The Ski and Snowboard Short Break Specialist

Continued Uncertainty for Ski Season 2020/21 due to Covid-19

It’s already November, and we have had our first snow fall down at village level, so we know that winter is definitely on its way! But this year it feels somewhat different, and we’re not sure what that “winter” might be with regards to skiing, resorts etc.

Here we will share our expectations (best guesses!) on what could happen for the Ski Season 2020/21.

Will this ski season happen, and what will it be like?

Over the past few months we have spent a lot of time monitoring the situation and trying to predict what’s going to happen during this key autumn and winter period. Sadly – we could not find many reasons to be that positive that Ski Season 2020/21 would not be without issue!

As the weather changes and people are inside more, combined with the usual flu & cold season, then we saw that winter was always going to be tricky. It’s harder to stop the spread without positive action (basically keeping people apart and reducing contact).

Of course no-one really knows and all we can do is prepare for the worst, hope for the best and be ready to make the most of anything we get! The ongoing situation of restrictions and lockdowns in the UK and France has meant that our Ski Weekender season will be very different for 2020/21, and we have taken decisions in advance to reduce our capacity and operate a reduced schedule of holidays and trips this winter, with just a skeleton team in place in France.

This is mainly due to the various issues that we foresee remaining with regards to Brits being able to easily travel out to France for a holiday (and in particular a short break). Even if government restrictions are lifted and we are out of “lockdown” then several challenges will likely remain for just popping across to Geneva!

The airlines have been hit hard by this pandemic and as a result, the flight schedules are very different for winter and capacity has been drastically reduced by all airlines (Easyjet, Jet2, BA and Swiss etc).

Will flights all be operating? What price will last minute tickets be? and What will the flying experience be like? What happens if my flight gets cancelled? Will I need a covid-test before flying? All big questions and no-one will really know until mid-December or January at the earliest.

Plus – will the threat of local lockdowns remain, and mean that people in high risk areas of the UK are restricted in their ability to travel?
And what happens when the contact tracing system “pings you” as Boris put it, to say that you need to self-isolate as you have come into contact with a confirmed case… The 14 days quarantine and self-isolation is sadly going to put a stop on that holiday.

Let’s also throw in the tricky issue of borders and Brexit…which could play a role in January.
The EU has confirmed that it will not close it’s borders internally, and even though there may be restrictions on movements in various countries, the borders will remain open for EU residents to be able to travel around the EU throughout the pandemic. However, it has also talked about maintaining the restrictions on its external borders to reduce transmission of the virus from the non-EU world. After 31st December this would (or could/should) include Britain, as the UK will be outside of the EU and hence a 3rd party country. Let’s hope the politicians can work out a solution.

Our honest opinion is that it will remain quite risky to assume that you will be able to travel to France without some form of disruption and added stress on your journey. We very much hope that it will be possible to fly soon, and know that collectively the airlines and airports will be working hard to put in place whatever measures they can. But it may be too late for this winter season!

 

So – assuming you can travel to Geneva and onto France, what can you expect when you get to the ski resorts, and what will your ski holiday look and feel like?

The messages from the ski resorts and villages have all been positive and focused on the work they have been doing to allow them to open (with control measures in place) in December 2020.
The current lockdown in France is due to end in the first week of December, but it remains a strong possibility that it may be extended by another couple of weeks if the hospitalisation numbers remain at a critical level.

This does mean that the resorts who would typically open at the start of December (Tignes, Val Thorens etc) will be forced to remain closed – but the majority of the ski resorts of the French Alps would be aiming for an opening date of the 12th or 19th December – in time for Christmas.

So – for the moment, we remain hopeful and positive that the ski resorts will be allowed to open for Christmas and New Year, although there is a chance that it could be delayed to January in order to keep the festive period simple and without inciting people to travel around France unnecessarily.

Key questions to be answered are :-
Are the mountain villages ready for an influx of Parisiens, Marseillais or Lyonnais ?
Are the hospital A&E departments able to deal with the extra workload that skiing injuries create?

French ski resorts have been stressing that they are not planning to limit capacity or to restrict access to the slopes – although of course, governmental restrictions on travel may come into play here. It’s possible that day visitors could be discouraged by giving preference to holiday lift-pass holders over the day passes – but this argument is tricky as economically the weekend warriors are very important to a ski resort.

We know that we are going to have to live with the virus, and that control measures will be in place around many aspects of life. This has become “normal” and widespread in France during the summer and autumn months, and if you are planning on visiting then expect to wear a face mask a lot!

You can find a list of the control measures here:-
https://www.france-montagnes.com/covid-19-quel-protocole-cet-hiver-dans-les-stations-de-ski

The summer season was a good indicator of how things may be run, and it was a generally positive experience for all concerned (tourists, locals and businesses). However, in France we are blessed with warm weather and so lots of outside eating, drinking and mixing….options that are simply not possible in the winter!

So what can you expect…

Face masks will be compulsory on all public transport, in any enclosed public spaces or buildings, all shops and restaurants, in lift queues and telecabines and anywhere there is a density of people.
The good news is that when you are skiing or in the fresh mountain air, then masks won’t be required!

Once you are on the mountain it should all be OK and quite normal from a skiing experience – but the bottlenecks and squeeze points could be an issue, and have an adverse impact on the experience.

I would expect the throughput of people at the entry points onto the mountain to be slower… particularly so where this is done by telecabine. With a combination of enhanced cleaning and reduced number of people per cabine (and groups not mixed) then ultimately the capacity will be reduced and queues could be longer than normal – especially at peak times! I think that chairlifts and drag lifts should be as usual, and so its going to be even more key than ever to think about timing, how to access the skiing and where to find the quieter sections of resorts away from “bottleneck” lifts.
Local knowledge and flexibility could be key!

Eating and drinking on the mountain will be different this year.
Self-service restaurants are not allowed, and it has to be table-service only. We are not sure how some of the local establishments will be able to react to this, and so it’s possible some could remain closed. Tables will likely be limited to 6 people, and with a lot more space between tables. This reduced capacity could mean longer waits at peak times – so I am guessing that picnics are going to be popular this season! Lucky, as I am a big fan of hot soup in a thermos flask!

Bars and Restaurants will also be different, and the “apres-ski” is going to be more low key and restrained this year. Hard to predict exactly what the rules will be, but nightclubs will remain closed, and I should imagine bars will be geared towards table service with limits on group sizes. I would realistically expect an early closing time too…maybe 22h!
Restaurants and food are a key part of the French holiday experience and so there will be an effort to get these open – and so I would expect a fairly normal service to be resumed here, but with a limited closing time also.

In summary – the hope is that skiing will be able to happen this Ski Season 2020/21, but it will be different (isn’t everything these days). Business and organisations will be doing their bit to try and ensure a safe and enjoyable experience, and it’s up to us to make the most of it and enjoy that special mountain time.


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