July 20, 2020
Ski Holidays & Ski Transfers in the Age of Covid-19
With Covid-19 having a major effect on all aspects of life in 2020, the world looks like a very different place than it did 6 months ago. While it’s important not to downplay the effect the virus has had and continues to have, we also have a responsibility to try to return to normality as safely as possible.
While there is a way to go until we get back to complete normality, if we ever do, people are starting to be cautiously optimistic about returning to their regular lives. Here at Snowcompare.com we are regularly asked “will ski holidays be possible” and “what will my next ski holiday look like”.
For that reason we have written a short blog using our own knowledge (based on what is happening right now – things could always change between now and December) and views to try to answer those questions as best as possible right now…
Is it possible to go skiing this winter?
The short answer is “yes”. Holidays within Europe are absolutely possible right now, and ski holidays in the countries of France, Switzerland, Austria & Italy will be possible from December onwards as normal. The UK government has removed quarantine restrictions when travelling to and from ski resorts in these countries as well, so movement will be relatively hassle-free.
Long-haul ski holidays to America, Canada and Japan unfortunately look like they will be a little more difficult for UK travellers. Certainly, the US and Japan still have travel and entry restrictions in place, while all three countries require 14 days quarantine on return to the UK. For this year at least, it seems that holidays in Europe will be the best option for those looking to get their fix of skiing and snowboarding.
What is skiing and snowboarding going to be like now?
As the vast majority of the planet accepts the rules of social distancing and wearing masks in public it has become crucial to adapt to safety measures at home, work and play. Ski resorts are adapting to these new regulations in much the same way – and as the majority are now open for the summer months we can get a good idea of what that will be doing in the winter too.
The good news is that in terms of holidays, skiing is pretty well suited to social distancing and being out in the fresh air where the likelihood of infection is lessened. Most skiers and snowboarders will already be wearing gloves, and face coverings can comfortably be worn on all but the hottest of spring days.
In fact, it could be said that being up in the mountains fully covered up and moving along in a relatively isolated fashion is one of the best places to spend a week-long holiday. Of course the safety measure implemented by the lift operators will be key to maintaining everyone’s well-being.
Lift queues present the biggest potential problem, but with adequate distancing this can be mitigated. Reports say that seats on lifts will be limited to every other place, and small bubble-style lifts will be for single groups only. It remains to be seen what will happen with larger gondolas, and whether resorts will take measures to limit the number of ski passes sold for each day.
What about when I’m in the actual resort?
As with the UK, ski resorts in Europe are aiming to keep everyone as safe as possible whilst also providing as normal as possible service. When you are off the mountain there will undoubtedly be some noticeable changes, but nothing that should put people off booking a ski holiday and still having a great time.
Apres bars and nightlife will be subject to social distancing in the same way as everywhere. This means that sweaty dancing to a local band won’t be encouraged, but with face masks on and a bit of caution it will still be possible to drink and be merry in all resorts. Similarly, restaurants will still be open but will have to put in place more distancing measures for customers.
Hotels and chalets will also have to keep the safety of their guests as their upmost priority. Smaller chalets and rental apartments will likely be less affected due to everyone being in the same group or social bubble. Larger hotels may see more disruptions unfortunately, and are likely to discourage guests gathering inside as much as possible. Unfortunately it seems that breakfast buffets and afternoon communal cake will also be a thing of the past.
Will my airport to ski resort transfer be affected?
With flight routes to Europe being reinstated, it is our belief that flying and then getting a ski transfer is still by far the most convenient method of travelling. Private airport to ski resort transfers look like they will be largely unaffected by covid-19 in much the same way as taxis have been. Of course, the driver may wear a mask, and the vehicle will have to be cleaned thoroughly between different passenger groups, but being in one vehicle as one social group will definitely be the safest way to travel.
The future of shared coach and bus transfers is a little more uncertain unfortunately. As the cheapest way to travel for smaller groups, shared transfers provide a great transport option normally. However, as with aeroplanes, there are likely to be new guidelines on passenger numbers and distancing. This may lead to increases in price or reductions in service that could negatively impact the overall experience. We are waiting on our partners and their respective countries for more clarity on this right now.
What are the travel alternatives?
Although ski transfers provide the most convenient travel routes – other options are still available. One of the most popular travel methods for UK skiers going to France is the SnowTrain. Previously it has been possible to get on a train at St Pancras in London and travel overnight all the way in to the heart of the Alps and only a short taxi ride away from resorts like Val Thorens, Val d’Isere, Meribel, etc. Unfortunately though, this year the Snow Train will no longer operate. For economic reasons they have decided to stop this service for the foreseeable future. It is still technically possible to take the train from the UK to the French alps, but it means buying several tickets, changing trains and stations in Paris, and generally more stress than you probably need on your holiday.
Another popular travel option for European ski holidays is driving. For families and groups of friends this is potentially an economic way of skiing where you can shared the driving time, petrol costs, and also mitigate the risk of being in enclosed spaces with lots of other people. For us though, the downsides outweigh the upsides to self-drive holidays. Namely – it’s a long, long way and can either cut into your holiday time, or leave the driver over-tired after a night journey. Although petrol costs are cheaper when split between the group, you need to factor in the expense of travelling on toll roads for the majority of the journey, plus parking in resort can be expensive and sometimes not possible at all on busy weeks. Add to that the complications with bad weather, driving in snow, buying and fitting snow chains, and it might not seem like such an appealing option after all.
One additional consideration for driving is that unfortunately in the UK we also have to deal with Brexit. There are no clear rules set in place right now, but it remains a very likely possibility that from 1 January 2021 it will be necessary to obtain additional documents for driving in Europe. This mainly boils down to getting an international driving license for every member of the group who will drive. Changes to car insurance coverage will likely change and be more complicated after this date too. There are no set guidelines right now but we will try to cover it in a future blog as and when it happens.
In conclusion, ski & snowboard holidays in 2020 and 2021 are very much possible, and should be actively encouraged. The whole industry took a massive hit when international borders closed with 4-6 weeks still left of last winter season, and companies will be keen to see as many quests back as is safely possible. There could also be some real bargains available in terms of accommodation and travel to incentivise early bookings.
If you are flying to Europe then there is no better way to complete the journey to your ski resort than by private minibus transfer. Snowcompare.com work with the best transfer companies in each area and put them all in one place so you can easily search, compare & book ski transfers right from one website. You can be sure that your payment is safe and held by a UK limited company, while also taking advantage of some great airport to ski resort transfer deals from smaller local companies who are keen to help skiers & snowboarders return to the mountains once again.