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Alpine skiing delayed this season, but perhaps not denied

At the 3 Vallees ski area in France, 370 miles of pistes await.

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By KAREN BRADBURY | Stars and Stripes | Published: November 13, 2020

As the first snows of early winter begin to fall, skiers across Europe are wondering how soon they will be able to indulge in their favorite sport. While it’s still too early to predict how the ski season of 2020-2021 will pan out, we can hope that through a mix of COVID-fighting measures such as caps on the numbers of skiers to the restriction of apres ski gatherings, a snowy day in the Alps might yet be yours.

Here’s a look at the current regulations in three countries, and some of the new infrastructure to enjoy once resorts open to visitors.

Please bear in mind that travel restrictions can turn on a dime and might well be extended beyond the dates currently announced. Always check the latest guidance with both destination country and command before setting off.

Austria

Current travel restrictions: The country is currently under a partial lockdown. All hotels are closed to leisure travelers and tourists through at least Nov. 30, and no ski areas will open before that date.

Skiing: First the bad news: There will be no season opening festivities this year, and après-ski in its usual form will be prohibited throughout the winter. When things do open up, it will be possible to consume food and drink in the mountain huts and restaurants in both indoor and outdoor areas, as long as the diner is seated. Face masks will be required while riding the lifts.

New on the slopes: Snow Space Salzburg is a ski resort linking up the villages of Flachau, Wagrain and St. Johann-Alpendorf. It makes up part of the Salzburger Sportwelt, the largest of the five ski regions which in turn make up the Ski Amade, a network of 28 ski areas and towns that together make up the second-largest ski area in all Europe.

The new Panorama Link connection between Flachau/Wagrain and Flachauwinkl/Kleinarl effectively creates an even larger play space for skiers, with 120 miles of slopes now accessible with a single-day ticket. The 10-seat gondola lift traverses a nearly two-mile route between the towns of Wagrain and Kleinarl while providing scenic views of the Hohe and Niedere Tauern mountain ranges. Snowboarders and free riders can rejoice over the increased accessibility to the Absolut Park Flachauwinkl. Austria’s largest snow park offers more than 100 obstacles designed to challenge all levels from beginners to pros. Online: snow-space.com

France

Current travel restrictions: While those arriving from EU Member States can enter metropolitan France without any COVID-19-related restrictions or paperwork, the country remains under lockdown until December 1, and movements outside one’s residence are severely limited. Arrivals are subject to tests at ports of entry.

Skiing: Lifts and resorts will not be opening until the lockdown is lifted.

New on the slopes: Val Thorens, the highest ski town in Europe, forms part of the greater 3 Vallees ski area, and with some 370 miles of pistes, it’s one of the largest linked ski areas in the world. Two recent projects there promise to boost its fun factor. The Tyrolienne, a zip line for skiers, starts at the Orelle resort and crosses the Val Thorens crest at speeds of more than 60 miles an hour. A fabric cocoon keeps riders safe and warm during the 1-minute, 45-second journey. Access is via the Bouchet chairlift. A single ride costs 55 euros ($64.50), and tickets can be purchased on-site. Non-skiers or those just after a new experience can also enjoy a turn on a new skating rink. La Patinoire, located in Place Peclet, offers natural ice, loads of space and a music and light show. A nearby chalet serves crepes and hot chocolate. Online: valthorens.com/en

Italy

Current travel restrictions: Rules for travelers vary depending upon their country of origin and destination, as well as their reasons for travel. A three-tier system of green, orange and red illustrates the level of risk in each of the country’s 20 regions. There is also a curfew in place between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Skiing: Lifts and cable cars in ski areas will remain closed to amateur sportsmen until Nov. 24 at the earliest.

New on the slopes: Many ski areas in the Dolomites are upgrading or putting new lifts in operation in 2020, including Carezza Ski, Kronplatz, Alta Badia and Cortina d’Ampezzo. The Drei Zinnen (Three Peaks) ski resort is one of the 12 ski areas of Dolomiti Superski, which offers 745 miles of slopes accessible with a single ski pass. Drei Zinnen itself, with 65 miles of slopes for all levels of ability, is replacing its circa-1981 cable car with a 10-seater gondola lift and adding a new slope. The intermediate-level “Moos-Sexten” slope links Three Peaks up with Monte Elmo and Croda Rossa.

Stunning vistas in a UNESCO World Heritage site, meticulous grooming and the ski-in, ski-out Berghotel in the small village of Moso are other factors to recommend a ski holiday here. Online: berghotel.com/en/skiing