European Alpine Nations Split on Opening Ski Resorts During Pandemic

Europe’s alpine nations are split regarding how to handle the ski season at their respective resorts during the COVID-19 pandemic.Germany, France and Italy are staying temporarily closed, while Switzerland, Spain and Austria are partially opening.France, like Italy, Austria and Germany, has ordered the high-altitude lifts to remain closed in the hope that all resorts can benefit at peak season, if and when the infection rate slows.French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced Wednesday that the country would go so far as to conduct random border checks to stop the spread of COVID-19 crossing into neighboring Switzerland and Spain where ski resorts remain open.The measures are also aimed at appeasing French resort operators, who are complaining of an “uneven playing field.”The announcement came a day after French President Emmanuel Macron said France would put in place “restrictive and dissuasive measures” to deter the French from leaving the country to ski.Meanwhile, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz on Wednesday announced his country’s plan for a “cautious” reopening of ski resorts beginning December 24. The plan calls for limiting capacity on the ski lifts and keeping restaurants, bars and hotels largely closed until early January.Austria will also require many people entering the country over the Christmas period to go into quarantine.Last week in Switzerland, where several resorts are already open, Health Minister Alain Berset said resorts would be allowed to stay open if safety measures — masks, proper hygiene, social distancing and limited capacity for bars and restaurants — remained in place.Berset said he understood the regional tensions that would arise if Swiss resorts were the only ones open, but said, “We are a sovereign country and can decide ourselves what the facts are on our territory.”

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