How will resorts look next winter? Well, the start of the main 2020-21 ski season is still further away from us than the first cases of coronavirus reported in China are behind us, so we all know now that things can change very quickly in a very short time.
It’s possible, for example, that before next December the current social distancing rules will have been eased for one reason or another, there might even be a vaccine widely in circulation making it easier for ski resorts to operate more normally next winter.
But in the meantime, assuming things haven’t changed for the better, we do have ski areas already re-opened and can see how they are operating in the pandemic.
So far it is mostly smaller ski areas offering snow sports; but also many of the big resorts in the Alps and North America are re-opening for summer tourism, running their lifts and opening their hotels, shops and restaurants, so we can already see what has changed and how it is working.
Buying Your Lift Pass
Cash hasn’t been king when buying lift passes in many ski areas for a while now but the move to go completely cash-free with contactless payments, usually online and at least a day in advance is the new normal at re-opened resorts.
Most of the ski areas that have re-opened so far are quite small and have been limiting the number of people allowed on the slopes each day to maximise safety precautions, this has led to some selling out of lift tickets in advance, as well as staggering arrival times for ticket holders.
That seems to be less likely to be an issue at the bigger resorts we go to on holiday, especially with most Alpine countries planning to allow the return of large-scale events by the summer or autumn. New Zealand has already said that during their ski season they’ll have no limits on the number of people allowed on the slopes, only in mountain restaurants and other indoor spaces.
Taking A Lift
Riding the lifts will be a more orderly operation in ski resorts next winter season. Resorts that have re-opened have social-distancing measures in place in the lift queue with floor spacing markings similar to those to enter supermarkets. In some countries, there are then floor markings in gondola and chairlift cabins too, which can only carry a fraction of the normal capacity due to spacing requirements. Similarly, double chairs and T bar lifts can only carry one person at a time unless they’re already together, bigger chairs have single skiers at either end of the seat.
How much this all slows down the process remains to be seen, of course, a lot of skiers are already in family or other groups when they arrive in a resort so can be used as normal to nearer capacity. But there may be staggered starts to things like ski school and lifts opening and closing earlier and later in the day to reduce the danger of bottlenecks.
PPE Off The Slopes As Well As On
Most European nations are much clearer than the UK that wearing masks to prevent the spread of the virus is a good idea, and a growing number of them have made wearing masks and sometimes gloves obligatory in public areas. It’s likely therefore that mask-wearing off the slopes as well as on will be the norm next winter if nothing changes between now and then. It’s certainly currently the case in re-opened areas.
Checking your Health
Along with the PPE requirements, frequent cleaning of lifts and public areas, social distancing and the provision of cleaning areas, some ski resorts have been requesting skiers provide health certification and a number have announced the installation of infrared cameras to check the body temperatures of people boarding lifts and in other areas.
Ski resorts in Australia have already announced this innovation for the 2020 ski season and a thermal camera is also reported to have been installed at the recently re-opened Aiguille du Midi lift at Chamonix.
On Mountain and Resort Dining
The same rules of restaurants that we have in our towns and cities will, of course, apply in ski resorts, meaning two-metre gaps between diners on different tables, or in some cases floor-to-ceiling screens separating tables that are closer together.
So we will need to adapt our thinking when planning how to do lunch and take breaks. It seems likely that take away and delivery food, as well as in-room dining in hotels and chalets, will become much more normal and commonplace.
Where winter operations have started to get underway in the southern hemisphere a number of resorts have decided not to offer group lessons, only private lessons, so that could potentially be the case at some resorts in the northern hemisphere next winter too, although as with many things it’s too far off to be sure at this point.
A sizeable number of the ski areas that have re-opened so far have not opened ski rental facilities, seeing them as a danger spot for virus transmission. So if that remains the case nearer the season it will be important to check what facilities are in the resort you plan to travel to next winter. Taking your own equipment may become more popular.
The general consensus at present was that the livelier side of apres-ski partying will be very different this coming winter and possibly for years to come. Various early reports and even investigations and legal actions have centred on ski resorts in Europe and North America, identifying them as virus distribution centres as people flew in and flew out all over the world. Sometimes bringing it into a ski resort but more often taking it back out. So expect very quiet apres-ski in ski resorts next winter.