Where can I go skiing this winter? The latest rules and restrictions in ski resorts

Skiers and snowboarders are eager to get back on the slopes
Skiers and snowboarders are eager to get back on the slopes Credit: getty
With winter approaching, thoughts have turned to whether ski holidays will be back in business this season

With just a few weeks until the start of the ski season thoughts have turned to whether winter sports holidays will be able to go ahead. 

It’s the million pound question for every keen skier and snowboarder, but with regular changes being made to our list of travel corridors, and Covid cases rising across much of Europe, there is no clear answer.

Very few ski destinations are currently accessible to Britons without the need to quarantine (either on arrival or when they return home), but airport testing or the reintroduction of travel corridors could see this change.

With that in mind, and with a pinch of optimism, we’ve put together a guide to help you navigate the current uncertainties and maximise your chances of getting away to the slopes this winter. 

Whether you want to escape at Christmas or are looking for a family break later in the season the following resorts have been chosen by our experts to suit every type of ski holiday. We’ve prioritised resorts where it is currently possible to travel safely but also included those that will hopefully be back on the cards come winter, listing new rules that will be in place this winter for each.

Those determined to travel will need to be flexible, take the right precautions, plan carefully and probably book at the very last minute. Read our expert guide for more advice on travelling in the current climate. 

Where should I go?

For early-season turns

Cervinia, Italy

Quarantine status: Red. (proof of a negative Covid-19 test on arrival in Italy, two-week quarantine on return to the UK)

The risk: With an infection rate now over 231 per 100,000 Italy has surpassed the Government's thershold and has had its travel corridor revoked, it was the last remaining Alpine nation on the Government’s “safe list”.

Cervinia is one of the most snow-sure resorts in Europe Credit: getty

The rules: To mitigate risk in ski resorts the Italian Tourist Board has published an extensive list of guidelines for future travellers to the country, including guidance on one-metre social distancing and face masks, which must be worn in outdoor spaces across the country and indoors everywhere except in private homes. Bars and restaurants in Italy must now also close by 6pm, under new curfew rules. Cervinia is one of the lucky few ski resorts that has been able to open for summer skiing on its glacier – vital experience in testing new Covid safety measures including masks on lifts and reduced capacity. However, since, all ski lifts in Italy have been forced to close until November 24 under a new Government decree.

The reward: Cervinia is Italy’s most snow-sure resort in the lee of the mountain Italians call Monte Cervino, better known to the rest of the world as the Matterhorn. Its high altitude – 2,050m in the village and 3,480m at the top lift station – means that top to bottom snow is virtually guaranteed throughout a long season, which starts on October 24 this year. While beginners and intermediates will thrive in Cervinia, those looking for a challenge can climb the lift system and cross the frontier into Switzerland for the more demanding linked slopes of Zermatt, if border restrictions allow.

Getting there: Ski Solutions offers seven nights self-catered at Base Camp Apartments, with onsite supermarket, restaurant and a bar plus ski-in/ski-out access, from £1,017 per person, departing on December 19 2020. This price includes flights and transfers. 

Val Thorens, France

Quarantine status: Red (two-week quarantine on return to the UK)

The risk: Coronavirus cases in France have risen steadily in recent weeks, resulting in its travel corridor with the UK being revoked. The current infection rate there is 414 per 100,000.

The rules: The association for major French ski resorts, France Montagnes, which includes Val Thorens, has revealed the new rules that will be in place this season. Capacity on the slopes and on lifts will not be reduced, however there will be one-way systems, regular disinfection of cabins and chairs, sanitisation points at entrances and exits, and masks will be mandatory when queueing and riding on the lift.  Apres-ski will be muted, as venues are required to only operate table service – on entering a bar or restaurant visitors must wear a mask until seated. Tables will be distanced one metre apart or separated by screens to adhere to social distancing rules. In equipment hire shops, where staff will be full training in regular disinfection protocols, masks will also be mandatory for customers. Masks will also be compulsory at the beginning and end of ski school, but not once the lesson is underway, as well on ski buses and in all communal areas in hotels and apartment blocks. Despite this preparation all French ski resorts much remain closed until at least December 1 as France goes into lockdown.

Val Thorens is the higehst ski resort in Europe Credit: jacques pierre

The reward: At 2,300m, purpose-built Val Thorens is not only the highest resort in the vast Trois Vallées ski area  (which also includes Courchevel, Méribel and Les Menuires), but the highest in Europe. Its lofty altitude means that its doorstep slopes have guaranteed snow cover from November to May. Its opening weekend (this year on November 21 to 22) has been cancelled due to the new lockdown in France, however resort bosses are hopeful this will curb the spread of the virus and will mean they are still able to reopen before Christmas. The slopes in the wider Trois Vallées area open fully between December 5 and 12 when visitors have the chance to explore every corner of the world’s biggest ski area. Val Thorens, has introduced a “Clean United Label,” which demonstrates business and professionals are adhering to Covid safety rules.

Getting there: Skiworld offers seven nights at Chalet Libra, which sleeps nine people, from £679 per person, saving £50 each if an entire group fills the property. The price includes chalet board, flights and transfers, departing December 12 2020.

For Christmas

Levi, Finland

Quarantine status: Green. (However, restrictions are in place on UK arrivals until at least November 23, after which travel may be possible if arrivals present evidence of a negative Covid test).

