Ski holidays in Europe are set to be back in business next winter as the government brings in list of 59 quarantine-free destinations
The government has today released a ‘safe list’ of quarantine-exempt destinations, allowing international holidays to kickstart from July 10.
This list of 59 countries banishes the need for travellers visiting the named nations, which are deemed as low risk, to quarantine on arrival home in the UK, news many have been waiting for for months – although the destination itself could still impose a quarantine.
While initially the announcement of these ‘travel corridors’ will provide a lifeline to summer holidays and operators, it also shines a ray of hope on next season’s ski holidays, with the majority of winter destinations in Europe, plus Japan, named as safe.
The list lifts the Foreign Office ban on non-essential travel to all the named destinations from July 4, including France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Japan and Norway. The European Union has also announced a list of 15 non-EU countries permitted to visit Europe freely from July 1, including Canada, which looks likely to make it onto the UK’s list in the future.
Lifting of restrictions on travel is good news for skiers and snowboarders, who have been waiting for a green light to secure a spot on the slopes next season with confidence.
Hotels, restaurants, bars, museums and public places have begun to reopen around the world as tourism gets back on its feet, hopefully meaning by the time the snow has begun to fall and lifts start turning in December, if not earlier, the world will have had time to adjust to life in the post-pandemic age.
A ski holiday could be the first taste of travel many Britons get to experience in over a year and luckily resorts have plenty of time to plan ahead. That said, anything could happen, lockdowns could be reinforced and travel could be stopped, but for now hopes are high that we could be back on the pistes next season.
Those keen to start researching and booking their ski holidays for next winter can find all the latest travel information below, including an outline of the current advice for British travellers from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which will inevitably change from in the coming days, as well as specific guidelines from ski resorts across the world as they release plans for next winter and begin to welcome visitors back.
Those looking for further information about the risk of ski holidays being cancelled next winter, refunds and changes can also read our full advice on whether it’s safe to book a ski holiday here.
France has long been the favoured destination for British skiers and snowboarders. The inclusion of France on the government’s safe list comes as a great relief to ski resorts there, who can now be somewhat confident that Brits will return to the pistes of the Alps and the Pyrenees next winter.
Some resorts in France including Val d’Isere, Tignes and Les Deux Alpes are among those that have been able to reopen recently for summer skiing and snowboarding on high-altitude glaciers. Covid measures here will act as a blueprint for the coming winter months. In Les Deux Alpes it is compulsory to wear face coverings on lifts while Val d’Isere have limited the number of skiers and snowboarders permitted on the mountain each day to 500.
“The French Mountains will, of course, be ready to welcome British tourists this winter. The resorts have already reopened, now welcoming guests for the summer season. All health and safety measures are implemented in the resorts following the French government guidelines to ensure everyone’s security,” said Jean-Marc Silva, executive director of France Montagnes and Laurent Reynaud, chief executive of Domaines skiables de France.
The FCO’s current travel advice for France includes the following:
“From 15 June 2020, travellers arriving in France from the UK and wider European Area (EU, Andorra, Holy See, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino and Switzerland) are no longer required to demonstrate their travel is essential or hold an international travel certificate.”
“Arrivals from the UK and from outside the wider European Area (listed above) are asked to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival in mainland France. This does not apply to arrivals from within the wider European Area.”
“Travellers showing signs of a Covid-19 infection upon arrival in mainland France will have to carry out a mandatory 14 day quarantine at home or in a dedicated location indicated by the French authorities if home quarantine is not feasible.”
“Border checks may also be in place at points on France’s land borders with Italy, Spain, Belgium and Germany.”
Ski resorts in Italy were the first in the world to close last season as cases in the European country quickly surged. Following a strict period of lockdown the Italian border has reopened to foreign travellers and now the British government has announced Italy is on the list of low-risk destination available to visit from July 10.
Popular ski resorts in the likes of the Aosta Valley, Sud Tyrol and Dolomites can now begin to plan ahead for next winter and how restrictions in resorts might look. Cervinia, which shares a high-altitude glacier with Zermatt in Switzerland, has reopened for summer skiing recently and its approach will no doubt inspire others as they prepare to reopen.
