No Xmas Ski Holidays in the Alps this year

There will be no Xmas ski holidays in the Alps this year by the looks. Except maybe for those already living in Switzerland.

For the EU alpine countries skiing is shut down.

The pressure to shut down ski resorts from governments in France, Italy and Germany has affected the last EU holdout Austria as well, as Chancellor Sebastian Kurz made clear at a news conference yesterday.

“From December 24, individual sports outdoors such as skiing will be possible again so that the Austrian population has the chance to engage in sporting activity over the holidays” he said.

But that’s just for local daytrippers, as hotels won’t be allowed to open until at least January 7th.

Stubai hosted a World Cup in November, but it’s only open for athletes © Pally Learmond / Stubai

Austria had been hoping to reopen ski resorts on December 17, including accommodation and lifts. All resorts have COVID-safe plans in place. You can check their winter 20/21 guidelines on the official Austria Info site here.

Social Media has been full of great clips and images from the likes of Stubai, but those are of athletes training and competing – both of which have been allowed to continue, without spectators in teh case of events, while recreational skier access is closed.

In France the government decision was the opposite. French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced resorts could open for Xmas, but ski lifts are to remain closed. Obviously for resorts that depend on skiing that is not much use, and there have been protests in recent days across many major resort areas in the Isère and Savoie regions.

According to Euronews 600 protestors turned out at Bourg-Saint-Maurice below Les Arcs. They quote Guillaume Desrues, mayor of Bourg-Saint-Maurice/Les Arcs, telling the crowd, “Our economic activity depends largely on tourism and there we feel it an injustice to have been the only ones put aside for the recovery in mid-December.”

The resorts feel they have plans in place, developed over the past several months with medical and other local authorities, including large scale COVID testing, to operate safely.

Glacier 3000 in Switzerland is one of the few open ski areas in Europe
Glacier 3000 in Switerland is one of the few Alps areas open © Carmen Price

Neighbouring Switzerland is not part of the EU, and remains the only Alps ski nation that still has resorts and accommodation open. In the Portes du Soleil region that means the French side is closed and Swiss side can open, prompting the local Mayor of Châtel on the border to decorate his town hall with Swiss flags as a protest.

But if you go there from France you will be subject to quarantine on returns says French PM Castex. He told French TV Channel BFM “We are going to set up a quarantine with the neighbouring authorities, there will be random checks at the border. You will be placed in quarantine for seven days and you will undergo tests.”

For governments balancing the economic effects of what is a massive industry, with 300 ski resorts in France alone, and the health risks of exacerbating an already critical COVID-19 situation, it is a no win situation. They will be criticised whatever they decide.

For those in Switzerland who can go, they will find emptier slopes and deals on accommodation.

Powder days in Livigno are currently off the menu © Roby Trab / Livigno

In Italy Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Monday “”We cannot afford indiscriminate ski holidays.. Everything to do with skiing holidays is uncontrollable.”

Italy’s northern region is already a designated high-risk zone, with only essential travel in and out allowed.

Losing Xmas/New Year will be an economic disaster for ski resorts and their communities across the alps.

For anyone from downunder of course it’s all academic. Even if we could leave, most would opt for destinations with far lower COVID-19 infection rates – we did a run down on those back in April, and the advice then remains true now, northern Honshu is the pick.