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Patrick Thorne

30 Oct 20

Skiers Divided

Patrick Thorne

30 Oct 20

With the 2020-21 ski season fast approaching (in fact already underway at several dozen ski areas with more now opening by the day), British skiers appear to be more divided in their outlook than ever before, falling in to two broad camps – those who want to know what’s happening in the ski world right now and those who don‘t.

Some are as hungry for snow and ski news as ever – perhaps even hungrier after missing out on the end of last season and with so much complex and confusing travel information about. Others feel it is irresponsible even to talk about the coming ski season.

As we get closer to winter virus cases are rising across Europe and governments are generally taking ever more determined action to slow the spread, with France, Germany and Italy beginning variants on short-term lockdowns in November in the hope that that will make at least a ‘new normal’ winter possible.

To add to the misery for skiers the (very) early season snow has been great.  The Stubai glacier reported another 80cm of fresh snow this week and it has been snowing everywhere.

As we have learned through 2020 things can change at any time but currently there are whole raft of restrictions in place on travel to ski resorts and it’s looking like how infection rates develop over the next month will be crucial.

Currently if anyone does go to one of the so-far opened ski areas they’ll need to self-quarantine for a fortnight on return to the UK.

Britain’s Transport minister Matt Hancock has however said that he’s aiming to have an improved system in place by the December 1st which will cut self-quarantine requirements to one -week with travellers paying to take a virus test on arrival back in the UK.

Travel companies are hoping for even bigger advances removing, or at least further reducing, the need to quarantine further still.  Of course, there is also the hope that some ski nations may see cases drop enough for travel corridors to re-open or even a credible vaccine appearing in the next six months.  But no one knows for sure what will happen.

(The Dachstein Glacier earlier this month)

You’re Taunting Us!

In a normal autumn, skiers would be anxiously looking at snow forecasts and snow reports hoping to see promising signs of a good snow winter ahead – early season dumps and cold weather for snowmaking – exactly as we get now.

But sharing the good news this autumn is annoying as many skiers as it excites.

“You’re torturing us! What’s the point in showing us great snow when we can’t even get there?” …would be one of the politer comments received these days.

But then others are able to accept and even embrace the fact that regardless of the virus, mother nature continues her work and the world keeps turning.

A lot of ski resorts have decided their best bet is to keep posting gorgeous images from their resorts saying they hope this provides a window out to the mountains for those stuck in less fabulous locations.

You Are Encouraging Irresponsible Behaviour

Is anyone that sells a ski holiday in the current climate or writes about ski holidays existing for those prepared to self-isolate encouraging irresponsible behaviour?

On the one hand some skiers are putting forward the view that no one should be travelling during the pandemic so then even talking about what’s possible and what isn’t is irresponsible.

But then surveys are showing the vast majority of skiers want to go skiing this winter if they can, and the main complaint is lack of clear information and every-changing rules.

So again divided opinions and no clear right or wrong approach.

Cervinia last weekend – the official pics.

You Are Not Reporting Irresponsible Behaviour

Social media being what social media is, pictures have been appearing of big (apparently, perhaps actually) non-socially-distanced queues to buy lift tickets or board gondolas and cable-cars, and rammed cable-car cabins – all rather off-putting to anyone who wants to avoid that kind of situation in a pandemic and bad publicity for resorts hoping they won’t be shut down.

On the one hand the resorts say the pictures are carefully taken to show things looking worse than they are, and they’re very upset having planned for safe operations for months before opening.  On the other it has led to (so far Swiss resorts in particular) breaking away from the position in most European ski nations that it is safe to run gondolas and cable cars at capacity as they’re frequently cleaned, everyone’s wearing masks and the journey is short,  to something more like the North American position of limiting numbers in cabins to allow social distancing and where possible giving timed access slots to arrive at the base to avoid everyone turning up at once.  All are stressing the importance of skier responsibility for it all to work too.

As with most things pandemic related things continue to evolve and we are aiming to report hard facts where we can without wallowing in negative stories or being unrealistically positive.  Usually there seems to be two sides…

 

Should we mention China’s 20-21 season ahs already started, at Wanlong? Maybe not…

Don’t Mention China

Any news of Chinese skiing produces the greatest irritation.  China is the real powerhouse of world skiing at present with dozens of indoor snow centres and hundreds of ski resorts opening in just the past few years. The Chinese president has target of 300 million Chinese enjoying winter sports by the time of the Beijing Olympics, which are now just 15 months away – that’s about double the number of skiers in the rest of the world combined.

But after Britain quietly forgot our outrage over Tiananmen Square about a decade ago and instead got very keen on China building our nuclear power stations and 5G network for us, the country is now back on the bad list for many with a sudden focus on oppression of a the country’s Uighur Muslim population.  For some it remains unforgivable that the virus probably originating there. The fact that the Chinese state apparatus seems to have a very effective track and trace system in place (and did even before the virus was a thing) only appears to increase the annoyance and there are calls for a British boycott of the 2022 Games from some quarters.  So any mention of Chinese ski developments only seems to add to the irritation with demands coming in that Chinese skiing and the 2022 Olympics are not mentioned at all.

(image credit: Tignes)

We’re Skiing Whatever

In the opposite corner to the skiers who won’t be skiing unless travel gets closer to normal at some point and they can feel they are doing so as safely as they would feel visiting a local town near their home, a sizable proportion of skiers are saying they’re going to be hitting the slopes whatever, assuming there’s not another full lockdown.

Many are booking in the latter half of the season but say they’re prepared to self-isolate for a fortnight upon their return if that’s still required by then.

They remain hungry for accurate information and keen to have news of what’s possible, and what’s not.

Many take the view that “skiing is a risky sport anyway” and that the virus is just another risk.

They say that after the miserable 2020 they need something to look forward to for the start of 2021.

(Arosa, also pictured top, is one of 10 Swiss areas open for Halloween weekend, if we should mention that)