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New rules for ski holidays: masks, Covid ‘safety angels’ and no dancing on tables

The travel industry took a massive hit during the pandemic, but think especially of ski companies.

Unfortunately some of them no longer exist. And everyone agrees that, from now on, a ski vacation will be different.

After talking to ski experts, here’s our lowdown on what’s most likely on and off the piste.

From now on, ski holidays will be different, both on and off the piste.

From now on, ski holidays will be different, both on and off the piste.

DO NOT GO OUTSIDE

The big trend will be the rooms in apartments with kitchens. Customers say they want to be alone instead of sharing public spaces in hotels.

Meanwhile, due to the post-Brexit end of the ‘posted workers’ scheme within the European Union for British workers, cottage operators are reported to have trouble finding staff.

This means fewer chalets and higher prices. There is also an unwillingness to individually book a chalet to share with others, says Iglu Ski (igluski.com). Those who book villas tend to keep entire properties.

In hotels, expect social distancing and face masks in public areas like buffet breakfasts. Also, expect to have to reserve spaces and wear face masks and disinfectant, as well as plastic gloves.

THE ‘SKI VAN’ ARRIVES

Systems can vary, but most ski rental companies will require you to reserve a specific time for adjustments. Some will also offer a service where you enter your weight, boot size and ski length preference online and then a ‘ski van’ will arrive at your accommodation with a selection of skis and boots for you to try on. Of course, this could be an advantage.

Some hotels will also offer this, with room service. Ski delivery kiosks are likely to pop up outside stores for returns, so owners can spray them with disinfectant and have the gear ready for the next customers.

BUBBLES IN THE ELEVATORS

Winter ride: aboard a ski lift in Verbier, Switzerland.  After the pandemic, social distancing will be established with sealed seats in the ski lifts.

Winter ride: aboard a ski lift in Verbier, Switzerland.  After the pandemic, social distancing will be established with sealed seats in the ski lifts.

Winter ride: aboard a ski lift in Verbier, Switzerland. After the pandemic, social distancing will be established with sealed seats in the ski lifts.

Social distancing will be established with taped seats on the chairlifts and use of the gondolas will be limited to ‘bubbles’ from family / friends.

This will be for the gondolas that usually carry six people; the larger ones will be suitably limited in number. Face masks will be required in queues and on closed rides. In exposed chairlifts, it will be common to have two passengers instead of four, and not to wear masks. The rules will be established in each country according to the public transport laws.

It is feared that limiting the number of elevators could mean longer queues at peak times.

An American ski resort, Jackson Hole in Wyoming, cut lift pass sales by 15 percent last winter and found the slopes were much less crowded and more enjoyable. He’s sticking to politics this winter.

ON THE SLOPES …

Some operators are now reporting interest in smaller resorts among those who are wary of crowds.  Instead of Avoriaz in France, customers have been booking Les Gets (pictured) or Morgins, all within the Portes du Soleil ski area.

Some operators are now reporting interest in smaller resorts among those who are wary of crowds.  Instead of Avoriaz in France, customers have been booking Les Gets (pictured) or Morgins, all within the Portes du Soleil ski area.

Some operators are now reporting interest in smaller resorts among those who are wary of crowds. Instead of Avoriaz in France, customers have been booking Les Gets (pictured) or Morgins, all within the Portes du Soleil ski area.

There is a huge pent-up demand for skiing, so it is unlikely that all the slopes will be much less crowded due to the pandemic. With many ski patrons postponing their breaks from last winter to this one, holiday sales are extremely strong.

Some operators are now reporting interest in smaller resorts among those who are wary of crowds. Instead of Avoriaz in France, customers have been booking Les Gets or Morgins, all within the Portes du Soleil ski area.

In Verbier, Switzerland, last winter, the ‘Covid Angels’ were stationed at the pinch points of the mountain. They were there to make sure people maintained social distancing and considered themselves a success. Other European resorts may follow suit.

At Verbier (pictured) in Switzerland last winter, 'Covid Angels' were stationed at pinch points on the mountain

At Verbier (pictured) in Switzerland last winter, 'Covid Angels' were stationed at pinch points on the mountain

At Verbier (pictured) in Switzerland last winter, ‘Covid Angels’ were stationed at pinch points on the mountain

DON’T FORGET TO CHECK YOUR SKI INSURANCE

Insurance companies now offer winter sports packages that include coverage if you get sick from Covid and have to cancel your trip before you go, as well as protection if you’re sick abroad and need to isolate yourself.

Policies generally provide a payment to cover additional costs for accommodation and flights. Just Travel Cover has one week policies starting at £ 12 for people over 30 and from £ 17 for people over 50 (justtravelcover.com).

See also postoffice.co.uk/travel-insurance/ski and skiclub.co.uk/ski-club-travel-insurance.

Always check the exact cover before booking.

Last winter also saw an increase in ‘ski touring’ – exploring off-piste areas by climbing slopes and then skiing. It proved popular, especially with those who fear sharing elevators. This will likely continue, as well as growth in cross-country skiing.

… AND IN THE RESORTS

The Covid rules of each country will apply to ski resorts as they would outside the mountains.

France, for example, has removed its requirements for face masks in exposed public places, but they are still required in closed public places. In addition to this, France has a health pass, effectively a Covid passport (see ‘Fun in France’, page 3).

Other countries, including Austria, Italy and Switzerland, are expected to have similar systems for ski resorts in time for winter; exactly how these work will differ and may be required for cable car use, as will be the case in Austria.

For the latest Covid rules for each country, go to the ‘Coronavirus Travel Health’ section of gov.uk.

RULES FOR CHILDREN

This is where it gets tricky. Children who have not been fully vaccinated will not be able to qualify for the health pass in France. Meanwhile, unvaccinated children will not be able to ride cable cars in Austria, unless they have a negative PCR test within 72 hours or a lateral flow test within 24 hours, or documents proving a previous Covid infection.

It is unclear whether France, Italy and Switzerland will follow Austria’s lead. The result could be two PCR tests for unvaccinated children for a week.

BOOK DINNER

You will most likely have to book restaurants in advance, even in the mountains where there is waiter service, as was the case with Verbier and Baqueira-Beret in the Spanish Pyrenees last winter.

The requirement to reserve restaurants in advance may restrict your skiing freedom somewhat, as you will need to arrive on time. There will be many food delivery services.

DISTANCE DANCE

Don’t expect “mass surfing” at music events.

In France, nightclubs have reopened for those with a sanitary pass, while in Italy, dancers must stay two meters away, with open-air clubs, so expect those after skiing in heated outdoor bars. .

To enter nightclubs in Austria, you must show that you have been fully vaccinated or a negative PCR test has been performed within 72 hours (see ‘Update on the coronavirus situation’ in austria.info).

TEST SCHEDULE

Clinics are opening at resorts so skiers can easily organize Covid testing to meet return travel requirements. The latest to open are in Val Thorens, St Martin and Les Menuires in France.

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