Over a five-year period, we’re talking about a 60%, maybe even a 70% drop in the number of available ski holidays. That’s an extraordinary figure. But this is the run-up to what promises to be the most unusual winter season since the last years of the 19th century when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, first revealed to us all that the best sensation in the world – at least when you’re standing up – is to be found on a pair of skis. To be fair to the Baron of Baker Street, snowboards had yet to be invented.
So this winter, will we be wearing face masks and skiing two metres apart?
I think we’ll be wearing masks in the socially-distanced lift queue and actually on the lifts themselves. But two metres apart? Hopefully we always are at least two metres apart. The exception, of course, is often on some rammed Alpine home slope in mid-February during the European school holidays, when everyone anyway tends to get far too close for safety or comfort.
There’s also another little problem. If you do run into a friend or even an acquaintance on or off the slopes, the previously obligatory air kisses – two on the cheek in France, Austria or Italy and three in Switzerland – are now out of the question and awkward. ‘Hi there,’ seems to be the bland post-Covid substitute. You could try an elbow bump, of course, but frankly, it doesn’t convey the same message, whatever that message is, and there’s always a risk that you’ll knock them over.
And what about apres-ski? Things like table dancing, Red Bull and vodka…Moet et Chandon?
Muted rather Moet I think is the word. Think siesta and swimming, think culture rather than Kronenburg. As for the chalet tour operators who have so far made it through the chariot race of Covid, a number of their rivals have already been crushed beneath the financial wheels. Frankly, it’s survival of the fittest. It’s tough out there.
I think there’s definitely going to be a ski season. There are too many jobs in the Alps – that are not just in the Alps but everywhere – that are entirely dependent upon skiing. So it will happen in one form or another. It’s not necessarily going to be the kind of ski season that we would normally expect. There are going to be some fairly strange things, like people skiing in masks and very muted nightlife, I expect. But there will be skiing.