The first proper snowfalls of winter would normally be a time of relief and excitement in the Alps. But not in 2020.
Over the last day and a half, nearly every resort has had at least a dusting of snow. More will follow, and in the central Italian Alps, as well as the Dolomites and Austria’s Osttirol, it’s going to develop into a monster storm. It’s likely the Osttirol will be cut off for a while at the weekend.
Here’s Meteoblue’s 24-hour snowforecast to 3pm on Saturday, December 5. Well over a metre of snow is expected in places.
But instead of the clatter of ski boots and excited whoops and yelps, the white stuff will be greeted by weary shrugs across most of the region. In France, Germany and Austria Christmas and New Year ski holidays are – in one way or another – banned. In Italy, the government has also poured cold water on the idea (although at the time of writing a formal announcement has not been made).
Switzerland is now alone amongst the Alpine nations in planning to open to foreigners over Christmas and New Year. Whether they’ll come in any significant numbers is another matter, though. France is, for example, introducing measures specifically designed to stop its citizens taking skiing holidays there: and in a bid to reassure neighbouring governments, the Swiss Health Minister is submitting proposals to the country’s cantons to cut the number of skiers in each resort. Within Switzerland itself, opinion is also sharply divided: but for the moment it looks as though the lifts will keep spinning. So there’s still hope for keen British skiers who want to take advantage of the UK government’s new Test To Release programme, to be launched on December 15.
Today, Austria was the latest country to rule out normal holiday skiing. Ski resorts can open from December 24: but hotels and restaurants can’t. What’s more, most foreigners (including Brits) will need to quarantine for at least five days on arrival into the country. Essentially, only the locals will be able to ski, on day trips, until January 10 at the earliest.
Beyond the Alps, Christmas and New Year skiing hasn’t been ruled out in either Spain and Sweden. But nothing is certain yet. In Sweden for example, the Ministry of Health will be making a mid-December announcement about Christmas holidays. Whilst the country has set itself against the idea of lockdowns, it’s worth noting that there’s growing alarm about the rising Covid-19 infection rate. Meanwhile, in Spain, resorts are hoping to open once restrictions on movement are lifted later this month: in Catalonia that will probably be on December 21 – although there is always the danger they will be extended over Christmas.
In the meantime, don’t forget Scotland. It’s been snowing in the Highlands today: just a dusting for now, but there’s more in the forecast (see below). Maybe, just maybe, there’ll be enough for some touring in the Cairngorms, and piste-skiing in the likes of Glenshee and Glencoe.