Austrian summer ski resort to reopen as coronavirus lockdown eases
After Europe’s winter-sports season was brought to an abrupt halt in March by the coronavirus pandemic, skiers will be able to return to the Alps before the end of this month.
The operators of the Hintertux Glacier summer ski resort are promising excellent snow conditions.
The resort says: “On 29 May we plan to reopen lifts, our gastronomy on the mountain and the most popular excursion destinations on the Hintertux Glacier.
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“In keeping with the reopening, the glacier is currently at its most beautiful. All passionate winter-sports enthusiasts can look forward to 3.4m of snow and, in some cases, the finest powder snow.”
In summer, the vast majority of ski resorts either shut down or offer limited services for activities such as hiking and mountain biking. But summer snow in Europe can be reliably found at some high-altitude Alpine glaciers.
Hintertux is just 25km southeast of the city of Innsbruck. The glacier is accessible by road – served by a public Post Bus – from the lower-altitude resort of Mayrhofen. Lifts take skiers and sightseers to an altitude of 3,250m (10,662 feet).
The ski area normally opens year-round. Prospective visitors are told: “We are looking forward to a piece of normality in Hintertux at the end of the month and to being able to invite you back to 365 days of skiing fun.”
Reporting from Hintertux for The Independent several years ago, Stephen Wood wrote: “The ski slopes are short and located a long lift-ride up the mountain. And the snow turns to slush in the warm afternoons.”
But when the nearest “proper“ skiing is in the southern hemisphere, glaciers offer a reasonable alternative for northern-hemisphere skiers – and are often used by equipment manufacturers to test gear for the coming season.
The Austrian government has announced that all accommodation providers can reopen for private overnight stays from 29 May 2020.
Tourist attractions, swimming pools and other leisure facilities can reopen from the same day – though “larger events will initially be prohibited until the end of June 2020”.
At present UK travellers are unable to visit Austria without breaching lockdown restrictions. Airports are inaccessible except for essential journeys, and the Foreign Office warns against travel abroad.
Furthermore, the FCO warns travellers to Austria: “Anyone who has, in the last 14 days, been in an area for which the Austrian Foreign Ministry has travel warnings in place due to Covid-19 (including the UK), must present a medical certificate with microbiological test results in English, French, German or Italian which is no more than four days old.”
The French resort of Tignes hopes to open for summer skiing on 20 June.
When winter sports resume in Europe in late November, there are serious concerns about how skiers will cope with the need for social distancing.
While skiing and snowboarding themselves are low-risk, traditional après-ski is a cause for concern.
“The sweaty bars with music pumping so loud that people have to lean in to be heard presents coronavirus risks,” said one experienced skier.
“It’s also difficult to see how the bigger cable cars, where skis come off and skiers pack in, will work. But the rest of the trip couldn’t be better suited to being sociable yet socially distanced – fresh air and wide open spaces.”
Meanwhile a New Hampshire high school has replaced its normal graduation awards with a mountain-top ceremony at an idle ski resort.
The New York Post reports that students leaving Kennet High School will take a ski lift, with appropriate social distancing, to the 2,000ft summit of Cranmore Mountain.
The principal, Kevin Carpenter, said: “People will ride it up, get their diploma, get a picture of them on the top of a mountain, they’ll go to a different place with a second photographer, and get a pretty amazing backdrop.”
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