Skiing and social distancing

The next winter season seems a long way away and most skiers are understandably concentrating on the here and now in the immediate surroundings and environment.

But if – and, despite the hopes and pressure of the ski and travel industries, we still only can say ‘if’ – there is a proper ski season next winter, how is it going to look?

What kind of changes are there likely to be, assuming that borders are open and international ski trips are once again possible?

Transport

How are skiers going to get to the ski resorts and how are they going to get around when they arrive?

Much of the European ski holiday package experience is based on charter flights crammed full of passengers in order to keep the prices competitive. Will flights become more expensive as more space is required? Will there still be the number of charter airlines who specialise in the winter ski flights?

What will happen with borders and quarantine if there is a virus hotspot outbreak in a ski destination?

Ski bus in ski resort
Will crowded ski buses become a thing of the past?

Many ski villages rely on ski bus services to link accommodation centres to the slopes. Anyone who has experienced a traditional ski bus near the lift closing times will know that there are similar ‘rush hour’ personal space problems as there are in during a busy city commute.

Is there going to be an increase in the number of self-drive holidays?

Are people going to use their own cars to get around a resort and are resorts with ski-in ski-out accommodation or slopes in the resort that can be reached on foot going to be more popular?

Ski accommodation

Is sharing bathroom facilities with an unknown couple next door still going to be acceptable for ski chalet guests. In fact, is the concept of a chalet holiday where food is catered by willing but often amateur staff and eaten at communal tables going to survive? Especially given the employment and immigration restrictions currently in place in many countries.

Likewise, will hotels and family guesthouses with limited restaurant space still be able to offer the same level of full or half board and other hotel facilities to reflect their current price categories?

Ski chalet Courchevel
A chalet in the French ski resort of Courchevel

Will self-catering accommodation (ski condos, for those reading in North America) become more popular? Will the trend towards private houses and chalet rentals without catering increase even more?

Will people use package holiday and cheap flight providers less after their refusals to refund cancelled holiday costs?

Will online accommodation booking which allows late cancellation with no fees become more popular? Or will consumers prefer to choose the alleged safety of the members of travel industry protection schemes?

On the slopes

Many ski resorts have invested heavily in massive cable cars, modern gondolas and increasing the capacity of new chairlifts.

Are we due for a return to the single button draglift? Will family groups be able to use a lift together and, if so, how will that be controlled?

Single skier on a chairlift
Single chairlifts?

Will smaller resorts with less extensive ski areas – and thus fewer skiers – start to see a renaissance? Will the potential transport problems lead to an increase in people looking to try ski touring, cross country skiing, snowshoeing or winter walking?

Après ski

Sadly some of the Italian and Austrian ski resorts, and especially the après ski bars in those villages, played a part in spreading the coronavirus around Europe. Likewise the partying during Spring Break in the USA and Mexico and the Cheltenham Festival celebrations in the UK also have been implicated in increasing the spread of the disease.

Après ski on the slopes and the nightlife later on is a part of the reputation of ski resorts such as Val d’Isère, Verbier and Ischgl (the latter town only just now approaching release from a strict quarantine following the previous winter season).

Empty shot glasses in the mountains
Will après ski still be the same?

Will quieter more traditional resorts become more popular? Is this the end of the Euro-disco ‘Alice, Alice, who the * is Alice?’ experience at the bottom of the slopes?

Will going out for a meal still be as attractive for those who are staying in apartments or will supermarkets and French-style ‘traiteurs’ (where you can take a prepared meal away) increase in popularity?

Will more sedate individual events like tobogganing and torchlit walks take the place of bowling evenings and pub crawls?