Yes, almost all ski areas will open as usual this winter, in fact by early October more than 20 had already opened in Europe. These are glacier ski areas or similar and they’ve opened just as they would in any normal year.
We have only heard of a few small ski areas that have announced they won’t be opening. These seem to be because their operator has financial problems or they have a niche market like a reliance on race team group bookings.
Of course, we are always at the mercy of wider events, as we all found out last March, but at present lets say 99.99% pf ski centres all intend to be open for their normal season. Our biggest problem may simply be getting to them.
The good news is that skiing is better suited than most parts of society to copy with pandemic restrictions. After all ski resorts have decades of experience of keeping going when hit by a more traditional problem, an occasional lack of snow and we skiers too are adaptable, changing our daily plans due to the weather.
“Ski areas are used to having no idea what conditions they’ll face in winter, their most critical time of the year,” one industry veteran pointed out.
At the time of writing all the major ski areas are confirming opening schedules lot like normal (identical to normal in fact).
A lot of what may be a little different this season seems a lot like what we have to deal with each winter anyway, just an extra layer to deal with.
It’s important to understand that what actually happens might vary from one country and one resort to another – as we know the rules are ever-changing and different countries (and sometimes regions within countries) have different approaches.
And we should remember that after the sun suddenly appearing after a whiteout – if a vaccine is found these might suddenly all disappear.
But then perhaps a vaccine or other big step forward will be in place by next season and resorts will be able to operate fairly normally.
What About Travel?
Getting from home to ski resorts is currently the biggest issue for skiers, particularly in the UK.
Issues include government travel corridors being withdrawn and re-introduced fairly randomly, depending on infection levels in different countries. Travelling to a country that doesn’t have a fully open corridor will mean a legal obligation to self-isolate for a fortnight on your return.
This currently looks likely to be the main factor for getting to the slopes this winter, not the resorts themselves.
Will Ski Resorts Get Booked Up?
On the one hand, at present, there is a great deal of uncertainty about booking travel, but equally, there are signs that if restrictions ease before the end of the season, pent up demand will lead to a surge in bookings. Never mind, “will ski resorts open this winter?” – do we need to be asking whether resorts will get booked up?!
If a vaccine is found over the coming months it might have been rolled out by then too, the thinking goes.
It has been seen in countries like Australia over the summer that if ski areas limit the numbers of people allowed in the resort this could actually create a scenario where resorts get fully booked, especially at peak times. That has already been the case at ski areas that have re-opened in April and May in Norway and the US, where people have not been able to get their hands on one of the limited numbers of lift tickets available each day as they sell out like tickets for a big pop concert. However so far the main resorts in the Alps say they have no plans to limit the numbers of people buying passes and staying in resort. That’s not the case in the US though where resorts plan to run at 50% capacity.
What Deals Are There?
It’s important whether booking direct with a resort or with a tour operator to check what they offer if things go wrong.
This winter there are more things than usual…
- You might catch the virus so you can’t go skiing.
- The government might introduce travel restrictions to stop you going skiing.
- The country you are going to might introduce restrictions if they have a lot of cases.
Most resorts and tour operators offer credit notes or refunds in most circumstances but the details differ so it’s important to be aware of them.
Sometimes the T&Cs vary from deal to deal too. For example Zermatt offered 20% lift passes valid 6 days or more all season if booked during October BUT those taking advantage of the deal waived all rights to refunds that might be needed if one of those problems listed above actually happens …although they do offer credit notes if they do on their full priced tickets.
But generally its worth keeping an eye on social media channels for the resorts you’re interested in as many are offering discounts on lift passes bought in advance but they’re on sale for short periods and it is important to check the terms.
We also have some Deals from UK tour operators coming in, so please check our deals section for the latest.
With the virus dominating our lives through spring the ‘B-Word’ that dominated our lives for the previous five years or so has largely been forgotten. But the British Government is determined the UK will end the current period of alignment with the EU at the end of this year – in fact right at the start of the busiest week of the 20020-21 ski season, so we are back to the usual “will there/won’t there?” question on ‘a deal’ and whether this will or won’t have consequences for travel.
As with the position with the virus by the end of this year, no one really knows how things will play out.
However, the British government has reached an agreement with several non-EU countries including Switzerland that seem to mean travel to those countries at least will be unaffected however the latest Brexit negotiations play out.
But they have said that, whatever happens, we’ll be using the non-European nationals lane in future (we are not only leaving the EU but unlike non-EU countries like Norway and Switzerland that have negotiated some EU Benefits by aligning themselves with the EU in some respects, we’re going for full ‘third country’ status)
So, to answer the main question “will ski resorts open this winter?”… The answer is “yes, hopefully.”
All in all, it seems we skiers are a resilient bunch and many of us will do what we can to hit the slopes this season whatever happens.