The European ski season is upon us once again and after the pandemic closures of 2020, many skiers are desperate to hit the slopes.
But with Austria back in national lockdown and with COVID numbers rising across Europe, is your ski holiday safe?
We’ve spoken to ski operators and travel experts to give you the lowdown on your European ski holiday.
What are the current restrictions in Austria?
Austria is in national lockdown until 12 December and travellers are only allowed to enter the country for work, study or family reasons. Tourists are not allowed into Austria as long as the lockdown is in place. Hotels, restaurants and bars are also closed.
But several ski resorts remain open for locals as skiing is classed as ‘outdoor recreation’.
If you live in Austria, you will need proof that you are fully vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19, along with a FFP2 mask. The following resorts are currently open:
What about the rest of Europe?
Travel operator Inghams is optimistic that the majority of ski holidays will be able to go ahead despite the fifth wave hitting the continent.
“The news of the lockdown in Austria is of course concerning, being so close to the start of the winter ski season, but we remain optimistic about the winter ahead. We’ve planned for countless eventualities and are arguably better prepared than ever before,” says Joe Ponte, CEO Hotelplan UK, Inghams parent company.
“In the meantime, our customers can remain assured that we are continuing to closely monitor the situation and when it is safe to do so, we will be ready to deliver the ski holidays people want.”
Will Italy’s ski season go ahead?
Italy has recently tightened its COVID-19 restrictions, but if you are double-jabbed this shouldn’t cause you any problems.
The country is launching a ‘super green pass’ on 6 December. This requires people to prove their vaccination status or that they have recovered from COVID-19, to access a range of venues, including ski lifts, restaurants and bars.
“We know many people are keen to get away for a ski holiday this year, after many missing out last season. But as with all travel, there are still risks with COVID,” says Ana Davis, CEO of ski travel company, Alto Ski, who offer skiers pay as you go passes that don’t need to be booked in advance.
“If booking, it’s important to make sure you are booking trips with cancellation policies, and avoid booking passes in advance.”
Is my ski holiday in Switzerland safe?
It's a mixed picture in Switzerland.
Due to the Omicron variant, arrivals from the UK, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Egypt and Malawi need to present a negative COVID-19 test and quarantine for ten days on arrival. This will make ski holidays impossible for many.
Ski operator Inghams have suspended their Swiss ski holidays. Holidaymakers can either swap for a ski holiday in another country or reschedule for a later date.
Skiers from the UK can still transit through Geneva airport without quarantining to reach ski resorts in Italy and France.
As of 28th November, tourists from other countries are free to visit Switzerland's many Alpine resorts as long as they can provide proof of vaccination and a negative COVID test.
Switzerland has a regularly updated list of permitted countries, which you can find here.
“Bookings are busier than any previous year because skiers are a passionate bunch and, after a year away, we’re desperate to get back into the mountains,” says Richard Sinclair from skiing travel operator Sno.
“Skiing for adults is simple across Europe – if you’re fully vaxxed, then you can travel and ski. For children under 12 with jabbed adults they are also fine, whereas teens without their second jab need a negative test either to enter the country or access restaurants, ski lifts or both.”
How are things looking in France?
France has just ruled out more lockdowns and restrictions (as of 25 November) but tourists from non-EU countries - including the UK - will need to present a negative PCR or antigen test taken within 48 hours of travelling to enter France from 4 December.
French ski resorts remain open as usual though, but tourists will need to present proof of vaccination and a negative test on arrival.
What are ski operators doing to assure customers?
Due to the uncertainty around COVID restrictions this winter, many tour operators are offering extended cancellation policies. Some companies are also offering travellers the opportunity to re-book in another country if their chosen destination goes into lockdown.
“If your tour operator can’t provide your holiday they should offer you an alternative or a refund, but they’re unlikely to do this if you could have met the rules, by being vaccinated for instance, but chose not to,” says Sinclair.
“Checking whether you need a visa, or yellow fever/rabies/covid jab to enter a country has always been the responsibility of the traveller and that won’t change.”
You can find regular updates on all European travel restrictions here.