Last week the Italian Tourist Board published an extensive list of guidelines for future travellers to the country. These include guidance on social distancing, which is currently a one-metre rule, face masks, which are currently mandatory in enclosed spaces and in all public spaces in the Lombardy and Piedmont regions, and specific protocols in place for all aspects of a holiday from restaurants to accommodation and public places, which are now all permitted to open.
“With the extensive and thorough protocols available online for travellers, we hope to reassure visitors that Italy is ready for tourists and has the correct measures in place to both ensure their health and safety whilst having a fantastic experience in the destination,” said Flavio Zappacosta, manager for the tourist board in the UK and Ireland.
The FCO’s current travel advice for Italy includes the following:
“Travellers arriving in Italy directly from the UK are now usually exempt from the requirement to self-isolate.”
“You will only need to self-isolate if; you travelled outside the UK in the 14 days prior to your arrival in Italy or; you will be arriving in Italy from a country for which there are still self-isolation requirements. If these conditions apply to you, then you must arrive in Italy with a completed ‘Self-Declaration Form for Travel’ stating the purpose of your trip to Italy; report promptly to local health authorities; self-isolate for 14 days.”
“All travellers entering Italy must avoid using public transport and must arrange to be collected, take a taxi or hire a car. Train companies have reduced domestic services and international travel is limited. Some cross-border bus companies are also cancelling their services.”
A number of ski resorts in Austria were placed under strict quarantine as the virus spread across Europe but now as the world adjusts to the new normal the country has reopened its borders to all EU countries except the UK, Sweden and Portugal. Despite this it is on the UK’s quarantine-free list due to that nation’s low infection rate.
Similar to their French neighbours, some Austrian resorts have already welcomed back skiers and snowboarders to snow-sure glacier slopes. Hintertux and Zell am See kicked things off in style with impressive snow depths, as skiers and snowboarders adjusted to new measures such as reduced hours in restaurants and limited capacity on lifts.
The Austrian resort of Ischgl was the first to address the compilations around crowded apres ski bars and the virus, suggesting that it was looking to change its party hotspot image. It’s a move that could influence others to reconsider off-the-slopes entertainment and activities.
Looking ahead to next season and the drive to welcome back skiers and snowboarders is in full force. “In Austria, accommodation providers were permitted to re-open to guests on 29th May, with social distancing of at least one metre and mandatory face masks in certain enclosed areas. Many providers also introduced features such as extended check in and check out times, newly installed disinfectant dispensers, protective glass screens, one-way systems, expanded outside areas and limits to the number of persons permitted in spa and swimming areas at any one time. Similarly, rules were put in place for chairlifts and gondolas,” said Martina Jamnig, UK Director, Austrian National Tourist Office.
“With the above measures – and those that will be introduced or altered between now and the start of the 2020/21 winter season – we aim to secure the health and safety of Austria’s guests and residents, which is our priority. We look forward to welcoming skiers and snowboarders back to our slopes – and we’re doing everything we can to ensure that when this happens, our guests can enjoy Austria’s awesome winter sports offering in a safe and enjoyable environment,” she continued.
The Austrian National Tourist Office announced last month that the Alpine country would be one of the first in the world to implement nationwide Covid-19 testing for anybody working in the travel and tourism industry, with a goal of 65,000 tests to have been carried out by July. Businesses where staff have been tested will be given signage to allow tourists to know their employees are being regularly screened and the premises is ‘Covid safe.’
Current safety measures in place across the country, where hotels, restaurants and bars have been permitted to reopen since mid-May, include social distancing of 1 metre and mandatory masks on public transport, including ski lifts.
The FCO’s current travel advice for Austria includes the following:
“Anyone entering Austria from a country for which the Austrian Foreign Ministry has a travel warning in place (including the UK) must be able to present at the border a medical certificate with micro-biological test results in English, French, German or Italian which is no more than 4 days old. Anyone arriving from the UK without a valid medical certificate will be required to self-isolate for 14 days and must be able to provide evidence of where they will quarantine. It is possible to leave quarantine early if you test negative for coronavirus while in isolation.”
“Coronavirus tests are available for €190 on arrival at Vienna Airport. If you wish to be tested at the airport, you must book an appointment in advance.”
“UK nationals transiting through Austria without a stopover do not require a medical certificate, if they can prove they are transiting. Neighbouring countries are restricting movement across borders and conducting health checks.”
