The new covid variant Omicron has had a huge impact on the world of travel, and has led to many countries shutting their borders. France recently banned travellers from the UK, meaning Britain’s number one skiing destination is off the cards. We’ve put together a list of ski resorts that are open, if you feel comfortable.
Just before we dive in, a few caveats are necessary. Firstly, just because you can currently travel to these countries, doesn’t mean they’re free of all covid restrictions. Secondly, wherever you go, the return leg of your journey will still be impacted by covid. The British government requires a negative test result taken up to 48 hours before your journey home. This does mean that should you catch covid while away, you run the risk of being stranded abroad, and that’s putting many off travelling. However, as long as you are aware of the risks and find them acceptable, you can ski!
Austria acted quickly in the face of rising Delta covid cases, implementing a two week national lockdown in late November and early December. This delayed the opening of many ski resorts but as of 13 December 2021, they’re open for visitors. However, there are still serious safety precautions in place. To enter the country need to have had your vaccine and its booster dose, on top of which you need a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of travel.
Once you arrive, it’s important to remember that you need a FFP2 mask on in all indoor spaces. You can only take this off to eat or drink. Apart from that, skiing in Austria is much like you remember it, the country contains some of the best mountains the Alps has to offer.
Italy is often overlooked when it comes to ski trips from the UK. However, that shouldn’t be the case, especially as you can head there right now. To enter Italy you’ll need to be fully vaccinated and have evidence of a negative PCR test within 48 hours of travel, or a negative antigen test within 24 hours of travel. Access to hotels and ski lifts in Italy is now dependent on having the EU “Super Green Pass”, which means either proof of vaccination or proof of recovery from Covid. If you’re unvaccinated, a negative test is no longer good enough, and this applies to everyone aged 12 and over.
Perhaps, Brits don’t head to Italy’s slopes because they associate the country solely with Venetian grandeur, Roman history and Neapolitan pizza. But they’re missing out on some brilliant resorts in the Dolomites, that offer some of the quickest airport transfers in all of Western Europe.
Earlier in the season Switzerland announced that all UK travellers must quarantine for 10 days on arrival, effectively killing most British ski trips for the season. However, it then swiftly repealed these measures, allowing Brits to hit the slopes. You just need to take a negative PCR test up to 72 hours before arrival, or a negative antigen test up to 24 hours beforehand.
Swiss slopes don’t tend to be the cheapest, the country as a whole is a pricey place to visit. With these added costs comes excellent service, near everything at Swiss resorts is state of the art, from the lifts, to the luxurious ski-in/ski-out accommodation.
A slightly rogue choice, but one that’s picked up steam with British skiers on the hunt for a more affordable holiday. As long as you’ve been fully vaccinated you can enter Bulgaria, without even testing. However, if you haven’t been vaccinated, you will need a negative PCR test taken up to 72 hours before arrival.
Bulgaria’s a particularly popular destination for skiers who value a quality après – this nation knows how to party. However, one thing to be aware of in Bulgaria is that there’s limited pistes to explore for the more advanced skiers. Then again, if you go too hard at après, then maybe black slopes aren’t the best idea!
Sweden’s entry policy is straightforward. Are you fully vaccinated and was your second dose more than two weeks before date of travel? If you answered yes, you’re free to enter. If you’re not vaccinated, then you’ll need a valid negative covid test taken within 48 hours of travel.
Sweden boasts some of the most snow-sure mountains in all of Europe. Combine that with relatively uncrowded pistes and less time waiting in lift queues, you’ll question why you were so tied to the Alps in the first place. Outside of snow-sports, there are husky safaris, the absolute best way to experience the breathtaking scenery.
Another lesser chosen destination, but there could be no better time than now to try skiing in Poland. If you’re fully vaccinated, entry to the country is simple – you need proof of a negative test taken within 24 hours of travel. However, the unvaccinated have a tougher time, as they need to quarantine for at least eight days upon arrival.
Most of Poland’s resorts are relatively small scale, but lift passes come at an absolute snip compared to in the Alps. Like in Bulgaria, skiing in Poland skews slightly easier. A Polish black run might only grade as a red in France. They just don’t have the same vertical drops! On the plus side, this gentler terrain makes Poland’s resorts a great place for family holidays – and ski tuition is reliably multilingual.
A country most Brits only know as one of the reliable minnows the national football team thrashes every four years ago, actually boasts some excellent ski resorts. When it comes to travel, Andorra is a unique case. The country doesn’t have any airports, so to visit one of its ski resorts you need to arrive via France or Spain. Transit through France counts as an ‘essential reason’ to travel to the country, which will keep you exempt from the travel ban. Fully vaccinated people can travel through Spain into Andorra with relative ease.
In recent seasons the Pyrenees have been absolutely brilliant in terms of snowfall, especially when stacked up against the Alps. Andorra is especially famed for its brilliant range of off-piste skiing to explore. If you’re not so confident and would rather stick to the guided slopes, you’ll find them uncrowded and stress-free.
Yes, the country famed for the Costa del Sol, has ski slopes. The Pyrenees, Picos de Europa and Sierra Nevada all offer skiable terrain. As mentioned in the Andorra section, travelling to Spain is straightforward if you’re fully vaccinated (there are exemptions for children under the age of 12).
Like many on this list, skiing in Spain is cheaper and less busy than popular resorts in the Alps. Lots of resorts are easily reached from Spain’s major cities, which means lots of locals just visit for day trips on the weekend. Therefore, weekdays are particularly quiet. Also, enjoy a different type of cuisine atop a mountain. Tapas, anyone?
Skiing in America is for most Brits, less of a whim decision. Going cross-Atlantic isn’t cheap, but with France shutting its doors, now might be the perfect time to bite the bullet. As long as you’re double vaccinated, you should be able to travel to America. However, be aware that different US states are enforcing different laws with regards to masks and covid enforcement.
Skiing in North America is such a different experience to doing so in Europe. For one thing, the mountains and pistes are so beautifully wide open. Stateside skiing is also easier for beginners, the style over there is to have your legs wider apart to provide more stability, whereas European instructors encourage getting your feet as close as possible – helpful for speed, but is that really what most novices need? If there’s one downside to skiing in the US, it’s the food choices on the mountain, which tend towards wide open food halls, rather than charming European huts.
Entry into Canada is somewhat stricter than the USA. Again, you’ll need to be fully vaccinated, but you will also need a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of travel. You may be randomly selected to test on arrival and self-isolate until your results come in.
Skiing in Canada has all the same perks as doing so in the US, wide open pistes, and incredible bowls to jump into. As it’s mountains are further north (and further north than many in Europe), Canada’s tend to be even more snow sure. Also, in Whistler-Blackcomb, Canada boasts the single largest skiing area in North America.
Sometimes at OnTheSnow UK we come across as Scottish skiing evangelists. However, that’s because not enough people know that you can ski without leave the UK. And as you’re sticking to the British Isles, it’s the easiest place to ski in terms of covid restrictions.
We’ve put together a full guide to Scottish skiing before, but know that this isn’t quite the same skiing that you’re used to in mainland Europe. The region isn’t particularly snow-sure, although some resorts opened early in 2020 thanks to favourable weather. That means, it’s often a good place to ski if you spot imminent good conditions, and can arrange a last minute trip.
Editor’s note: As this is an evolving situation we will update this article throughout the 21/22 season.