open though it currently has an R-rate of 1.1.
The Valais canton is home to many of the other major resorts including Verbier, Saas-Fee and Zermatt.
It has one of the lowest R-rates in Switzerland after introducing tight measures earlier than many others.
The R-rate in the Valais is 0.7.
It remains one of the cantons battling the virus the best, but overall cases in Switzerland remain high and are increasing.
New nationwide restrictions were announced last Friday.
There is growing concern that hospitals and medical facilities will not be able to cope as the virus spreads and if they need to treat injured skiers it will not help matters.
“Due to the current situation, the Canton of Uri closes the ski resort Gemsstock and the entrance to the ski resort Andermatt+Sedrun+Disentis via Andermatt from Tuesday, December 22nd 2020 until Tuesday, December 29th 2020,” said the ski area in a statement.
“On Monday, December 28th 2020, the Canton of Uri will reassess the situation and decide on a possible opening from Wednesday, December 30th 2020.”
Here at PlanetSKI we will let you know the decision of the Graubunden canton later on Monday.
See here for further details in our main story:
CoronavirusHere are our earlier rolling coronavirus blogs if you want to look back at all the relevant developments over the past months as we have 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:
December 14th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding
December 6th : Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding
November 30th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding
November 23rd: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding
November 16th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding
November 9th: Cornoavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding
November 2nd: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding
October 26th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding
October 18th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding
October 11th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding
October 4th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding
September 27th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding
September 20th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding
September 13th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding
September 6th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding
August 30th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding
August 23rd: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding
August 16th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding
August 9th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding
August 2nd: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding
May 10th: Coronavirus impact on snowsports
April 12th: Coronavirus impact on skiing and snowboarding
April 5th: Coronavirus impact on snowsports