Germany set for clash with Austria as Merkel bids to keep ski resorts closed

Germany set for clash with Austria as Merkel bids to keep ski resorts closed
Skiiers at a popular resort in Feldberg, Baden-Württemberg in March. Photo: DPA
Germany will seek a deal with European partners to close ski slopes through to early January due to coronavirus, setting it on a collision course with resort operators and Austria ahead of the crucial Christmas holiday season.

“I will say this openly that it won't be easy, but we will try,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said after marathon talks Wednesday with the leaders of Germany's 16 states on extending current restrictions in Europe's biggest economy.

While urging Germans to stay at home over the year's end festive season, the states and federal government agreed to “work at the European side, to not allow ski tourism until January 10”.

Germany's call dovetailed with France's plans, coming a day after French President Emmanuel Macron said his country's ski resorts will be shuttered through year's end.

Macron had also said he would consult with European partners to coordinate start dates for the winter season.

But key player Austria has already voiced opposition, with Austrian tourism minister Elisabeth Köstinger saying that she “did not see any benefits to the calls for closure of ski resorts”.

READ ALSO: 'Avoid a second Ischgl': Bavaria urges ski slopes to close across Europe over winter break

“Winter holidays in Austria will be safe. Our companies have already drawn up comprehensive safety concepts for ski holidays,” she told Germany's Funke newspaper group.

In France, ski resorts were also up in arms over Macron's plans.

“The president had perhaps made a precipitous announcement and it is very prejudicial for the economy of the Alps,” said Jean-Luc Boch, who heads the national association of mountain stations ANMSM.

'Agreement needed'

In Germany meanwhile, regional authorities in southern Bavaria state said on Tuesday they would keep the Alpine slopes there shut through the holiday season to combat Covid-19 transmission.

Archive photo shows skiers in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria. Photo: DPA

Many German and foreign holidaymakers flock to Bavaria over the winter break to enjoy its pristine ski slopes.

But Bavaria's state premier Markus Söder said current infection rates meant “we just can't have the classic ski holidays”.

He also warned Germans against simply crossing the border to ski in Austria, as they would face a 10-day quarantine upon return since the neighbouring country is classed as a coronavirus risk zone.

“I would prefer to have a common agreement on a European level: no ski lifts open, no (ski) holidays anywhere,” said Söder.

“If we want to keep the borders open we need a clear agreement on skiing. Otherwise things will get difficult.”

The goal, said Söder, was to avoid “a second Ischgl”.

The Austrian ski resort of Ischgl gained notoriety earlier this year after it became an early Covid-19 hotspot and infected tourists there helped spread the virus across Europe.

In non-EU member Switzerland, however, skis resorts are open, although police have been spotted patrolling lift departures areas to ensure that skiiers respect anti-Covid measures such as wearing masks and social distancing.

Cable car windows are left open to ensure ventilation and hand gel is widely available.

The Swiss industry is hoping for an influx of European tourists over Christmas after Switzerland recently lifted quarantine requirements for people arriving from most of the continent.


Member comments

  1. I definitely agree with Elisabeth Köstinger: with appropriate safety measures in place (as seen at Austrian ski resorts) there is minimum chance of transmission…especially now that the people are aware .

  2. If people were “aware”, we would not have needed a second slockdown. Nothing in any of the lockdowns was anything other than common sense, but still when the restrictions are lifted people go back to acting recklessly. Put people together in a Ski resort for a week or more, the same will happen.

Become a Member to leave a comment.Or login here.