Where to take a ski holiday this winter
A range of appealing destinations are still welcoming visitors despite Covid-19
“It’s the question on every snow fiend’s lips as summer fades and the first flurries of autumn dust the Alps: ‘where can we ski this winter?’,” says Sean Newsom in The Sunday Times. “Stop-go” quarantines and rising rates of Covid-19 infections across Europe are weighing on travellers’ minds just as they would normally be about to answer this all-important question.
Rest assured, “short of complete lockdowns, you can be sure the lifts will be running and skiers will be setting their edges to snow”, he continues. But what if your chosen destination should find itself on “the Foreign Office naughty step”?
Well, if you book your holiday through an Atol-bonded company, you should be able to postpone your trip or claim a refund, even if the latter takes some time. So, if you can be flexible, “it’s better to book at the last minute”. And be sure to check your insurance policy, as many won’t cover you if you travel against official advice.
Still, “strapping on those skis and whizzing down the mountain at what feels like Mach three will be unchanged”.
Facemasks will be mandatory in many places, however, and as for après-ski, “don’t count on it”. Discos in Italian resorts are banned, while Austria’s Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis has explicitly warned would-be revellers that there will be “no après-ski atmosphere at all”. But it’s wise to avoid gatherings anyway. “If Covid-19 is present in your ski resort, a boozy après-ski session, shoulder to shoulder with your fellow guests, is the surest way to find it.”
Monte Cervino (the Matterhorn) and the village of Breuil-Cervinia, Valle d’Aosta, Italy, in March © Getty Images/iStockphoto
Where to stay
Assuming you can get to your destination, and you don’t mind running the risk of having to quarantine on your return, skiing is actually one of the more Covid-secure holidays, argues Grace Gausden in This Is Money. “People are generally more than two metres apart and are, for the most part, outdoors.”
And while ski-lift cable cars might need to limit numbers, other lifts with a safety bar “should be fine”, and “families can also ensure they share lifts and cable cars to reduce social interaction with other groups”.
Of course, chalets and other shared accommodation can be a problem when it comes to social distancing. But “hotels are a bit easier to manage, as holidaymakers have their own room and share much larger communal spaces”. As for wearing face coverings outside, most people who ski wear these anyway against the cold. Courchevel, one of the most popular and most famous resorts in France, will be disinfecting all cabins at least once a day, and offering refundable ski passes until the day before the start date. In case of total closure, lift passes will be refunded on a pro-rata basis.
Where to go
So, where should you go? At present, Italy is the last remaining Alpine nation on the government’s “safe list”, says Lucy Aspden for The Daily Telegraph. Cervinia, in the lee of the mountain that Italians call Monte Cervino (the Matterhorn), managed to open for summer skiing on its glacier. In so doing, it gained “vital experience in testing new Covid safety measures”. It is also Italy’s “most snow-sure resort”, with a long season beginning on 24 October.
Sweden is another destination on the list for now. “Åre is Sweden’s biggest ski resort, with three separate ski areas strung out beside a frozen lake, and a winter season that goes on well into April thanks to the long hours of sunlight and warmer temperatures later in the season.” It is popular with families.
And don’t forget Scotland’s (admittedly small) resorts. The infrastructure is basic and snow is not guaranteed. But “when it does snow… then the depths can rival those in some of the Alps’ biggest winter destinations”.
Failing everything else, there are always the indoor snow centres on your doorstep, says Megan Hughes on InTheSnow.com. They “can’t offer quite the same amount of on-slope training as Snowworld Landgraaf”, Europe’s biggest indoor snow centre, in the Netherlands, but “they can provide British skiers with a safe and hassle-free way to hit the snow during the pandemic”.
This article was originally published in MoneyWeek