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Italian ski slopes finally reopen after 2020 closure, with France and Austria following suit


Italian skiers have finally returned to the slopes after nearly two years on Saturday since the first pandemic lockdown in March 2020.

But just as the industry is set to recover from a lost 2020-2021 season after a brutal shutdown the previous year, a spike in cases in the Alpine province bordering Austria underscores how precarious the situation remains. .

As at the right time, snow fell overnight, covering the slopes of the Plan de Corones in the South Tyrolean town of San Vigilio di Marebbe, giving a new cover to the man-made base just in time for the day of the opening.

Skiers have come from as far away as Croatia and the Italian capital Rome, as well as neighboring valleys where the slopes have yet to open.

“I have chills down my spine as we left the tracks on the famous March 8, 2020, rushing towards Rome because everything was going to lock up,” said Monica Meloni, 53, of Rome, as the snow continued to fall.

Government regulations require a health pass to access areas with closed elevators, which can be obtained with proof of vaccination, recovery from the virus, or a negative test within the past 24 hours. The new system will be launched on Saturday in the first two ski areas to open.

Glacier skiing has already opened earlier this month, while the ski season in Italy officially opens on December 4.

Here is the situation for the rest of Europe.

Switzerland

Switzerland, which kept its ski slopes open last year, is sticking to its plans again this year. The season has started in pockets that received early snowfall, although there are no plans to step up a gear until mid-December.

Last year restaurants were closed due to the pandemic. They have since reopened, but customers must show their COVID passes. Skiers will not have to show the ski passes to access the ski lifts but will have to wear masks on them.

The Swiss expect more foreign visitors. A year ago, the numbers were reduced by tests and quarantine requirements for people returning to other countries. The question mark: Coronavirus cases have risen sharply in recent weeks in the country, and Swiss tourism officials admit that things could change overnight depending on the government’s response.

France

The 250 French ski areas now have a plan to reopen after the amortization of last season, with French resorts already planning to operate again in the coming weeks. Val Thorens, the highest winter sports resort in Europe, on November 20 became the first alpine area in France to allow skiers to return.

In resorts, wearing a mask will be compulsory for 11 years old and over in all ski lifts and lines. Only ski lifts and conveyor belts are exempt from the mask wearing rules, provided they are used by one person. Social distancing measures must also be observed in queues or among people traveling in groups.

The French Ski Area Association has indicated that if the national incidence rate of COVID exceeds 200 cases per 100,000 inhabitants – as is expected very soon – the Health Pass will be compulsory for skiers from the age of 12 to access to the areas, and possibly to the ski lifts.

Checks will be carried out at ski lift sales points, ski lessons and at the start of the ski lifts.

Austria

Austria, which is in lockdown, will nevertheless allow skiing to people vaccinated or recently recovered from COVID-19, skiing being classified as outdoor physical exercise and therefore exempt.

However, there will be no usual après-ski and tourists from outside the region will not have an easy time enjoying the slopes: restaurants and hotels are closed, due to confinement.

Ischgl, the Austrian resort at the center of a major outbreak during the first phase of the pandemic in February and March 2020, plans to kick off its ski season on December 3. But many other resorts are wondering if it’s worth opening during the lockdown, which is expected to last until December 13, as hotel closures prevent tourists from coming.

Germany

According to the German automobile club ADAC, which regularly provides information of interest to German travelers, the country’s ski resorts are planning to open as planned, but with precautions: skiers will have to present a vaccine or a recovery certificate, or test negative, and wear masks. on the ski lifts.

Bavaria, where most ski resorts are located, has stricter rules: only people who have been vaccinated or recovered will be allowed in, and they will also have to test negative. The move was criticized by the German association of ski lift operators VDS, which says most ski lift operators do not have the staff to face the logistical challenge of verifying all the tests.

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euronews Gt

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