Snow lovers are in luck because one of their favorite seasons of the year is starting: many ski resorts in France, Spain and Italy have officially opened their slopes. More than 10,000 people took to the slopes when France’s Val Thorens reopened on November 20th for the first time since Covid-19 spoiled last season, while 250 people went to the symbolic opening of Porté Puymorens, with only one slope in operation.
Val Thorens in Savoie, Europe’s highest winter sports resort at 2,300 meters, had never experienced such a start to the season, with the few slopes open and the restaurants full as early as 10 am. The Pyrénées-Orientales resort launched the Baby piste, in the Vignole sector, and the kindergarten with a ski pass for the whole weekend at a price of 10 euros.
The 2021/2022 ski season has well and truly started in France, despite the fifth wave of Covid-19. The 3 Valleys resort is kicking off a promising season, with bookings soaring for the Christmas and winter vacations. The French government published Thursday, November 18, the national protocol that is to be applied on mountain lifts, for the winter season 2021/2022. The 250 French ski areas now have a clear roadmap for the opening and for the season.
However, the strength of the epidemic has led to the development of a precise health protocol for the ski lifts. A mask must be worn from the age of 11 on chairlifts, and a health pass is required above a certain epidemic threshold. It is supposed to guarantee the ski season, the government itself encouraging the French to book in the resort.
On November 25th, it was announced that the use of the health pass would be dependent on a so-called “booster” or “boost” dose to combat a 5th wave Covid now clearly installed in France and Europe. In connection with the resurgence of cases, the incidence rate of Covid has exceeded the value of 200 (value of 217 on Nov. 25, 2021), which will normally switch the protocol in the resort in France to the implementation of the control of the health pass on ski areas.
Wearing a mask is mandatory from the age of 11 in all ski lifts as well as in the queues. It is recommended that children between the ages of 6 and 11 wear a mask. Only the ski lifts and conveyor belts may be exempted from the mask requirement when used by only one user at a time. The wearing of masks is also subject to the decisions of the prefectures in the whole resort. The mask does not need to be worn while skiing.
In Italy, government regulations require a health pass to access areas with closed lifts. The pass can be obtained with proof of vaccination, proof of recovery or a negative test in the last 24 hours. According to Euronews, glacier skiing opened in November, while the ski season officially opens December 4th.
Authorities in Switzerland plan to open their ski stations, as they did last year. The number of Covid-19 cases reported have been increasing, however, and Swiss tourism officials have not discarded the possibility that their position might change from one day to the next depending on the government’s response.
Austria is currently in lockdown but people who are vaccinated or recently recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed to ski because the sport is considered to be physical exercise in the open air and thus exempt. According to Euronews, no after-ski activity will be allowed. Restaurants and hotels are to remain closed due to the lockdown.
According to Germany’s automobile club ADAC, the country’s ski stations are expected to open as planned but with some caveats: skiers must show proof a vaccination or recovery certificate, or a negative test, and wear masks on the lifts. In Bavaria, however, only people who are vaccinated or recovered will be allowed in. They will also have to show a negative test.
For Spain and Andorra, the locations that have already opened are:
Friday November 26th: Baqueira Beret, the Asturian Fuentes de Invierno and Valgrande Pajares and possibly Masella.
Saturday November 27th: La Molina, Sierra Nevada, Ordino Arcalís, San Isidro, Valle de Laciana-Leitariegos, Manzaneda, Astún, Formigal, Cerler, Panticosa, Javalambre, Valdelinares, Boí Taüll, Espot, Port Ainé, Les Angles, Cauterets or Pic du Midi.