At the moment, there is a lot of uncertainty about holidays due to the Coronavirus. This also affects the topic of ski holidays: should I really even go skiing next winter? Isn’t it “dangerous” to sit tightly in a lift? When in doubt, can I still withdraw free of charge after booking? From SnowTrex’s point of view, these questions and the uncertainty associated with them are understandable, but tend to be unfounded. In an interview with SnowTrex’s managing director, Thomas Bartel, he explains how this assessment comes about:
Mr. Bartel, first of all, regardless of the uncertainty of many winter sports fans: will ski holidays be possible next winter at all?
As things stand today, we can say with a clear conscience that the winter of 2020/2021 will take place! We are in very close contact with accommodation providers, tourism associations and cable car companies in all European ski areas, where we are currently working hard on strategies for a safe skiing holiday. The fact that things are progressing in leaps and bounds here can be seen from the reopening of several summer ski resorts in Austria and Italy, as well as cable cars in general. In addition, Switzerland is introducing a special seal of approval for safe holidays.
For the time being, there is no doubt that a winter holiday will generally be possible. However, can skiers really feel safe on the piste?
Yes, absolutely! Even renowned experts, such as the epidemiologist and virologist Prof. Kekulé, consider riding in chair lifts – even without any coronavirus coverings- to be harmless. He recently expressed this in his MDR podcast. In addition, there will also be the aforementioned ski area strategies for safe skiing: for a gondola ride, for example, it is plausible that masks will be required and that the gondola will be under-occupied. This is how many places have already established their summer operations. It is also assumed that a minimum distance between skiers must be maintained by means of markings when queuing at the lift. At most lifts, this happens automatically anyway due to the skis being strapped in. As for skiing itself, you are already out in the fresh air and maintaining distance from others anyways – accordingly, the main pathways for infection are not present here.
What about safety off the piste during a ski holiday?
On the one hand, there are many measures in place, especially on the part of the accommodation, to prevent the spread of infection or to detect an infection as quickly as possible: in Austria, for example, all hotel employees are to be tested regularly. In Switzerland, as already mentioned, an extra seal of approval is awarded to “safe accommodations”.
Furthermore, in our opinion, it is precisely while on a ski holiday that one has the opportunity to control and therefore minimise the risk of infection through one’s own behaviour – from my point of view, even better than the average work day.
Can you give concrete examples of this personal behaviour?
Sure! During a ski holiday, winter sports fans can decide for themselves whether they want to stay in a “minimal-contact” apartment or chalet, a small, manageable guesthouse or in a larger hotel, whether they want to go to the hut for lunch or eat their own packed lunch, whether they want to go to a restaurant in the evening or cook for themselves, whether they want to participate in the presumably limited après ski offer, whether they want to use a heavily frequented lift system, etc.
In addition, most destination countries for ski holidays currently have low infection rates – in some cases, even lower than in Germany. They are also “close to home” i.e. the risk of infection is low even on arrival as most people travel to their ski holiday destination by car. If worst comes to worst, this also allows for a quick and uncomplicated journey home.
Can you still understand the uncertainty of skiers? How do you respond to this with regard to cancellation options and further assurance?
We naturally understand the uncertainty, which is why we have also adjusted our cancellation options. Anyone who currently books a ski holiday with us can cancel free of charge until 30 September. Our currently-rising booking figures for the coming winter also show that this offer “calms” many customers. Furthermore, we will continue to comply with applicable law in the future if a trip cannot take place due to coronavirus-related closures. In the past few weeks, for example, unlike very many other tour operators, we have reimbursed 100% of customer payments for ski trips that could not take place due to the coronavirus. Of course, we also hope, in many respects, that there will be no “second wave”.
Further information about ski holidays during this time of Covid-19, including useful links to the measures being taken in all ski destinations, can be found on the SnowTrex travel advice page.