German Chancellor Angela Merkel is calling for a joint decision by the member countries of the European Union to keep their ski resorts closed until at least the end of the year, in order to minimize contamination from Covid-19 among skiers, but she has some opponents. She has the backing of the Bavarian government. However, the Austrian government has indicated that it is opposed to this measure, although one of its ski resorts, Ischgl, was at the origin of widespread coronavirus contagion among German, Danish, Norwegian and Icelandic tourists at the beginning of this year. Meanwhile, it has pledged to grant subsidies to the country’s sporting goods retailers being affected by a drop in their revenues.
Merkel has the support of the French government, although it is only banning alpine skiing and the use of cable cars and skilifts until sometime in January. Cross-country skiing, sledding and other snow sports that don’t require these facilities are permitted. Italian authorities seem to be in favor of the lockdown, in spite of a recent call by Alberto Tomba and other former ski champions to keep Italian resorts open. Like the French government, the Italian government seems to be inclined to grant subsidies to the operators deprived of revenues because of the coronavirus, as it has already decided to do for tour operators, tourist guides and many other businesses, including most recently the shoe shops.
Assosport, the Italian sporting goods industry association, has indicated that it plans to work with the European Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (Fesi) to engage in a dialogue with European authorities on the subject. Assosport’s position is that producers of ski equipment, clothing and footwear that depend on ski tourism - there are many of them in Italy - should also be aided if the ski resorts are aided. Alberto Zanatta, president of Tecnica Group, suggests as a compromise that ski resorts that implement satisfactory safety measures should be allowed to welcome guests.
The cantons of Switzerland, which doesn’t belong to the European Union, are keeping their skilifts and cable cars in operation, at least for the time being. In the U.S., Vermont and other states are simply asking skiers to reserve their ski passes in advance, keeping their numbers at a minimum level to maximize social distancing.