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What influence will Corona have on the 2020/21 ski season?

Sudden stop. Not only skiers and snowboarders have been caught out in the cold by the Corona virus. The effects of Covid-19 are being felt worldwide. The virus has changed our everyday lives and will probably not stop before the coming ski season. Especially this year, in which many of us have foregone a foreign holiday, the desire to travel is on the rise. We´re looking forward to winter and are already full of expectations. Because there is good news: the 2020/21 ski season can take place. At the moment there is still some confusion concerning holidays in times of Corona: travel warnings, the record number of new infections and non-compliance with the corona requirements. We hear such news almost every day. Many therefore are asking themselves: Should I go on a skiing holiday in winter? Until when can I cancel? Will the cable car become a virus multiplier? One thing is certain: clear guidelines are needed so that we can enjoy the 2020/21 ski season. In the lifts, restaurants and accommodation – more and more ski resorts are defining measures for the 2020/21 winter holidays.

We reveal what you can expect in the coming ski season and why there is every reason to look forward to winter in Austria.

Current information at a glance

Mandatory use of masks, distance rules, hygiene concepts: this year many things are different. So that winter sports enthusiasts and holidaymakers can really enjoy their skiing, ski resorts, restaurants, hotels, lifts and the like have laid down measures. We will keep you up to date with the latest news about the skiing winter and the measures. In general, check the ski resort's website before your holiday and follow the rules laid down by the government.

Where and how the season is to run despite Corona and what measures are currently in place can be found in the latest news:

  • Good news: The 2020/21 winter will be happening in many places – that is the current situation. Some areas have already taken precautions; others are still in waiting mode.
  • In some cases ski passes will be more expensive: in many areas that have already made ski pass prices public there are price increases.
  • Considerations concerning capacity: Hotelier spokesman Walter Veit is in favour of upper limits for day-skiers. Closing hours of après-ski venues are being discussed.
  • Tourism summit on 14 September: The summit will discuss the ski season in Vorarlberg.
  • First Swiss ski resort cancels 2020/21 season: The Fideriser Heuberge ski area in Graubünden will be closed next winter. According to those responsible, the operation is only profitable if there is high capacity utilisation.

Many ski resorts have taken important precautions:

  • In restaurants, pubs, lifts and shops, displays provide information about current regulations.
  • Cable cars, toilets, ski buses, etc. will be disinfected several times a day. Disinfectants should be available at all publicly accessible places.
  • Wearing mouth and nose protectors is compulsory in many places. At some stations, a buff (multifunctional cloth), which can also be used as a mask, is given with the purchase of a ski pass.
  • The lift capacity will be reduced to approximately 80% so that social distancing can be maintained.
  • It is intended that there will be fixed routes on the slopes.
  • It is intended to be made possible for employees and guests to have corona tests performed and evaluated within 72 hours.
  • In restaurants and hotels, a distance of at least 1.5m between tables will apply. Alternatively, partition walls will be used.

After Ischgl: does winter sport have an image problem? 

Experts are certain: the image of winter sports has particularly suffered from the events of March this year. Above all, the Ischgl ski resort and its après-ski bars were and are on everyone's lips when it comes to the Corona virus and its consequences. The German Health Minister Jens Spahn warned before the summer that Mallorca must not become a second Ischgl. Thousands of guests became infected at the ski resort and carried the virus from there to the world – 45 countries to be precise. Already 30 people are said to have lost their lives in connection with the outbreak in Ischgl. Now the first lawsuits are on the horizon. More than 5,000 affected persons from all over Europe have meanwhile joined a public liability suit against the Austrian Republic. Among them are relatives of the deceased or patients who are coping with consequential damages after the illness.