With the majority of Europe on the list of travel corridors, ski resorts in Switzerland are among the most prepared in Europe to welcome back visitors, with many resorts using the summer season to test new procedures.
Switzerland’s tourism industry has launched a new ‘Clean & Safe’ campaign in an effort to reinstate traveller confidence and label the Alpine country as a safe destination to visit.
The campaign includes a ‘Clean & Safe’ stamp that will be adopted by hotels, restaurants and transport providers, among others, that commit to a new set of Covid-19 health and safety guidelines. Future visitors have a chance to see what specific measures are being taken in Switzerland, including on trains, in hotels, at spas and on cable cars.
The popular Swiss resort of Zermatt is leading the charge when it comes to reopening for skiers and snowboarders. The resort welcomed visitors back to the slopes on the Matterhorn glacier in June with a number of new measures in place. While there isn’t a limit on capacity in lifts people must remain two metres away from each other when in gondola cabins and station buildings. If they can’t they are advised to wear a face covering, which are available to buy as well as hand sanitiser. Skiers are also encouraged to purchase lift tickets online in advance or use contactless payment methods when they arrive and groups no larger than four will be able to eat together at the glacier’s restaurant, where tables will be two metres apart.
“Switzerland opened its borders to European countries including the UK in mid-June and is happy to welcome guests back to the country. With our Clean & Safe label we want to make sure to instil confidence in our guests while they use tourism services in Switzerland. The label guarantees that a provider adheres to the safety and security set out by the state and the industry,” said Alex Herrmann, Director Switzerland Tourism UK & Ireland.
The FCO’s current travel advice for Switzerland includes the following:
“Entry in to Switzerland from the United Kingdom is permitted for British nationals and nationals of EU and EFTA countries. Family members of UK/EU/EFTA nationals regardless of nationality are also permitted.”
Norway’s approach to curbing the spread of the virus was heralded as a raging success globally. Therefore it’s no surprise that the Scandinvian nation is also on the list of quarantine-exempt destinations.
Its ski resorts are particularly popular with families, beginners and those looking for a quieter, less crowded alternative to the Alps. The Norwegian resort of Myrkdalen hit the headlines when it was able to reopen for the end of the season. Bosses brought in new measures such as pre-booked lift passes and social distancing on lifts. With this, albeit short, experience of reopening in the post-pandemic world Norway is already somewhat set to hit the ground running once the snow starts falling again.
“Norway has to date continued the toughest lockdown measures in Europe and as a consequence also recorded one of the lowest levels of infections and fatalities,” said Trevor De Villiers, CEO of Norway Home of Skiing.
“We have also had the experience of running a resort during the Covid-19 lockdown at the end of last winter in Myrkdalen, gaining rather a lot of very valuable experience about how to run a resort safely with new social distancing measures in place. We will be using this experience as we go into next season to ensure all our customers can enjoy the mountains while guest safety is taken as a primary concern more than ever before… We are really looking forward to welcoming many more British guests to the safety of the Norwegian mountains next winter.”
Entry into Norway is currently restricted but life there is on track to returning to normal. While pubs and nightclubs remain closed, restaurants are allowed to reopen with social distancing measures in place.
The FCO’s current travel advice for Norway includes:
“Norwegian borders have been partially closed since 16 March. If you’re legally resident in Norway, you will be allowed to enter the country but must self-quarantine for 10 days.”
“On 12 May, restrictions on EEA citizens, which currently includes British nationals, visiting immediate family members were eased.”
“Non-residents are still able to transit via Norwegian airports as long as the final destination is not within Norway, but please check with your airline before departing.”
The future of travel across the Pond remains to be one of the biggest sore spots for travel bosses – the United States suspended travel from the UK back in April indefinitely. Since, both the UK and the EU has left the US off its list of countries whose citizens are permitted to travel freely, as the States records the highest rate of infection in the world.
However, if by next winter British skiers and snowboarders are welcomed back to America’s ski resorts it’s already clear what measures might be in place, as some were able to reopen for summer skiing and other sports.
Vail Resorts, which operates a number of America’s leading resorts, is gaining experience in operation in the post-pandemic world at it’s resorts in Australia. In a statement CEO Rob Katz explained that this would give them an advantage in preparing for next season in the northern hemisphere. Measures in place down under include limits on capacity both on the slopes and on lifts.
