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What are the Covid rules in place at ski resorts around Europe this February?

The winter spike in Covid infections across Europe means another ski season will take place under health restrictions and recommendations. Here's what you need to know about the rules in different countries.

How do regulations for this ski season compare across Europe?
How do regulations for this ski season compare across Europe? Photo by Sebastian Staines on Unsplash

Austria

Austria’s Tourism Minister summed up the country’s approach to winter tourism as “strict rules, safe winter”, but the rules have been tightened further several times through the winter.

Proof of either full vaccination against Covid-19 or recovery from the virus (called 2G in Austria and Germany, which stands for ‘Vaccinated or Recovered) will be mandatory for tourists in cable cars. Negative tests are not sufficient proof, except in some specific situations such as with an official proof of medical exemption from vaccination. FFP2 masks are also required in cable cars and all other enclosed areas.

Children under 12 are exempt from the 2G requirement. Teenagers aged 12-18 can either use proof of vaccination if they have received at least two doses, or otherwise they can use the ‘Holiday Ninja Pass’ scheme (see the English version here and an FAQ here) to enter 2G venues by using negative tests. 

Apres-ski venues meanwhile are completely closed as of late December, with no set date for their re-opening. Ordinary restaurants are open with a curfew of 10pm.

Note that individual states may introduce their own additional rules going beyond those that apply nationally. For example Vienna has stricter rules around testing for children and teenagers.

The Rotair Titlis in the Swiss alps is a sight to behold. Photo by Julien Flutto on Unsplash

Photo: Julien Flutto/Unsplash

France

Not everyone is welcome in French ski resorts this winter as unvaccinated travellers from orange list countries can only travel to France for essential reasons – which does not include a quick whizz down the slopes. The UK, USA and Canadz are all on the orange list.

In ski resorts the vaccine pass is required to use ski lifts.

In addition to this, the standard French health rules apply. This means that the vaccine pass is compulsory to enter venues including bars, cafés, restaurants, tourist sites and leisure centres. It’s also required for long-distance train journeys, so if you’re taking the train to a resort, expect to be asked for it.

EXPLAINED How does France’s vaccine pass work?

The pass requires either proof of fully vaccinated status or proof of recent recovery from Covid. Visitors may also need a booster shot in order to be considered fully vaccinated. 

Children over the age of 12 also need either a vaccine pass or a health pass – full details HERE.

Most people use the French TousAntiCovid app, but you can also present proof on paper as long as there is a QR code on your paper certificate. People vaccinated in the EU or Schengen zone can use their home vaccine codes for this, those vaccinated outside the EU must either obtain a French QR code or – if vaccinated in England, Wales or Scotland – upload their NHS certificate to the French app.

Mask rules in France remain in place for all public transport and all indoor public spaces, including those covered by the health pass. Many local authorities – particularly in busy ski resorts – have imposed extra rules that require masks outdoors as well.

There are no medical exemptions to mask-wearing and failure to wear a mask can net you a €135 fine.

Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Switzerland

After being one of the few countries to open its slopes last winter, Swiss ski resorts will again be open across the country in 2021/22. 

After a longer than expected wait, the Covid rules for skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports were released in mid October.

The Swiss government agreed with ski resorts on Tuesday, October 21st, that the Covid certificate will not be required to hit the ski slopes this winter.

UPDATED: What are the Covid rules on Swiss ski slopes this winter?

The agreement came after a long debate about which protective measures should be introduced in the coming season, Swiss news outlet Blick reported.

The main question was whether the Covid certificate would be required in chairlifts or on the slopes in general, as it is in Switzerland’s neighbours, for instance Austria.

The Covid certificate – which shows if someone has been vaccinated, recovered or tested negative for the virus – will not be required to ski or snowboard, nor will it be required to take chairlifts.

Canton-by-canton: How visitors can get Switzerland’s Covid certificate

It will however be required in indoor areas of bars and restaurants in the ski area, although people eating and drinking on terraces and balconies will not need a valid certificate. 

Masks will be required in chairlifts and on mountain railways and cable cars, but Covid certificates will not. Swiss ski resorts have voluntarily decided to put in place capacity restrictions in chairlifts and gondolas to reduce the risk of Covid spread. 

This therefore means the rules in these areas reflect those in public transport. 

Ski areas are however free to put in place a Covid certificate requirement if they deem it appropriate. 

