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Ski season 2021/22: how will Covid-19 rules and restrictions affect my trip?

The ski season is back but resorts must now abide by a variety of rules regarding vaccination, face coverings and social distancing. We run through what you need to know for the season ahead.

Currently, British skiers have good choice for the coming season. The favoured destinations of France, Italy, Switzerland and Austria have all confirmed that lifts will turn this winter.

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Published 17 Nov 2021, 06:00 GMT, Updated 23 Nov 2021, 10:59 GMT

After the loss of the 2020/21 ski season, all the signs point to this winter being a record-breaker, with more people than ever before wanting to hit the pistes and enjoy some winter sports.

But while travel abroad has now become easier and cheaper, with lateral flow tests on return to the UK replacing the more expensive PCR test, ski resorts around the world have introduced restrictions of their own to ensure lifts keep turning.

New Covid-19 rules will affect family ski holidays if teenagers haven’t yet been jabbed, and we can expect more widespread use of masks and distancing rules and lower occupancy in cable-cars and hospitality venues than during pre-Covid times.

Here’s our guide to the red tape currently in place. Bear in mind that the situation is changing constantly as case rates rise — and that as the UK infection rate rises, it will have an immediate bearing on where and when we are allowed to travel.

Which countries are opening their ski resorts to UK travellers?

Currently, British skiers have good choice for the coming season. The favoured destinations of France, Italy, Switzerland and Austria have all confirmed that lifts will turn this winter — indeed, their glacier resorts are already operating. In late September, Sweden followed Denmark and Norway in lifting coronavirus-related travel restrictions, while Canada opened its borders to Brits in June, with the US recently following suit on 8 November — though only to vaccinated travellers (under-18s are exempt from vaccine requirements).

This is great news for skiers desperate to make up for 18 months of being grounded — last month, Club Med reported that the top choice for Brits looking to enjoy a blow-out ski holiday this winter is Aspen in Colorado.

Read more: The latest Covid-19 travel rules from the UK

What are the extra Covid rules for ski resorts?

In Austria, France and Italy, all skiers over the age of 12 must be double vaccinated, show proof of recovery/past infection from Covid-19 or a negative test to use lift networks. The rules vary between countries on whether you need a PCR, supervised antigen or lateral flow, but most resorts will require tests to be no older than 48 hours, similar to requirements for bars, restaurants and hotels. In Italy, hotel stays are currently exempt from any rules.

Switzerland does not require a Covid-19 certificate (showing proof of vaccination or a negative test) when you buy a ski pass this winter, but they’re still required in restaurants. Individual resorts in Switzerland may enforce their own rules, however.

In the US and Canada there are no centralised rules on vaccination and testing in ski resorts; but this is likely to vary from region to region as the winter draws closer. Already, Vail Resorts has announced all resort staff and restaurant diners must show proof of vaccination (but not on ski lifts, yet) and the Canadian province of British Columbia requires a Proof of Vaccination Card to attend some events and venues — although not ski lifts, yet.

While on a ski lift, particularly one that’s enclosed such as a cable-car, gondola or covered chairlift expect to have to wear face coverings and be prepared for queues to be longer, as some lifts will be operating at reduced capacity — Italy has stipulated 80%.

Social distancing may be in place, too — Verbier is ready to resurrect its Covid Angels (marshals) scheme if required by the government.

Some of my family aren’t yet vaccinated, can we still ski?

Yes, but expect more red tape. In the US and across Europe, where teenagers and children have been vaccinated earlier than in the UK, the rules above apply to anyone aged 12 and over. Switzerland offers a little more leeway, with its rules applying to ages 16 and over (under 16s are exempt).

In practise, this means that skiing with family members who aren’t vaccinated will entail testing every 48 hours, likely at your own cost. While lateral flow tests are currently free of charge and easily accessible in some countries keen to encourage tourism, such as Austria and France recently introduced charges for tests for the unvaccinated.

Proof of past infection isn’t enough for entry to the US — you can only go if vaccinated. While under-18s are exempt, children between two years of age and 18 will need a pre-departure PCR test. For entry to Canada, children aged five and over will need a PCR test.

Again, check the latest rules and requirements as your departure date nears.

What will après-ski be like this winter?

A ski holiday is, for some, as much about the après as it is the pistes, but don’t expect things to be quite the same as pre-pandemic. It’s really too early to say whether we’ll be dancing on tables in ski boots but there will definitely be no beer-pong, that’s for sure.

Nightclubs are off-limits for the unvaccinated in Austria, whether or not you have a negative PCR test, and there are some complicated rules on capacity and infection rates for other hospitality venues. If the case rate increases as the ski season gets underway and bars/restaurants get busier, capacity will be restricted and the unvaccinated will be turned away. After the spread of Covid-19 infection in Ischgl last year, the Austrian government also permits local authorities to enforce their own, tighter restrictions and we’ve seen examples of hotels only welcoming vaccinated travellers.

For more information, see our Covid-19 travel hub 

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