As coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns are eased in some nations around the world there’s news that ski resorts are re-opening in three countries. In another three countries, some ski areas have never closed.
After China lifted its lockdown in much of the country after two months in late March, and the Czech Republic did so last week (pictured below), Norway is the latest to announce it is easing its own restrictions meaning that, although it’s mostly just small centres, with limited terrain open, ski resorts are re-opening in three countries.
Although ski resorts are re-opening in three countries it’s important to note they’re doing so with very strict opening and operating restrictions. Most are in countries with closed-borders so these are just limited openings for local people. There’s no suggestion or intention that people should attempt to travel to them.
It’s also the end of the ski season anyway for many of them.
In Norway, where the lockdown began, as it did in much of Europe, on 15th March, the rules are being eased gradually. It appears some smaller ski centres will be allowed to operate again and Ål Skisenter is one of them.
Norway also has three glacier centres which usually open for their seasons in April and May and are currently publishing snow depths of up to 12 metres. It is not yet clear if they will also open. Fonna is pictured below earlier this month.
Praděd ski resort in the Czech Republic (pictured top) last week became the first ski area in Europe to re-open its lifts having been closed by the country’s pandemic lockdown after the Czech government slightly eased restrictions there.
Where Can You Still Ski? (If You Live Near an Open Ski Area)
China – ski area re-open in late March.
Czech Republic -at least one resort re-opened last week.
Iceland – ski areas have not closed.
Japan – most ski areas have not closed except where the season has ended anyway.
Norway – some ski centres can re-open from Tuesday April 14th
Sweden – several ski areas in the north of the country are still open.
Most of these countries have had tight lockdowns and the stats are showing the number of infections and deaths starting to drop, so their governments and health experts believe a slight easing of the lockdown, whilst tracking whether the pandemic gets worse again, is better for overall national health and morale than a long-term strict lockdown.
But the resorts are re-opening in these countries under strict operational requirements that are very different from life-before COVID-19…
The Kind of Restrictions Imposed on Skiing At Re-Opened Areas
Social distancing on lifts – only single person drag lifts allowed (Norway).
You need a medical health certificate to be allowed to ski (China).
You mustn’t rent skis, only your own equipment (Norway).
No indoor communal dining (everywhere).
You must buy your lift pass online at least 24 hours before you hope to ski (China).
Tables at outdoor dining must be at least four metres (14 feet) apart (Norway).
Contactless payments (everywhere).
Medical-quality face mask must be worn on the slopes (China).
No queuing allowed outside toilets (Norway).
Severely limited numbers of ticket sales/people on the slopes (everywhere).
Ski areas have continued to operate in Iceland, Japan and Sweden throughout the pandemic to date.
Sweden did bring in stricter rules which led to most of the country’s ski areas closing in early April, but some in the far north are still open, including world-famous Riksgransen (above) which is famous offering skiing and boarding under the midnight sun from early-May and opening for midsummers day in late June.
Japan’s northerly province of Hokkaido declared a state of emergency in February when the virus arrived there but ski areas kept operating anyway and the state of emergency was lifted last month.
However the country’s main island of Honshu now has a state of emergency and growing numbers of virus cases and some still-open ski areas there are deciding to close a few weeks earlier for the season than planned because of the pandemic there, including Hakuba.
In terms of the big skiing nations, there appears to be some optimism that summer skiing may still happen in Austria, France, Switzerland, Canada and the USA from June or July – at least resorts operating in those periods in those countries are still maintaining that’s an option if circumstances allow it in 2-3 months. Here’s where you could ski last August.
Beartooth Basin ski area in Montana said it hoped to open for summer skiing and boarding on May 31st, if possible.
Similarly in the southern hemisphere where the 2020 season is due to begin there, resorts are preparing whilst not knowing if they will be able to open.
In the meantime, the global advice remains: stay at home.