European leaders are determining how to handle the ski season amid COVID-19.

By Cailey Rizzo
December 03, 2020
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Ski slopes across Europe may be closed for the Christmas season as the continent attempts to hold back its second wave of COVID-19 cases

French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced last week that winter sport resorts in France will be open for Christmas but ski lifts (and therefore ski slopes) will remain closed until Jan. 20, 2021. Meanwhile, across the border in Switzerland, ski slopes are open — and may prove tempting for European skiers over the coming weeks. 

In response, France could take “restrictive and dissuasive measures” to stop people from crossing borders to ski, French President Emmanuel Macron announced Tuesday, The Associated Press reported. Border checks and mandatory quarantine could be used to dissuade skiers from crossing borders over the holiday season. 

Leaders of neighboring countries are echoing France’s decision. “We need solidarity ... at our borders,” Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo agreed, according to The AP. “We cannot ask (ski) resorts to stop their activities and see that people are traveling. In fact, all of us, we don’t need a virologist to know that if that’s forbidden in France, doing it in another country may not be very clever.” 

skiers waiting in line
Credit: JEFF PACHOUD/AFP via Getty

Germany also joined France in calling for a holiday ban on skiing across the continent. But other continents have different ideas. 

Austria will allow skiing from Dec. 24, although hotels will remain closed until Jan. 7 and strict quarantine requirements remain in place for travelers from abroad. Italy could limit travel between regions during the holidays. Last week, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said, "It's not possible to allow holidays on the snow, we can't afford it,” The BBC reported. 

While the World Health Organization (WHO) has said that the risk of spreading COVID-19 through skiing is low, the activities that surround the sport — like apres-ski gatherings and traveling — could be what exacerbates the virus. 

“The real issues are going to come at airports, tour buses taking people to and from ski resorts, ski lifts ... and places where people come together,” Dr. Michael Ryan of the WHO said at the UN this week, The Associated Press reported. “We would advise that all countries look at their ski season and other reasons for mass gathering.” 

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, on Instagram, or at caileyrizzo.com.