Things are looking quite promising in terms of whether ski resorts will open next winter, with resorts and tour operators optimistic that a 2020/21 season will be happening. A lot of people are looking at how resorts will handle the 2020 summer season, using this as a guide for how next winter’s ski season will go.
Most leading ski resorts are already selling season passes for next winter and are working on summer upgrades so everything appears pretty much normal in that regard.
The only examples we have of an active winter season to look at is the southern hemisphere where the pandemic lockdown is still very much a live event as it is in most of the world, rather than, we hope, quite a few months behind us by the start of next winter in the northern hemisphere.
But southern hemisphere ski areas have taken steps to remain viable which have included opening a little later than planned in the season and switching to a weekends-only opening in quiet parts of the season.
One resort in Argentina, Las Lenas, has decided not to open at all for winter 2020 in the Andes because the country is still in a strict lockdown as the season starts and flights will be banned through the season, so they can’t see how they can make it work financially even if the lockdown is eased mid-season.
Ski areas in the northern hemisphere will need to look carefully at how they operate if they can only run lifts a limited capacity due to social distancing. There are many different factors at play in the short and long term and it will work better at some resorts than others.
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?
Currently, travel remains the biggest unknown factor with borders closed, airlines grounded and mandatory two-week quarantine periods when people do cross borders.
It is unclear how long some of these restrictions will stay in place but it does appear that they will be eased over the summer and autumn with airlines announcing the resumptions of flights and internal borders coming down in Europe through June and July.
easyJet and others have put flights on sale right through next winter much earlier than usual and often with seats at far lower prices so those prepared to risk booking now whilst not knowing exactly what will be the state of individual airlines and travel in general by next winter can often secure a good deal.
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 as restrictions ease, pent up demand will lead to a surge in bookings. Never mind, “will ski resorts open next winter?” – do we need to be asking whether resorts will get booked up?!
Some ski tour operators InTheSnow spoke to said they thought next season could actually be a ‘boom winter’ … maybe… as they feel summer travel will be muted so next winter could be when everyone starts to feel free to travel again.
If a vaccine is found over the coming months it might have been rolled out by then too, the thinking goes.
If ski areas are also having to 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.
So those could be arguments for booking early, and securing your lift pass, although no one knows if that really will be the case!
What Deals Are There?
More and more resorts are offering deals to try to get people to book early.
These generally take the form of cheap lift passes or other initiatives.
Zermatt and Arosa in Switzerland are among resorts offering a kind of holiday bond which may be worth considering if you plan to ski there. In Zermatt’s case, you buy their bond, like a gift voucher, and can spend it any time in the next 10 years. The perk is that when you spend it Zermatt add 10% top-up its value, so a 100 Franc bond is worth 110 Francs and a 1000 Franc bond 1,100 Francs for example. You can use the bonds on anything from accommodation or restaurant meals through to lift passes.
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.
Will any resorts be open for summer skiing?
If you really can’t wait until winter and want to know the likelihood of any summer skiing this year, that’s a more tricky one.
Austria has suggested that lifts in Alpine areas can run again from May 29th. However, that’s not saying summer ski areas such as Hintertux will open straight away, as they will understandably still be working out the logistics in this new reality. What’s more, this looks most likely be for domestic markets only, as travel restrictions are still in place in many areas and it’s difficult to predict how (and when) this will change.
So, to answer the main question “will ski resorts open next winter?”… All in all, it seems we skiers are a resilient bunch and many want to see the ski season go ahead. Bookings are actually said to be marginally better for next winter than they were at peak of Brexit travel fears, so at least the resorts don’t have to worry about skiers being too scared to head to the slopes.