Coronavirus: Can Austria save its ski season?

Coronavirus: Can Austria save its ski season?
Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP
Will you be able to hit the Austrian slopes this winter?

Snow is already beginning to fall on some of Austria’s best known ski slopes. 

But due to the coronavirus lockdown, the freshly fallen powder remains largely untouched – other than the tracks of the handful of professional skiers who are allowed to hit the slopes and ride the chairlifts. 

 

Die Schneekanonen sind gestartet! ❄️ Hol dir deine Ski amadé Saisonkarte heuer mit NULL RISIKO! ? Garantierte, aliquote…

Posted by Planai – Schladming on Thursday, November 19, 2020

 

Austria’s ski season is worth millions and is the lifeblood of countless communities across the country. 

It was also the site of one of the world’s first superspreader event in the Spring. 

READ MORE: Austria's Ischgl ski resort 'mishandled coronavirus outbreak' 

Ever since, Ischgl and a number of other ski resorts all across Austria have implemented ‘hygiene and protection plans’ in an attempt to reduce the risk of transmission. 

Andreas Steibl, the Director of Tourism at the Ischgl ski resort said more than €700,000 had been invested into that country’s hygiene and protection plan which “goes far beyond the government’s measures”. 

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about Austria's coronavirus lockdown 

After ski parties have been cancelled, with no more loud music or bands – and drinks only available while seated in restaurants. 

Several Austrian ski areas have offered refundable tickets, saying customers will be able to get all of their money back if the slopes are closed due to coronavirus in order to entice wary winter travellers. 

'Apres ski' will look very different in Austria this winter. Photo: DPA

Will there be an Austrian ski season in 2020?

Despite the efforts of the ski resorts, Austrian authorities however had other ideas and put in place a strict nationwide lockdown – including a 24-hour stay-at-home order – until at least December 6th. 

Originally hoping to open on November 26th, some of Austria’s ski resorts have pushed back their opening date until mid-December – although there are some who doubt whether or not the ski season will go ahead at all. 

Others which had already opened – including the Stubai Glacier, Kaunertal Glacier, Pitztal Glacier, Mölltal Glacier, Hintertux Glacier, Sölden, Dachstein and Kitzsteinhorn – had to close again.

While Austrian authorities are well aware of the value of the ski industry to the country’s struggling economy, they are also aware of the perilous situation in the country. 

With Christmas markets already cancelled for much of the country – and with infections failing to decline despite almost three weeks of shutdown measures – there is a chance that the slopes will not open until sometime in 2021. 

Authorities are also aware that while steps may have been taken across the country, ski resorts also pose a significant super spreader risk – particularly if skiers fail to cooperate. 

Viral pictures from the Kaunertaler glacier in October show a disregard for even the most basic social distancing measures. 

 

 

German authorities have warned citizens to avoid ski holidays – and that anyone who goes may need to quarantine on their return. 

Bavarian leader Markus Söder reminded Bavarians of quarantine requirements and encouraged them to avoid ski holidays in Austria, saying he was “once bitten, twice shy” after the Ischgl outbreak during the Spring. 

Therefore, it appears that like most other aspects of Austrian society, the ski industry is waiting on a decline in infection numbers in order to get the green light to get on piste again. 


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