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

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The travel industry took a huge hit during the pandemic, but save special attention to ski companies.

Unfortunately, some are no more. And everyone agrees that from now on a ski holiday will be different.

After speaking with ski insiders, here’s our info on what’s likely to be on and off the slopes.

From now on, ski holidays will be different – both on and off the slopes

DO NOT GO OUT

The big trend will be staying in self-contained apartments. Customers say they want to be on their own instead of sharing public areas in hotels.

Meanwhile, due to a post-Brexit end to the European Union’s ‘posted worker’ scheme for UK workers, chalet operators would struggle to find staff.

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

In hotels, keep in mind social distancing and face masks in public areas such as breakfast buffets. Also expect to reserve slots and use face masks and sanitizer as well as plastic gloves.

THE ‘SKI OF’ COMES

Systems may vary, but most ski rental companies will require a specific time for assembly. Some also offer a service where you enter your weight, shoe size and ski length preference online and a ‘ski bus’ will come to your accommodation with a selection of skis and boots for you to try on. This can of course be an advantage.

Some hotels will also offer this, with service in rooms. Ski drop-off kiosks will likely pop up outside stores for returns so owners can spray them with disinfectant and have the equipment ready for the next customers.

CALLING ON THE LIFTS

Winter ride: Boarding a ski lift in Verbier, Switzerland.  Post-pandemic, social distancing will be in effect with taped seats on chairlifts

Winter ride: Boarding a ski lift in Verbier, Switzerland. Post-pandemic, social distancing will be in effect with taped seats on chairlifts

There will be social distancing with taped seats on chairlifts and use of gondolas limited to family/friends ‘bubbles’.

This is for gondolas that usually take six people – for larger gondolas, the number is appropriately limited. Face masks are mandatory in queues and on closed rides. On visible chairlifts it is common to have two passengers instead of four and not to wear masks. The rules will be established in each country according to the laws on public transport.

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

An American ski resort — Jackson Hole in Wyoming — dropped ski pass sales by 15 percent last winter and found the slopes were much less crowded and more enjoyable. It adheres to the policy this winter.

ON THE SLOPES…

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

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

There is a huge pent-up demand for skiing and it is therefore unlikely that all slopes will be significantly less crowded due to the pandemic. With many ski customers postponing their holidays from last winter to this, holiday sales are booming.

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

In Verbier in Switzerland, ‘Covid Angels’ stood on bottlenecks on the mountain last winter. They were there to make sure people kept social distancing and were considered a success. Other resorts in Europe can follow suit.

In Verbier (pictured) in Switzerland, 'Covid Angels' were stationed at bottlenecks on the mountain last winter

In Verbier (pictured) in Switzerland, ‘Covid Angels’ were stationed at bottlenecks on the mountain last winter

REMEMBER TO CHECK YOUR SKI INSURANCE

Insurance companies now offer winter sports packages with cover if you get sick from Covid and need to cancel your trip before departure, as well as protection if you’re sick abroad and need to self-isolate.

The policies usually offer a payout to cover additional accommodation costs and flights. Just Travel Cover has a one-week policy from £12 for 30-year-olds and from £17 for over-50s (justtravelcover.com).

Also see postoffice.co.uk/travel insurance/ski and skiclub.co.uk/ski-club-travel-insurance.

Always check the exact coverage before booking.

Last winter there was also an increase in ‘ski tours’ – exploring off-piste areas by climbing slopes and then skiing down. It proved popular, especially among those who were afraid to share elevators. This is likely to continue, as will a growth in cross-country skiing.

… AND IN THE RESORT

Each country’s Covid rules apply to ski resorts, just as they do outside of the mountains.

For example, France has dropped the requirements for face masks in exposed public places, but they are still required in enclosed public places. In addition, France has a sanitary pass, in fact a Covid passport (see ‘Fun In France’, page 3).

Other countries, including Austria, Italy and Switzerland, are expected to have similar ski resort systems in place in time for the winter – just how this work will differ and may be required for the use of cable cars, as will be the case in Austria.

For the latest Covid rules from each country, please visit the ‘Coronavirus travel health’ section of gov.uk.

RULES FOR CHILDREN

This is where it gets tricky. Children who have not been fully vaccinated are not eligible for pass sanitaires in France. Meanwhile, unvaccinated children in Austria cannot take ziplines unless they have a negative PCR test within 72 hours or a lateral flow test within 24 hours – or documents showing previous Covid infection.

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

BOOK FOR DINNER

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

The obligation to book restaurants in advance can limit the freedom of skiing a bit, because you have to be on time. There will be many food delivery services.

DANCE DISTANCE

Don’t expect crowdsurfing at music events.

In France, nightclubs have reopened to those with a sanitary pass, while in Italy dancers are required to keep two meters apart, with clubs outside, so expect such après-ski in outdoor bars with heaters.

To go to nightclubs in Austria, you must prove within 72 hours that you have been fully vaccinated or have taken a negative PCR test (see ‘Coronavirus situation update’ on austria.info).

TEST TIMES

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

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