Here we are once again, seated at the beginning of the ski season. And Mother Nature is getting winter off to a magnificent start, if sometimes frightening as if to taunt us.
The weekend saw snowfall over most of the Alps, and in the south-east, it was exceptionally high. The Austrian Tyrol, the Dolomites of Osttirol, and Italy were all battered by huge dumps of snow. For example, in Cortina d’Ampezzo, since Friday, they have been counting two metres of snow at altitude. In Osttirol, similar amounts have fallen, and the area had a nail-biting day on Sunday as the chance of avalanches increased to 5/5. Roads were closed, and energy supplies were cut off when power cables fell on snow-burdened trees.
The risk is now decreasing slightly, partially because a milder spell followed the snow, which allowed the new cover to settle and firm up. But it still stands at 4/5, and on Tuesday, another substantial drop is expected in the area.
The Italian Dolomites are likely to receive the heaviest snow, with more than a metre forecast in some areas. But the white stuff will be prevalent once again.
It’s frustrating, to say the least, with the ski seasons on hold in France, Italy, Austria, and Germany until early January. However, this weekend, we were reminded of the dangers of opening resorts during a pandemic when Verbier in Switzerland was overwhelmed on Saturday by tightly packed queues at its Medran lift station. Of course, the’ optics’ of such overcrowding is awful: and serves as a warning to all skiers and ski areas.
Yes, we’re all desperate to get to the slopes: every time we look at the webcams. But if we get the opportunity to ski, then we have to act responsibly, and take everyone’s safety into consideration and the entire industry. Otherwise, the idea that skiing is inherently not Covid safe will harden, and the season will never get underway properly.
Some good news was received when on 5th December the ski resort of Jasna in Slovakia opened in the Tatras Mountains. Currently, if skiers show evidence of a negative Covid-19 PCR test result, taken within 72hrs of arrival, Brits can enter the country. If you intend to take advantage of the Test to Release programme of the UK government. In that case, it is another potential skiing choice to be put alongside Switzerland and Sweden, due to launch on 15th December.
A little closer to home:
In the Scottish Highlands, it was snowing. Fresh snow in the Scottish Highlands is a blessing for those who are able to take advantage of this golden opportunity to ski. The Cairngorms did exceptionally well, and at the weekend, there was more than enough snow to enjoy ski touring courses on the big empty mountains. This week too, the weather looks cold and snowy: and we might see the first Scottish ski lifts opening on 12th and 13th December. Although they’re officially aiming for 19th December to open.
Unfortunately, if you don’t live in Scotland you cannot participate in the fun since it is forbidden to travel to Scotland for pleasure instead of business (as it is for Scots in high-risk areas). The snow can only be taken advantage of by Scots living in Tier 1 or Tier 2 regions. Given what happened this weekend in Verbier, maybe that is a positive thing.
But for ski visitors, this is an incredibly heartbreaking situation. There are few more incredible thrills for a Brit than being out in your back yard on skis. Let’s stay positive and hope for a decent ski season this winter!