As attempts to curb the effects of Covid-19 and Brexit are coming into effect many are asking when can we go skiing again?
With most European leaders in favour of closing down ski resorts during the Christmas and New Years period and lockdown protocols still in place, holidaymakers, ski-instructors and seasonal staff are facing an uncertain future.
Ski resorts were some of the first coronavirus hotspots last year, and the fact that cold, dry climates help spread the respiratory virus does not help the situation either.
Europe is the ski capital of the world, with more than 200 million skier days a year. In addition, more than 1.5 million Britons travel for a ski holiday each year, but it is not only travel restrictions that have negatively impacted the ski industry. As the United Kingdom is tying up loose ends after it departed from the European Union, more than 2,000 British ski-instructors are at risk of being unable to work outside the UK.
The long-awaited decision by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has announced mutual recognition of skiing qualifications will not come in effect between the UK and the European Union. As it stands, UK nationals that have spent years qualifying as ski instructors for France or other European countries may no longer be allowed to work in the mountains.
Unless the decision is reversed, the only way for instructors to ensure eligibility to work in EU countries is to achieve the highest Level 4 qualification before the clock strikes midnight on January 1st. To do so, they must first pass the Eurotest, a gruelling speed challenge that requires examinees to complete a Giant Slalom within a fifth of the time it would take the World number one.
But even without the technical difficulties and short time frame required to train and complete the exam, the last two scheduled in France on the 14th and Italy on the 21st of December were postponed due to Covid-19 and lack of snow.
Which ski resorts will open despite the coronavirus pandemic?
The German Chancellor Angela Merkel has requested government officials keep all EU ski resorts closed until at least January 10.
Most EU leaders are also in favour of closing winter sports until after January 10th including Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, and French President Emmanuel Macron. The three countries have called for a coordinated response to the pandemic that can prevent more spikes in the current rate of infections and limit a third-wave during an already strained hospital sector during the winter.
Most officials agree, wth Markus Söder, Bavaria’s State Premier stated: “I would prefer to have a common agreement on a European level: no ski lifts open, no holidays anywhere,” he said.
However, not everyone is on board. Both Austria and Switzerland have decided to open the pistes this winter and Austrian tourism minister Elisabeth Köstinger stated they will not allow Berlin, Paris and Rome to “let another country stipulate when and what we will open..”
Switzerland has also reopened its ski slopes with some protocols for social distancing and mask-wearing but not quarantine for those arriving from Europe.
“In Switzerland, we can go skiing, with protection plans in place,” Health Minister Alain Berset said last week.