Some, such as the Fideriser Heuberge ski resort in Graubünden, have indicated that they will require a Covid certificate for skiing or taking chairlifts.

Where a ski resort straddles a border with another country with stricter measures, such as Austria, then stricter measures including a Covid certificate are required. 

Winter sports: Which Swiss ski resorts open earliest?

Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Norway

Norway has scrapped almost all remaining Covid-19 restrictions, including its facemask, social distancing and self-isolation rules.

Those who do test positive for the virus are recommended to isolate for four days.

Additionally, there are no requirements for testing, quarantine or registration upon entry to Norway.

Photo: Raymond Roig/AFP

Italy

For access to all Italian ski slopes, it is currently mandatory for everyone aged over 12 to show proof of vaccination against or recovery from Covid-19.

This can be via an Italian ‘super’ green pass or an equivalent issued in any other country. Under a rule change from February 5th, some exceptions are made for people who have had vaccines not recognised in Italy; find full details of the Italian health pass requirements for visitors here.

A green pass check will be carried out at the same time as ski passes are validated, with most resorts now using apps which merge their ski pass with the Italian green pass, such as the Dolomites Superski app.

Surgical-grade or FFP2 masks are currently mandatory both on ski slopes and in any public areas (including outdoors) in resorts where queues or crowds are likely, under rules in place nationwide since the end of December.

Capacity is reduced to 80 percent for closed cable cars, while open chairlifts can operate at full capacity.

A ‘super’ green pass (or equivalent) is also a requirement at hotels, bars, restaurants and other leisure venues everywhere in Italy for customers aged over 12.

This pass is also required for access to venues including museums, galleries, cinemas and sports stadiums. See a complete list here.

For entry to Italy, a change to the rules for arrivals from the EU from the start of February means anyone travelling to Italy from within the bloc needs to show only proof of vaccination, recovery, or a recent negative Covid test to enter the country without a self-isolation requirement.

Visitors coming from the US, UK and other non-EU countries instead need to show proof of vaccination or recovery plus a recent negative test result. Find full details here.

A skier pulling off a funky trick in the Swiss ski field of Laax

Photo: Jörg Angeli/Unsplash

Spain

The rules for skiing this winter largely depend on which region in Spain you plan on visiting, as each has implemented slightly different measures. The country’s main ski slopes are located in Andalusia, Castilla y León, Aragón and Catalonia. Click here for rules and restrictions in each of these regions. 

Currently, no ski resorts in Spain require the Digital Covid Certificate in order to gain access to them, but they are required in many regions for certain activities within the ski resorts such as gaining access to restaurants, cafés, nightlife venues or other indoor spaces, as is the case in other countries. 

Masks are again required outside when a distance between people can’t be maintained, as well as indoors. This means that they will be required in the queues for the ski lifts and at the ski lifts, as well as at the lockers and equipment rental places.

Masks are also required at all times in closed spaces in ski resorts such meeting points at ski schools, inside buildings, in public transport and in bars and restaurants (when not eating or drinking). 

The following ski resorts are open and have released their schedules:

Baqueira Beret (Pyrenees): November 26th, 2021 to April 18th, 2022, which would add up to 144 days of skiing. However, Beret ski resort is scheduled to close on March 27th.

La Molina – Masella (Catalan Pyrenees): These twin resorts, accessible on a day trip from Barcelona, opened on November 27th and are scheduled to stay open until April 18th, 2022. 

San Isidro and Valle de Laciana-Leitariegos (Castilla y León): These two ski resorts in León province will stay open until April 17th 2022. 

Sierra Nevada (Andalusia): this incredible resort in southern Spain will stay open until April 18th, 2022. 

Grandvalira and Ordino Arcalís: The Andorran ski resort of Grandvalira will stay open until April 18th, whereas neighbouring Ordino Arcalís will stay open until April 24th adding 150 days (22 weekends) of skiing.

Sweden

Skistar, the company that operates most of Sweden’s main ski resorts, including Åre and Sälen, says it is following the Swedish health authorities’ guidelines. Sweden lifted nearly all of its restrictions on February 9th, so the only ones that remain are to stay home if you feel ill in the slightest, and get vaccinated (although vaccinations are voluntary and there are no domestic vaccine pass requirements).

If you are not vaccinated against Covid, you should avoid crowding and large crowds indoors.

