By ski guru Chris Exall. Read more ..
Whilst enjoying a socially distanced drink with an old friend he asked, ‘should I go skiing this winter’. My answer was ‘almost certainly yes’. However, he might have asked ‘will I be able to go skiing, and if I can, how will it be different’
Ski 2021 is going to be very different; of course, when we step into our bindings and start making arcs nothing will change. However, vaccinations are being rolled out, but at very different rates in different countries. You won’t need to wear a mask in a mogul field, perhaps unless you’re in a ski lesson. Research tells us that being outdoors is much safer than in a confined space. What will be different is everything that leads up to that longed-for first turn
Firstly, we all have our own personal ‘risk thermometers’, the internal alarm bell that says stop, I have a bad feeling about this.
Maybe you’re older, more vulnerable
If sharing a chairlift sets your alarm bells are ringing then pause, take a rain check. Risk of days quarantining on your return is a concern, so keep watching the news and if your destination is on a red list wait for the storm to pass, be safe, keep fit and get ready for the following season, or consider pointing your car north to Scotland or taking it on the boat to Scandinavia.
If you’ve decided to hit the slopes then, be sensible, keep your distance, consider a mask and wash your hands regularly.
Some of us may be reluctant to get onto an aeroplane, sitting in close proximity to people to strangers. They may not enjoy longer airport queues. They might prefer the safe option of driving to the Alps, whilst others will reason that travel by plane is statistically much safer than driving, and that wearing a mask and being cautious offsets most risks of infection.
In resorts, procedures will change from country to country, region to region and even valley to valley. However, there will be some common threads.
Once you’re in the resort you may to have to wear a facemask in any confined space, whether a cablecar, gondola bar or restaurant. Some resorts envisage operating lifts at full capacity, others are taking a more cautious view and limiting gondola sharing and leaving spaces between passengers on chair lifts unless they are part of the same social group. Easy to see this will reduce uplift capacity so you may want to avoid peak season if poss. To offset the risk of queuing some destinations, particularly in North America, will require advance purchase of lift tickets and will give preference to season pass holders.
Expect lunch in your favourite mountain retreat to be different, quieter with much more space between tables. You may find that a temporary extension has been built - not be as romantic but it will be warm, indoors and you’ll be able to have lunch.
Après ski will be compromised. If your idea of a great night out is sitting arm in arm with strangers singing along to ‘Anton Aus Tirol’ this might not be the year for you. Even if your destination has removed all controls, some people will take a step or two away from the bar. Plan for quieter socially distanced one to ones with your nearest and dearest.
You might want to consider hiring ski equipment in the UK, rather than in resort, as our rental shops have extensive cleaning procedures, and knowing that your boots have been resting, virus-free for 72 hours might give you a little more comfort.
So, the answer to the question ‘should I go skiing’ is little different from ‘which run should I take’. Skiing is a sport with a degree of inherent risk, we all make judgments as to whether the risk is worth taking.
This season we will have to consider the Covid element, but so long as we make sensible choices and follow best advice there’s no reason to stay away from the slopes. Ski safely.