Those responsible in Ischgl and other ski hotspots reacted too late and insufficiently to the virus. Many hoteliers and restaurateurs seem to have completely underestimated the impact of the pandemic outbreak. Many felt left alone and insufficiently informed. The risk of infection and consequences of the disease were not known. Hygiene rules were said to have been disregarded by both guests and organisers. The departure of some tourists took place under chaotic circumstances. Today we know: the risk of infection in public transport, restaurants and accommodation was underestimated. Winter is almost upon us and many will now ask themselves: What impact will the Ischgl image have on the ski resorts in 2020/21? How can the measures be implemented? What do I have to consider as a guest?

Corona virus: skiing and the risk                                       

One thing is certain: whether skiing, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing – we are talking about outdoor sports. On the slopes we spend the whole day outside, getting fresh air and refuelling vitamin D. Snowboarding or skiing is always associated with the feeling of freedom. And there are many more reasons why a skiing holiday is also worthwhile this year.

You experience unique nature:
The unique view of the valley from the summit, snow under the boards and the clear winter air blowing around your nose: skiing brings you a little closer to nature.

Your workout is inclusive:
On your mark, get set, ski! Get on your snowboard or skis! Because: on a winter holiday you train your whole body and it´s even fun. Skiing is a sport for your arms, stomach, back, legs and bottom. It also makes you mentally fit. You also train your endurance. You boost your metabolism, which is especially opportune during the Christmas biscuit season. On average, we burn 400-600 kcal per hour while skiing. This puts skiing towards the top of the list – when it comes to calorie consumption.

You promote your health:
Especially at high altitudes, fat burning is stimulated and blood is pumped through the veins more quickly. This is good for your blood pressure and increases the supply of oxygen to your brain. Vessels and tissue are kept healthy. Exercise in the fresh air improves lung capacity. Your balance and flexibility improve.

You increase your well-being:
Blue skies, a freshly prepared ski run and a magnificent mountain panorama – is there anything more beautiful? Endorphins are released on the ski slope. Even a day trip to a ski resort can increase our satisfaction. The little problems at home fade into the background, stress and even depression is minimised. You simply feel free and happy!

You meet new people:
Skiing is more than just descending a piste. Whether moguls, steep slopes or the way up – a skiing holiday is characterised by variety and surprises. On the way down you swing your turns through the white powder snow. Alone we conquer the vast slopes.
But winter sports also have other sides: we make new acquaintances during the mutual ski lift ride up to the top, while queuing in front of the cable car or while celebrating in the alpine hut. And all of this in a very confined space – at least that was the case before this winter.

Does skiing now count as a risky sport?

The political answer to this question is "yesno". Winter sport itself is not a risky sport, but it's the environment that surrounds it that scares the experts. In contrast to football, handball or ice hockey, hygiene measures are easy to implement when skiing. Keeping your distance is no problem on the piste. Many people have been wearing mouth-nose protection for years – especially in extreme snowfall or very cold temperatures. And yet the 2019/20 ski season came to an abrupt end. In the meantime, ski resorts, holiday organisers and restaurateurs have had enough time to draw up safety concepts and action plans. Some even see the pandemic as an opportunity to boost local tourism and to free skiing from its former Mallorca image. Spending Christmas, New Year's Eve or Easter under palm trees? That will hardly be possible this year. That's why many are already looking for an alternative to a winter holiday on the beach.

The government and health officials recommend staying at home or taking a holiday in the region this year. Yet, for most of us, not taking a holiday is not an option. And what better way to do so that than to spend your holidays in a ski resort? That is probably what the majority of holidaymakers think. And it is precisely this problem that those responsible are faced with. In the cable car, the self-service restaurant or in front of your mulled wine after a successful day's skiing – contact with other holidaymakers and employees is difficult to avoid. Therefore, there is no danger from the virus on ski runs alone. Here you should stick to the FIS rules anyway, which, for example, require you to keep your distance. You should avoid danger points in the ski areas and crowds of people. Try to find out about the rules in advance and take care of things online to minimise the risk during your winter holiday.

Is après-ski in danger of dying?

