Italian skiers finally returned to the slopes after nearly two years on Saturday since the first pandemic lockdown in March 2020.
But just as the industry is poised to bounce back from a lost 2020-2021 season after an abrupt shutdown the previous year, a surge in cases in the Alpine province bordering Austria is underscoring how precarious the situation remains.
As if it were a sign, snow fell overnight, covering the slopes of Plan de Corones in the southern Tyrolean town of San Vigilio di Marebbe, giving new cover to the artificial base just in time for the opening day.
The skiers came from as far away as Croatia and the Italian capital Rome, as well as from neighboring valleys where the slopes have yet to be opened.
“I have chills up and down my spine, because we left the slopes on the famous March 8, 2020, running to Rome because everything was closing in,” said Monica Meloni, 53, from Rome, as it continued to snow.
Government regulations require a health pass to access areas with closed elevators, which can be obtained with proof of vaccination, recovered from the virus or with a negative test in the last 24 hours. The new system launches Saturday in the first two ski areas to open.
Glacier skiing already opened at the beginning of the month, while the ski season in Italy officially opens on December 4.
Here is the situation for the rest of Europe.
Switzerland, which kept its ski slopes open last year, is again fulfilling its plans this year. The season has started in foci that have received patches of early snowfall, although it is not expected to start before mid-December.
Last year, restaurants closed due to the pandemic. They have since reopened, but customers must show their COVID passes. Skiers will not have to show passes to go up the ski lifts, but will need to wear masks.
The Swiss expect more foreign visitors. A year ago, the numbers remained low due to testing and quarantine requirements for people returning to other countries. The question mark: Coronavirus cases have risen sharply in recent weeks in the country, and Swiss tourism officials admit that things could change overnight depending on the government’s response.
The 250 French ski areas now have a plan to reopen after last season’s cancellation, with French resorts already planning to operate again in the coming weeks. Val Thorens, Europe’s highest winter sports resort, became the first of France’s alpine areas to allow skiers to return on November 20.
In the stations, the use of a mask will be mandatory for those over 11 years old on all lifts and lines. Only surface lifts and conveyor belts are exempt from the mask use rules, as long as they are used by only one person. Social distancing measures must also be respected in queues or between people traveling in a group.
The French Association of Ski Areas said that if the national rate of incidence of COVID exceeds 200 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, as expected very soon, the Health Pass will be mandatory for skiers from the age of 12 to access the areas and possibly the ski lifts.
The controls will be carried out at the ski lift sales offices, in ski classes and at the start of the lifts.
Austria, which is blocked, will nonetheless allow people vaccinated or recently recovered from COVID-19 to ski, as skiing is classified as outdoor physical exercise and is therefore exempt.
However, there will be none of the usual apres-ski and tourists outside the region will not find it easy to enjoy the slopes: restaurants and hotels are closed due to closure.
Ischgl, the Austrian resort at the center of a major outbreak during the initial phase of the pandemic in February and March 2020, plans to launch its ski season on December 3. But many other stations are debating whether it is worth opening during closing. , which is expected to run until December 13, as the closing of hotels means tourists cannot come.
According to the German automobile club ADAC, which regularly provides information of interest to German travelers, the country’s ski resorts plan to open as planned, but with precautions: skiers will need to present a vaccination or recovery certificate, or proof negative, and wear masks. in the elevators.
Bavaria, where most of the ski resorts are located, has stricter rules: only vaccinated or recovered people will be allowed entry and, in addition, they will have to present a negative test. The move has been criticized by the German chairlift operators’ association VDS, which says that most chairlift operators do not have the staff to deal with the logistical challenge of verifying all the tests.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism