In his road map to re-opening England after the current second lockdown, Boris Johnson announced that international leisure travel will resume no earlier than 17th May, meaning any tiny remaining hope anyone might have had that they might get to ski abroad this winter is now officially quashed.
One thing to consider though is that somewhere in the world there’s a ski area open every day of the year, so missing this season doesn’t have to mean we can’t ski until next winter. There will be at least a dozen ski areas open in Europe on 18th May, for example…
But booking travel to any ski area (or indeed, anywhere else) for late spring and summer remains fraught with difficulty:
- Will leisure travel actually be allowed from England from the 18th of May? That date may be delayed.
- How fast will ski nations allow international travel? Britain is vaccinating faster than most but some countries may delay re-opening tourism until later in the year.
- Similarly, its possible summer ski season will be different to usual in 2021. Some Austrian glacier areas are currently closed as it’s not viable for them to operate financially with all the operating restrictions severely limiting visitor numbers and thus income. That may or may not improve by late spring/summer.
- How soon will ski nations want English skiers to visit? On the one hand, tourists will be welcome, on the other, there’s that English variant of COVID, the fact we’ve had more deaths than any other country in Europe and a higher rate per 100,000 than other leading economies too. With Brexit, we’re now a third country and easier to keep out.
- What travel options will there be?
- Quarantine periods, negative tests and/or vaccine passports may all be required to enter some/all nations.
- Many other skiers in Europe have been in the same boat as Brits, so there may be a lot of demand for the limited skiing available this time of year if travel does open up.
- Will travel insurance cover us?
So booking a trip right now is high risk, to say the least. But that’s not to say it won’t be possible to go skiing in late spring, summer or early autumn – as indeed it was after the first lockdown and before the second lockdown last year. We just don’t know how things will play out.
If you do want to think about what might be possible though, here are the probable options, for skiing from June to September.
Austria: The Hintertux glacier (above and top) is usually open year-round. Half a dozen other Austrian glaciers normally operate at various times in spring and summer. They include the Kitzsteinhorn (currently aiming to open to 6th June but re-opened in July last year) above Kaprun, the Stubai (currently aiming to open to 27th June) near Innsbruck as well as the Kaunertal (currently closed but season due to last to 6th June) and Molltal (currently closed but normally open 11 months from early June) glaciers.
Canada: A long shot with Transatlantic leisure travel unlikely to resume fast and the last of Canada’s regular ski area season closures happening around 16th May anyway. But there’s an outside chance Whistler Blackcomb will reopen for its five-week summer glacier skiing in June-July. It didn’t happen last year even though the first Canadian lockdown was over then so that’s uncertain at present.
France: Normally Val d’Isere opens some runs in June, with Les 2 Alpes and Tignes offering skiing from late June into August.
Italy: The main remaining Italian summer ski area is Passo Stelvio, usually open for six months to late October. Cervinia also opens from June to September providing access to the same summer glacier area as Zermatt over the Swiss border.
Norway: There are three small summer ski glacier resorts in Norway, two of which (Folgefonn or “Fonna” -above – and Galdhoppigen) stay open through to the autumn.
Scotland: Scotland’s ski areas have been closed through their snowiest winter for a decade and now things are warming up. Nicola Sturgeon also appears to have ruled out domestic tourism into April. If we’re (very) lucky though we might get another cold snap and some slopes may be able to open into May. It is a long shot not unheard of. Glencoe usually organise a midsummer ski in June on any remaining snow patch.
Sweden: Riksgrasnsen has a ski season from March to late May and was the only ski area that stayed open through the 2020 lockdown last year. Unfortunately, it will close just as international travel from the UK may be allowed to resume. It does usually re-open for a midsummer ski weekend, with lifts opening under the midnight sun, at midsummer in late June though.
Switzerland: Zermatt, with Europe’s highest ski lifts, aims to open every day of the year and has been open non-stop since the end of the last lockdown nine-months ago. Saas-Fee has a nine-month season running from mid-July to late-April.
USA: Like Canada, a long-shot for travel and summer-ski opening is a bit hit and miss with areas like Squaw Valley and mammoth sometimes open to July or August in a good snow year. Only the Timberline snowfield in Oregon is usually open through to August though.
The Southern Hemisphere: There are about 100 ski areas normally open in six countries in South America, Africa and Australia/New Zealand. New Zealand is, remarkably, a kind of parallel ski universe now where you can enjoy a ski holiday like pre-pandemic days. Treble cone in New Zealand is pictured above. Last year all six countries had restrictions in place and that seems likely to be the case again in 2021. For what it’s worth though the main season if ski areas can open, runs from July to September inclusive.
Indoors: For many of us, realistically, our next best chance to get on snow will probably be indoors at one of the UK’s six indoor ski slopes. The date for indoor leisure opening is 12th April.