After a great day on the piste, time for a pub crawl? When the sun disappears behind the mountains and it gets dark outside, the majority of skiers are drawn to the well-attended pubs and bars. Live music, good food and a drink or two. For most people, après-ski is as much a part of a winter holiday as skiing itself. And some even travel to the well-known hotspots such as Ischgl, Kitzbühel, St. Anton or Zell am See just for that reason. Crazy fun and party fever in the huts, bars or pubs of the ski areas – that's what we know and love. But what does the corona virus mean for après-ski and its fans?

Those responsible in the ski resorts are in agreement. The statement from all sides is: "No après-ski the way it was until now". Whether – and if so, how – celebration after the day on the slopes will take place, however, has not yet been decided. The mayor of the municipality of Ischgl has already announced that après-ski will be massively restricted. Details are to follow in autumn. Yet it is already widely under discussion. For example, it is said from some sides: Let the venues open, but with a smaller number of guests. Social distancing, face masks and regular airing and disinfection of the premises should be sufficient. However, many experts are still sceptical about these plans. Even after six months, the virus is still difficult to assess. It is now clear that it spreads particularly well in large crowds and confined spaces when dancing, drinking and singing along: and that is exactly what après-ski is all about for many people. As an alternative, hygiene concepts are being discussed that allow for an après-ski outdoors and provide for the wearing of a mouth and nose protector.

Obligation to wear masks & distancing rules – ski area measures

For many holidaymakers, important questions remain unresolved. Nonetheless, the organisers are busy receiving bookings.
Meanwhile the ski resorts are preparing for the coming season. After what happened in March, mistakes must be avoided at all costs. We need well thought-out and very precise plans for the 2020/21 winter.

  • The cableways are to be disinfected using cold fogging equipment. The same procedure is to be used for toilets, ski shops and medical supply stations on the slopes.
  • When checking in, hotel guests are asked to present a current corona test and to complete a questionnaire. In addition, fever should be measured regularly.
  • For the employees in the ski resorts there should be opportunities for testing on a regular basis – but especially before or shortly after arrival. All lift employees will have their temperature taken daily before starting work.
  • Waste water will be monitored at regular intervals for traces of Covid-19.

What you should be aware of as a winter sportsperson  

"Stay safe together" – To make sure we all get through the 2020/21 ski season in good health, you should know what the rules are and stick to them. For your safety and that of everyone else!

You should follow these rules in all ski areas:

  • Keep sufficient distance
  • Wear mouth-nose protection
  • Disinfect hands
  • Ensure ventilation of the room/lift
  • Correct disposal of tissues & disposable masks
  • Do not shake hands
  • Sneezing/coughing into the crook of your arm or a handkerchief
  • Observe employees´ instructions

Important questions and answers concerning Covid-19    

What must I take into account as a hotel guest?
Keep the desired minimum distance of 1.5 metres to all persons who do not live in the same household as you or are not part of your group. The minimum distance also applies to the wellness or fitness area. Please note the requirements of your accommodation.

What if my holiday has to be cancelled?
Many holidaymakers are insecure and hesitating before booking their winter holiday. To be on the safe side, some travel experts recommend a package tour. Many tour operators have adjusted their cancellation options this year and are offering a money-back guarantee.

Is self-service possible in the alpine huts?
There are currently no bans on self-service. However, operators should keep the risk of infection to a minimum by taking hygienic precautions.

What do I have to pay attention to when using public transport?
Wearing protective masks is compulsory on public transport and also on ski lifts – especially when queuing. If possible, a minimum distance of one metre should be maintained.

To be sure: you have to be prepared for some changes in the coming season. Wear masks, disinfect your hands and keep your distance. Those responsible in the ski areas are working flat out on safety and hygiene concepts. If we all stick to the measures and respect our fellow human beings, nothing stands in the way of a safe and healthy winter. The SPORT 2000 team is looking forward to a great 2020/21 ski season!

We want you to be well informed and stay healthy. Therefore, this article will be updated regularly. Last update: 31 August, 2020

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