Going skiing is undoubtedly one of the very best winter holidays around. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie on skis or a snowboard, or you simply love the après-ski atmosphere, you are probably wondering what’s going to happen in the mountains this year. Will there even be a 2021 ski season?
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The answer is still up in the air. When the ski slopes eventually reopen and international travel is allowed, coronavirus won’t stop some of us donning our gear and goggles and hitting the powder, but it will make the whole ski experience a little bit different.
If you’re hoping to head into the mountains later this year, whether it’s France, Austria or even North America, here’s everything you need to know about ski holidays in 2021.
When will skiing resorts open in 2021?
At present, French ski resorts are expected to stay closed until at least March 2021. The resorts had been open until January 7, when the government made the decision to close them until the spread of coronavirus was back under control. Italy is in a similar boat.
Ski resorts are currently open in Spain's Sierra Nevada area, Poland and Iceland, as well as further afield like South Korea and Quebec. In Austria, the pistes remain open to locals only.
Can I book skiing this winter?
Skiing looks a little different this year thanks to the global pandemic
Yes, you can hopefully ski later on in 2021. As with summer holiday resorts, ski resorts across the world have adjusted their offering and made changes to their processes to make themselves a safe space for visitors during the coronavirus pandemic - when travel restrictions allow (more on that below).
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If you’re keen for a trip on the slopes this year or in 2022, though, it’ll pay to book ahead. With capacity in ski resorts limited thanks to social distancing and fewer flights and trains over the continent, you’ll need to get in quick to bag your trip.
Estelle Giraudeau, Managing Director of Club Med, told HELLO! they’re already seeing people booking three or six months ahead, so take it from her: "the earlier you book the better." Plus, get in early and reserve a full package and you’ll likely get the best price too.
What safety measures are in place for the 2021 ski season?
A major difference for this year’s ski season prior to resort closure was that capacity had been drastically reduced in most places. Estelle Giraudeau said Club Med is likely to see no more than 70 percent of their rooms filled up to allow for social distancing, but they’ve also added other safety elements, including contact-free check-ins and staff manning the buffets (rather than guests helping themselves).
In France, Austria and Switzerland, the mountain lift networks are covered by the public transport laws, which means masks are obligatory, and in many you won’t be able to share a lift with someone outside your own household, and there’s hand sanitiser at all stations.
Capacity is being reduced in ski resorts
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At Club Med, the kids' clubs were still operational in December but at reduced capacity, and regular sanitising and an emphasis on handwashing for the children will keep the little ones as safe as possible when resorts reopen.
Which resorts will be the safest for skiing in 2021?
While no ski resort can guarantee it’ll be COVID-free when things reopen, many are putting excellent measures in place to ensure guests stay safe. Social distancing and mask rules of the destination will apply in all resorts, and others are going even further to protect guests.
The French mountain resort of Pays de Gex, for example, is striving towards becoming the first resort to receive the COVID-free label, which helps resorts and businesses maintain their COVID-19 measures. In Tyrol, Austria, tourism staff are being offered free tests to help stem the spread of the virus.
"Tests in the tourism sector have been increased," explains Holger Gassler at the Tyrol Tourist Board."Therefore employees of accommodation companies, the catering trade, campsites and youth hostels can now also be tested regularly and free of charge.”
Generally, the safest resorts are likely to be the smaller, less popular places. Rather than heading to the big ski resorts, you might be safer heading to East Tyrol instead where the crowds will be smaller. The Pyrenees are also fairly quiet – we love La Mongie, which offers access to 100km of pristine pistes in the Grand Tourmalet ski area, with 69 pistes to enjoy.
What happens if I can’t travel if I book a skiing holiday this winter?
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If you book a ski holiday for later this year, you are at the behest of both the UK and your destination’s government rules and regulations. This means you might be required to quarantine on your return, or you might not be allowed to enter at all, depending on how the virus progresses. Keep an eye on foreign travel advice.
To help with peace of mind, plenty of companies have adjusted their cancellation policies. Club Med’s all-inclusive packages only require a 15% deposit and the company is offering free changes and refunds if you have a positive COVID test before you depart.
Ski France offers free cancellation (for any reason) 14 days before departure for hotels, 30 days before departure for residences and 45 days before departure for chalets, while chalet operator Mountain Heaven is guaranteeing 100% refunds for any cancellations relating to COVID-19.
Is a chalet safer than a hotel for skiing in 2021?
Safety is the key concern for all kinds of accommodation, so staying in a hotel won’t necessarily always be safer than a chalet. However, the smaller the hotel (and resort) the safer you’ll be, as you’ll come into contact with fewer people, and going self-catering might also help with peace of mind, as you won’t have to eat in communal rooms or have your food prepared by someone else.
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How can I stay safe skiing this winter?
Bring a picnic out with you to avoid the crowds
Following social distancing measures, washing your hands and wearing a mask are the best ways to stay safe while skiing this winter. But a few other ways you can ensure you have a stress-free (and hopefully COVID-free) holiday are:
- Avoid popular dates such as half-term and Christmas
- Don’t travel on a Saturday, they’re notoriously busy
- Try a self-drive, self-catering holiday to minimise contact with other people (you can take your car over to France on the Eurotunnel, for example)
- Don’t go wild during the après-ski – stick to one bar to minimize contact with others
- Stay outside – the virus is known to suffer in outdoor environments, so the more time you spend outside the better
- Pack a picnic for lunch rather than stopping at a restaurant
- Take private ski lessons to avoid groups of strangers
Where can I go skiing without quarantine?
Prior to the national lockdown, UK citizens had been obliged to quarantine at home for 14 days after returning from popular European skiing destinations, including France and Italy.
When things open up again and you're looking into a trip, Scotland could be the perfect solution you're unable to self-isolate for two weeks upon your return. There are five ski resorts, the most popular being Cairngorm Mountain and Glenshee. While the resorts might be smaller than what you're probably used to, travelling by car between the resorts is recommended and allows you to cover up to 130km of pistes, all with breathtaking views.
What are the best skiing deals available for next winter?
We've tracked down some of the best ski hotel deals still available for later on in 2021.
The all-inclusive Val Thorens Sensations is located in one of the highest altitude resorts and offers amazing skiing. Perfect for couples and small groups, the hotel boasts a fun, relaxed vibe.
Val Thorens Sensations, from £954 per person, Club Med
Luxury resort Les Arcs Panorama is the perfect family-friendly choice and has an abundance of ski class options for kids. Plus, as the name suggests, the panoramic views are pretty spectacular.
Les Arcs Panorama, from £1,369 per person, Club Med
For those seeking a taste of luxury, The Aspen Lodge Penthouse Suite 1 is the perfect choice. Located in the heart of Val d’Isère the top floor accommodation sleeps up to six people across three en-suite bedrooms. The lounge boasts an open fire, Nintendo Wii, pool table, draft beer and coffee bar as well as a giant cinema screen - heaven!
Aspen Lodge Penthouse Suite 1, from £1,449 per person, VIP Chalets
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