Back in March, the famous ski resort Ischgl in the Austrian Alps has turned into an infamous hotspot during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then skiing and especially après ski have been called into question whereas ski resorts are looking fearful towards the upcoming winter season. What will the upcoming winter season look like in times of a pandemic? And more importantly, what did we learn from our past mistakes?
Same season, different approach
The good news is: We are now in a very different situation of this worldwide crisis than we were in March of 2020. Back then, the virus was not yet considered an urgent threat in Europe. Although the concerns were rising due to the spreading in Italy, no one knew what would be upon us within just a few days and nobody could imagine that this pandemic would linger with us for more than a few weeks. Let alone that we did not have any reliable studies yet – no understanding of the spreading, no experience with treatment in health care, no best practice examples for containment policies.
But as of now, 7 months into the pandemic and still counting, we managed to source much more scientific information and lessons learned. Whether it is regarding our personal and private habits from washing hands and keeping distance to considering our social interactions more carefully, or regarding political decision-making and which measures should be taken, or which regulations served no considerable purpose.
Regulations & recommendations
But what are the plans for the upcoming winter season? Is it even safe to go skiing?
The tourism industry and ski resort operators work closely together with the local authorities as well as the government to ensure a safe and sound winter season. The number one priority is of course to ensure everyone’s safety and keep cases at the lowest-possible minimum. That being said, the efforts to guarantee a fun and exciting time in the snow nonetheless are great and leave us hoping for some winter action.
Here is an overview of the measures taken so you know what to expect at this year’s ski trip:
· No Show: The biggest difference for Ischgl specifically will not be the contractual agreements for no-shows but that there will actually be no show – the opening concert of the winter season has been cancelled. Usually the ski resort hosts 3 open-air concerts throughout the season up in the snowy mountains called “Top of the Mountain Concerts” with international pop acts such as Deep Purple, Mariah Carey, Jason Derulo or Nickelback. While the opening concert has already been officially cancelled, the status of the two other concerts during Easter and at the end of the season remains unclear and will depend on the future development of the pandemic. The hopes for a regular Easter and season-ending are high but the commitment to safety regulations if necessary is too.
· More relaxation, less party: What we all desperately need in times like these is some good days and proper relaxation. While we also miss partying with our friends and acquaintances, partying is simply not safe during a pandemic and we all know that. The famous Après Ski parties will therefore not happen in their usual form this time around – but there are still ways to have a great day in the snow and afterwards a cozy evening together. It is still possible to sit together and have one or two cold beers. Prohibited are only the consumption of food and drinks without a designated seat and alcohol in public places of the town. Instead, the number of guests will be limited and a mandatory registration of all guests at the restaurants is rolled out to ensure efficient contact tracing.
· Masks & meters: This will not come as a surprise but has to be mentioned anyway. The face masks and minimum distance will be with us on holidays as well. The authorities do their best to ensure a seamless process without crowded spaces at the ski lifts by enforcing one-way systems, demarcations and guidance with announcements and signage to keep every single person safe. To keep distance is a necessity everywhere while face masks only need to be worn in specific areas such as restaurants, the ski lifts and similar places where holding distance might not be as easy. Along with the ski pass everyone will, therefore, get a multi-purpose cloth to use as a face mask. On the slopes however, there is enough space for everyone and outdoors no masks are needed!
· Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize: Finally but most importantly, to make sure the virus does not sit with us in the ski lift or at the table, along with hand sanitizers available everywhere, continuous and thorough disinfection of surface areas is planned and cleaning services will be increased everywhere. But keep in mind: sanitizing your own hands regularly as well makes it safer and easier for everyone!
Ski Trips & Après Chill
For this year’s winter season it is most important that we also consider our own mindset. The public regulations are one thing, our own behavior is another. We can all contribute to a safe environment at the ski resort and elsewhere by following the rules and recommendations. Keeping distance, wearing a mask if necessary or advisable and washing as well as sanitizing our hands is key to get through this together. The mantra is: better safe than sorry!
But apart from that we can also question our own idea of ski trips. This year, Ischgl might not be the right time and place to have sleepless nights with friends drinking for hours on end, singing and shouting with strangers at the bar or on the street. Instead, we might want to go back to the roots of ski trips: Skiing, enjoying the snow-covered nature, eating heartwarming meals and having good times with dear friends in front of the fireplace. Think of it as cozy Après Chill after lots of fun and excitement on the slopes. We all need some vacation from this exhausting year, so why not take it slow and relax for once?
All in all, no matter if you prefer to relax in the wellness area of your hotel, enjoy hearty meals at the restaurant or speed up on the snow, a great trip is guaranteed!
But if you feel unsure about it, staying at home during this year’s winter season is fine too.
You can always just send us your request for next year:
Update (16th of November): As of tomorrow, Austria will unfortunately be in lockdown again for at least three weeks. The winter season in Austria will therefore not start before the lockdown is over. The ski resort Ischgl plans to open on the 17th of December instead with the above mentioned safety precautions but the opening might be subject to change depending on the progression of the infection rates. In the meantime, let’s stay safe and hope for the best!