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Skiing in Austria: What does the coronavirus lockdown mean for winter sports?

Despite Austria re-entering a harsh lockdown on December 26th, skiing will not be completely forbidden.

Skiing in Austria: What does the coronavirus lockdown mean for winter sports?
A street sweeper in the Tyrolean resort of Ischgl. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

On December 2nd, Austria announced that skiing would again be allowed from December 24th as part of a lockdown relaxation.

Just a few weeks later, amid rising case numbers, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced the country would be headed towards another lockdown from December 26th until late January. 

Skiing however has not been banned under the measures. 

EXPLAINED: What are the rules of Austria's upcoming coronavirus lockdown?

The government decided that rules surrounding how and whether to allow outdoor sports — including skiing — will be left for local authorities to determine.

Therefore, ski slopes will again be open from Christmas Eve – depending of course on whether this is allowed by state authorities. 

“The situation is not the same everywhere” said Vice Chancellor and Sports Minister Werner Kogler.

In addition, ice rinks and closed cross-country trails will again be allowed to open. 

What measures will be in place?

Technically speaking ski slopes have not been closed in Austria, however ski lifts and gondolas have been forbidden – effectively making skiing impossible for anyone but the incredibly fit. 

The lifts will again be allowed to open from December 24th, although lift capacity will be reduced to 50 percent. 

In addition, everyone will have to wear a FFP2 mask on ski lifts and in the queues while waiting. 

FFP2 masks will be on sale on site, Kronen Zeitung reports

EXPLAINED: Is it safe to ski in Austria this season? 

Several ski resorts have said they will open earlier than usual to minimise the risk of queues forming

Austria's federal states also have the power to introduce stricter rules should they consider them appropriate. 

In Styria, ski resorts will measure the temperature of skiers – although the measure will be voluntary, Kronen Zeitung reports

Can I skill have a ski holiday?

No. As has been previously announced, skiing will only be possible via day trip, with hotels closed until January 18th at the earliest. 

In addition, apres ski activities are completely banned, while restaurants and cafes will also be closed. Some food options will be available on the slopes, reports skiing magazine Skigebiete Test

Which states will open their ski slopes?

Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Styria and Salzburg have already announced that they will open their ski areas on the 24th. 

“Despite all the discussions of the last few days: We have received a lot of positive feedback that people can finally ski”, spokesman for the Salzburg lift operators, Erich Egger, told Kronen Zeitung

Can I travel to Austria to go skiing?

While foreigners are not banned from the slopes, Austria's strict Christmas quarantine rules – along with a ban on hotel stays – make it almost impossible for anyone to enter the country for a skiing trip. 

From December 19th, Austria put in place a strict set of quarantine requirements for almost everyone who enters the country. 

After five days in isolation, people will be entitled to take a free coronavirus test in order to leave quarantine early.

Once a negative result has been confirmed, they will be allowed to leave quarantine. 

UPDATED: What you need to know about Austria's Christmas quarantine rules 

Without the test, quarantine will last ten days. 

The Local Austria reached out to the Austrian government for clarification on how people can get tested if they are already at home quarantining. 

The representative told The Local that anyone wanting to be tested should contact their local health officials – and that a PCR rather than an antigen test is required. 

 
 
 

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CLIMATE CRISIS

Austria’s famous Dachstein glacier to be closed off for skiing this winter

Heat, rain and even Sahara sand have affected the ice in the famous Austrian Dachstein glacier, forcing authorities to close off the ski lifts this winter.

Austria's famous Dachstein glacier to be closed off for skiing this winter

Austrian authorities have decided to cancel winter skiing in the Dachstein glacier, located on the highest mountain in Styria, Austrian media reported.

“There will be no autumn or winter skiing on the Dachstein this year,” Georg Bliem, the director of Planai-Hochwurzen-Bahnen told Kleine Zeitung on Wednesday.

For years now, the glacier has been steadily melting in summer. The year 2022 has been no exception, as heat and extreme rain (and even Sahara sand) have hurt the ice structures, causing the region to become dangerous for non-experienced hikers.

READ ALSO: From inflation to Covid: What to expect from Austria’s winter season

The melting ice has been particularly affecting the structures for lift operations. To operate safely, the supports of the lifts would have to be moved.

“That’s a huge effort, and we have no guarantee that it won’t need to be done again next year,” Bliem said.

On the slopes, the rock is coming through in some places and even the lift line now runs over rock, he added.

For this reason, the decision to forgo winter skiing, at least this year, has been made. But further checks will take place next year.

READ ALSO: How will climate change impact Austria?

“In the spring we will evaluate the situation,” Bliem said. 

The peak season on the Dachstein glacier is autumn when snow cannons cannot yet be fired up at lower altitudes. In Styria, the Dachstein was the only ski destination to offer skiing as early as September and October. Many professional athletes in particular had used the slopes for training runs.

Other attractions will remain open

The area has many other attractions that will remain open, the authorities highlighted. The ice palace, the famous stairs leading up to the panoramic viewpoint, and the hilltop restaurant, for example.

The area for cross-country ski trains will be larger, and ski touring crossings will continue to be possible. The park is also looking to develop a new concept for future winters, offering more hiking trails.

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