The ski season has finally started in Austria this winter – but only for those living in the country.
Many resorts across the country opened today – although there were some major exceptions. Others, for example, St Anton and Lech in the Arlberg region, were planning on opening their runs on Boxing Day.
There are also restrictions on the sale of day tickets and the number of people allowed on the slopes and the lifts at any one time.
Strict regulations have been imposed to deal with dangers from the corona virus. Some stem from the national government: for example, the obligatory wearing of FFP2 masks in closed cable cars, gondolas and chairlifts with hoods. (A number of ski resorts were offering the masks at cost price to skiers.)
Others are regulated at the provincial government level. For example, in the Tyrol, restaurants are allowed to serve takeaway food. But there are additional restrictions for ski huts, who can only serve food if they can be reached by normal road.
Representatives of the ski lift operators have reacted angrily to some of the restrictions, especially the regulation about FFP2 masks. Why then, say the lift operators, should people be able to travel on the Vienna underground trains wearing normal mouth and nose protection?
Border restrictions, meaning that almost all arrivals have to go into a ten-day quarantine, have also crippled the important tourist market from foreign countries for the western provinces. Tourist accommodation is also closed for visitors, with only a few hotels remaining open to deal with business travellers on unavoidable commercial visits.
Some ski areas, such as Obergurgl and Ischgl, have decided not to open until at least the middle of January (when some of the current restrictions are scheduled to be lifted). Others, like Saalbach-Hinterglemm, have refused to open because of local regulations making lift operators and their employees legally liable for controlling the use of masks.
Today’s weather is cloudy and damp in many locations in Austria, with snow into the valleys expected for Christmas Day. The Stubai glacier website was reporting 4% usage of its lift and ski run capacity at 11.00 this morning.