You can use Skistar’s app or website to pre-book activities, and check-ins and check-outs at its hotels are carried out digitally.

It is possible to enter Sweden from the Nordics, EU and EEA without showing a Covid vaccine pass or a negative test. If you’re travelling directly to Sweden from any other country in the world, there are still rules in place on whether you can enter and what documents you need.

Photo: Olivier Chassignole/AFP

Germany 

Germany’s ski resorts remain open (at least most of them) but there are restrictions in place – and these differ depending on the state. 

In Bavaria, which is home to the well-known Zugspitze ski resort, there is a 2G rule in place on cable cars and other lift facilities. It means access is permitted only for people who are fully vaccinated (geimpft) or recovered. People who choose not to be vaccinated are not allowed to enter. 

In the south-western state of Baden-Württemberg, home to Feldberg, there are currently 2G-plus rules, which means vaccinated and recovered people also have to show a negative test, unless they can show proof of their booster jab. 

Saxony’s ski resorts are closed until at least January 9th due to the Covid situation there.

Medical masks area also generally mandatory in public indoor areas in Germany including ski lifts. 

READ ALSO: What are the Covid rules for Germany’s ski resorts?

Keep in mind that nationwide there are 2G rules for entering non-essential shops, restaurants, bars, culture and leisure facilities. They may be tightened to 2G-plus, which means vaccinated and recovered people would also have to show proof of a negative Covid test before entering, unless they’ve had a booster shot.

Some businesses, like hotels and restaurants, already opt for 2G-plus rules so check before visiting. 

There are also strict entry rules on travelling to Germany from abroad.

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TRAVEL NEWS

What to expect from strike action in France during the February school holidays

Several French unions have filed strike notices for February, with some aiming to target to busy February holiday period - here's what you can expect.

What to expect from strike action in France during the February school holidays

France is in the grip of a major confrontation between unions and the government over plans to reform the pension system.

So far, the main actions have been concentrated on one-day strikes that are supported by all eight of the union federations, however an increasing number of unions are filing notices for renewable or unlimited strikes, with some targeting the February holidays.

The French minister of tourism, Olivia Gregoire, called on unions to respect the “sacred period” of school holidays (which in France run from February 4th to March 6th, depending on which zone you are in).

Meanwhile, Philippe Martinez, the head of the hardline CGT union, told RTL that if the government remains stubborn then “there is a possibility of days of action during the school vacations”.

As a result, it is likely that further notices will be filed.  The Local will update this story with the latest – but here’s what we know so far.

January actions

Tuesday, January 31st – this is the next one-day mass strike, which will likely see severe disruption on many services, particularly public transport – full details here.

February actions

Trains – two rail unions – the hardline Sud-Rail and CGT-Cheminots – have filed a renewable strike notice for “mid-February” in addition to a two-day strike which is to take place on Tuesday, February 7th, and Wednesday, and 8th. 

READ MORE: Calendar: The French pension strike dates to remember

Ski resorts – two of the largest unions representing French ski lift operators and seasonal workers, FO (Force ouvrière) and the CGT, have filed “unlimited” strike notices starting on January 31st – the same day that unions across other sectors have called for another ‘mass strike’.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the strike will continue throughout February, but unions say they want to put pressure on the government to discuss both pensions and changes to benefits for seasonal workers, which particularly affect ski industry employees.

The CGT union in particular has threatened further actions during the Ski World Championships, held in Courchevel from February 6th to February 19th. Strikes in ski resorts usually primarily affect the operation of ski lifts. You can read more here.

Oil refinery workers – refinery workers have threatened to strike for a period of 72 hours beginning on February 6th. 

The national union coordinator for French oil giant, TotalEnergies, Eric Sellini, told AFP that these actions would result in “lower throughput” and “the stoppage of shipments.”

The most concrete effect of this is likely to be shortages of petrol and diesel at some filling stations if the blockades are successful in stopping supplies leaving the refineries.

Power cuts – the hardline CGT have also threatened more “direct action” with employees of the State electricity sector threatening to cut the power to certain towns. This isn’t a scheduled action (or indeed a legal one, the government has promised to prosecute workers who do this) but short targeted power cuts could continue into February.

UK border – finally, if you are travelling to or from the UK, be aware that a UK Border Force strike is planned for February 1st and 2nd, which is likely to increase waiting times at the border.

We will update this story as more details are released, and you can also find all the latest in our strike section HERE.

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