Updated: Dec 14, 2020
After a veritable ‘annus horibilis’, many will be looking to head to the Alps this winter for some much-needed ‘ski therapy’. Moreover, with heavy snowfall across the Alps, conditions would be looking ideal for some winter snow. However, with infection levels remaining high in many of the alpine nations, the EU has sought a coordinated European response to the closure of ski resorts until 2021.
It seems skiers will go without their pastime this Christmas. Photo via Bing Images
Germany, France and Italy have shown a united front, with Merkel ordering all 16 Bundesländer (federal states) to close their resorts and her French and Italian counterparts, Macron and Conte, following suit. This means that famous German resorts such as Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Oberammergau, instantly recognisable to most ski enthusiasts, will remain closed until at least the New Year.
Oberammergau, Bavaria. Photo via Bing Images
Austria has also tentatively agreed to close their pistes for the time being, after initially voicing concerns about the financial losses the closure would inflict. The Austrian Financial minister Gernot Bluemel estimated that an EU-wide closure of ski areas would incur losses in the region of 2 billion Euros. The Austrian government will open ski resorts on Christmas Eve, but for locals only, as strict entry requirements remain in force until 10 January.
Switzerland has proved the ‘thorn in the side’ of the EU nations, resolutely keeping all resorts open. The risk, therefore, is that ski enthusiasts from neighbouring Germany, Austria, Italy and France all flock to Swiss resorts to get their powder fix. In response, Macron has warned that French holidaymakers will be forced to quarantine if they venture into Switzerland to go skiing.
Switzerland remains adamant that their ski resorts are covid-safe with visitors made to wear face masks on lifts, cable cars running at two thirds capacity and socially distanced queues. In addition to this, Swiss health minister Alain Berset is introducing even tougher protocol; resorts will have to obtain certification from their canton to confirm that there are enough hospital beds to deal with any ski injuries that arise. However, photos of a packed gondola in the Swiss resort of Davos, as well as crowds jostling to get on the main cable car in Verbier have since sparked a storm on social media.
With contagion across Europe remaining worryingly high and the omnipresent threat of a third wave, ski enthusiasts are sadly set for a winter of discontent.