It was supposed to be the most anticipated winter season ever, after last year’s lockdown and 20 months of ski lifts due to the pandemic. “The missed winter of 2020/21 caused the loss of 10 billion GDP: we can no longer afford it”, the Minister of Tourism Massimo Garavaglia warned at the Skipass fair. The stop by decree on skiing on March 9, 2020 caused devastating losses for the white mountain sector, which in the pre-Covid era was worth 11% of national tourism and which employs 30,000 employees alone between cable cars and instructors.
“The snow must go on” is now the imperative of all operators in the sector, some of them still waiting for the coveted refreshments. Some stations have already opened their lifts, others will inaugurate them between this weekend and the Immaculate Conception. One third of the turnover of the winter season is concentrated between December and January: the uncertainty linked to the surge in infections in most of the Alps, however, slows down enthusiasm, and also bookings. The specter of the fourth wave of the pandemic has alarmed the regions, united by Mont Blanc to the Dolomites in asking the government to save the winter season at all costs.
Despite the lockdown, in Austria the tracks remained open, and this gave us hope. This is also the case in South Tyrol, where a curfew took effect yesterday in about twenty places, from Val Venosta to Val Gardena. With the decree on the super green pass approved yesterday by the Council of Ministers, starting from 6 December the restrictions will be reserved only for those who are not immunized. If this applies to all “activities”, including outdoor sports, skiing in the orange zone will therefore only be allowed to holders of a “reinforced” green pass, that is, those vaccinated and recovered from Covid. In short: no ski pass for no-vax.
In reality, the latest protocol revised by regions and plant engineers for the safe restart of skiing (validated by the CTS but still being examined by the government) would provide for the possibility of skiing also in the red zone, an eventuality now excluded by the new decree. In the event of a critical situation, the new guidelines would establish a quota of access to the ski areas, 80% capacity on closed lifts (50% in the red zone) and 100% on open ones; in addition of course to the obligation of a green pass, the spacing and use of the mask in the common areas.
The ski resorts have also equipped themselves to facilitate the online purchase of ski passes as much as possible, in order to avoid queues and gatherings at the ticket offices. The knot on how to control the green pass still remains to be resolved: ad personam at the turnstiles? With an automated system like in the Dolomiti Superski carousel? The installers ask that it be carried out “on a sample basis” by the police, also for a matter of privacy since the expiry date of the green certificate is a sensitive data.
The big unknown is represented by foreign tourists, who could be a good driver for the economy of the highlands. Lockdown permitting, forecasts are for a general increase in attendance (and unfortunately also in prices) compared to two winters ago. Uncertainty about the pandemic situation will translate into increasingly underdated bookings. Small destinations could benefit above all, with an explosion of all outdoor activities: skiing but also snowshoeing, ski mountaineering and simple walks in the snow.