Elsewhere in the States and other resorts were able to reopen recently for the end of the season. Arapahoe Basin led the way where skiers and snowboarders were required to make a reservation before they visit and a limited number of lift tickets were available to buy in advance – a sign of what might be to come next winter.
The FCO’s current travel advice for America is:
“The USA has put measures in place to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). As of 16 March, it will not be possible for many British nationals to enter the USA if they have been in the UK, Ireland, Schengen zone, Iran or China within the previous 14 days. From 0501 GMT on 24 June, additional restrictions will be applied.”
“A Presidential Executive Order of 22 June means that further restrictions on certain visas (H1-B, H2-B, J and L) will be put in place from 24 June.”
“Those allowed entry to the USA must be prepared to self-isolate for up to 14 days after arrival.”
“You’ll need a visa to enter the USA. The Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) visa waiver programme is not currently in operation due to the imposition of new travel restrictions on those travelling from the UK.”
Unlike its southern neighbour Canada was included on the EU’s ‘safe list,’ meaning residents from Canada can travel to Europe unrestricted. Despite it not making the initial list of 59 nations opening up via travel corridors with the UK, hopes are high it will be a likely candidate for future quarantine-free travel with the UK.
Looking ahead to the winter season and the largely uncrowded slopes of Canada’s resorts tendency to favour self-catered accommodation, and many off-the-beaten track destinations could prove popular with those looking to escape Europe.
As it stands everyone arriving in Canada is legally required to self isolate for 14 days and regular entry requirements such as the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) are still in place and should be organised before you travel.
The FCO’s current travel advice for Canada includes the following:
“The Canadian authorities are now barring entry to Canada, including at its border with the US, to most foreign nationals, including British nationals.”
“At point of departure, air operators must complete a basic health assessment of every passenger. No passengers (regardless of citizenship) who are showing symptoms of coronavirus will be allowed to board.”
“Only Toronto Pearson (YYZ), Montreal Pierre Elliott Trudeau (YUL), Calgary International Airport (YYC) and Vancouver International Airport (YVR) are operating international flights.”
Japanese visitors are now welcome back in Europe as part of the EU’s new ‘safe list’ and today the British government announced the Asian homeland of skiing as one of the 59 travel corridor partners.
“Although borders are still closed to the vast majority of international travel, remaining restrictions around non-essential domestic travel between regions in Japan have now been lifted, with detailed government guidelines regarding ways travellers can reduce the risks of infection and transmission,” read a statement from the Japan National Tourist Office.
These guidelines include making bookings in advance, avoiding excessive conversation on public transport and ski lifts, and returning to a destination later in the day if it looks busy. This is in addition to more general advisories encouraging travellers to wear masks, wash and sanitise hands as often as possible.
The popular ski destination of Hokkaido has launched the ‘New Hokkaido Style’ campaign, which encourages new habits and business practices as part of a new normal. These include protective screens at check-in desks, floor stickers for social distancing, daily health checks for employees and temperature and travel history checks for guests. Gassan ski resort, which operates only in summer, has been welcoming skiers since the beginning of June and putting new covid-19 guidelines to the test.
Rusutsu resort in Hokkaido is operating reduced capacity on its airport transfer buses and gondolas are being disinfected regularly. While Kiroro resort, also in Hokkaido, has introduced digital menus in its restaurants that work using QR codes and ski rental company Rhythm Japan is offering guarantees for free cancellation on orders.
The FCO’s current travel advice for Japan includes the following:
“From 3 April, entry to Japan will be denied for any non-Japanese nationals who have been to the UK or this list of countries in the last 14 days, other than in exceptional circumstances. These measures also apply to people who live in Japan but are temporarily out of the country.”
“All passengers who arrive in Japan may be required to undergo a coronavirus screening test (PCR) and are required to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival at a designated location (such as a hotel or your own home) and to avoid using public transport. These measures will remain in place until at least the end of July.”
“These measures do not apply to passengers who are transiting through the same airport and do not go through immigration.”
Government guidelines may change rapidly and without warning; be sure to check the latest FCO advice before booking and/or travelling to any destination.