The risk: Scandivia has emerged out of the pandemic largely unscathed, with the case rate in Finland currently at 23 per 100,000 residents. It was granted a travel corridor on July 4 and it looks likely to maintain it for the foreseeable – the remote nature of the ski resorts here may come as a shock to those who are used to the giant resorts of the French Alps, but they provide a Covid-safe haven for visitors.

A ski holiday in Finland is a unique experience Credit: getty

The rules: Finnish borders remain closed to non-resident foreign nationals entering the country, with some exemptions. From November 23, however, restrictions are being relaxed. VisitFinland.com explains: “Leisure travel will be possible from all EU and Schengen countries (including the UK) with infection rates above 25 per 100,000 persons [over the previous 14 days]. However, travellers from these countries will need to have proof on arrival in Finland of a negative Covid-19 test result no older than 72 hours. On arrival in Finland, visitors from these countries are placed in quarantine for 72 hours, after which they need to take a second test. After a second negative Covid-19 test result, the person can move around in Finland freely. If the visit to Finland lasts less than 72 hours, no quarantine or second test is required.”

The reward: Levi is more than 160km north of the Arctic Circle and is Finland’s largest ski area with 44km of pistes, but a holiday here is about more than just skiing. There’s a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights from November to April, most commonly between 5pm and 2am. At Christmas Finland really comes into its own and Levi’s location in Lapland makes for a truly magical affair, with visits to Santa and reindeer safaris a must for families.

Getting there: Inghams offers seven nights at its flagship four-star property, Levi Hotel Spa, for £1,868 per person. The price includes half board, flights and transfers, departing December 20 2020.

Lech, Austria

Quarantine status: Red (two-week quarantine on return to the UK)

The risk: “We hope that, by the start of the winter season, British tourists will once again be able to visit Austria without concern for their return to the UK, and enjoy relaxed, worry-free holidays on the slopes,” said Martina Jamnig, UK Director, Austrian National Tourist Office. However, for the moment Austria remains red-listed and the seven-day case rate per 100,000 has now surpassed 227. 

The rules: As cases spike in Austria new rules have been introduced. No more than six people are allowed to meet indoors in and outside, a maximum of 12 people are allowed to get together, across the entire country. Specific rules in ski resorts this winter include a ban on traditional après-ski and curfews on bars and restaurants. Masks will be mandatory during ski lessons, when one metre social distancing cannot be maintained, and on ski lifts and buses.

The reward: Few resorts have a more exclusive image than Lech, but while the resort in the Voralberg region might sound like a place for the rich and famous to see and be seen, with no shortage of five-star living, the picturesque resort remains true to its farming village origins. During the festive period, in a usual year, there are picturesque Christmas markets in both Lech and next‑door Zürs throughout December. These will still operate in 2020, but under new social distancing and safety rules, while the plethora of luxury hotels will also no doubt be treating guests to the gift of a Christmas escape in a Covid-safe way.

Getting there: VIP Ski if offering a seven-night stay at Hotel Theodul, a short walk from the lifts with an outdoor heated pool, from £1,959 per person. The price includes full board, flights and transfers, departing December 20 2020.

Lech is a charming traditional Austrian village Credit: Lech Zuers Tourismus by Josef Mallaun

Champoluc, Italy

Quarantine status: Red. (proof of a negative Covid-19 test on arrival in Italy, two-week quarantine on return to the UK)

The risk: The number of cases in Italy have steadily risen and it is no longer deemed safe for visitors and who now face quarantine on their return home. Britons must also now show evidence of a negative Covid-19 test on arrival into Italy, either taken beforehand or in the airport, anybody testing positive faces quarantine there. Champoluc’s Monte Rosa ski area is part of the wider Aosta Valley region, in the North West of the country on the border with France and Switzerland. Back in March when cases skyrocketed in regions such as Lombardy, Aosta’s resorts, including Champoluc, managed to keep cases down to one of the lowest in the country.

The rules: An official announcement is yet to be made by the ski resorts of the Aosta Valley regarding the new rules that will be in place this winter. However, as per above in Cervinia, one-metre social distancing and face mask rules are currently enforce across Italy. Face masks must be worn in outdoor spaces across the country and indoors everywhere except in private homes and bars and restaurants must close at 6pm. All ski lifts are closed to the public until November 24 at least.

The reward: Champoluc, in the Ayas Valley (part of the wider Aosta Valley region), is a charming village, with a typically Italian laid-back atmosphere. The 200km Monterosa ski area is one of the most underrated in the Alps, the scenery is beautiful and there’s a general lack of crowds on the slopes.  It stretches over three valleys with one small resort in each – Champoluc, Gressoney and Alagna. If early-season snow cover is an issue and you’re keen to explore, the snow-sure resort of Cervinia is just over an hour’s drive away, with access to Europe’s highest skiable glacier on the Swiss border.

Champoluc is a charming Italian town Credit: marco spataro

Getting there: Ski2 offers a week’s stay for a family of four over Christmas at CampZero, which has 10 family suites, a swimming pool, spa and two restaurants, from £1,929 per adult and £1,829 per child, including bed and breakfast, private airport transfers, six-day Monterosa lift pass, lunches each day on the mountain and ski guiding, departing December 19 2020.

For New Year

Innsbruck, Austria

Quarantine status: Red (two-week quarantine on return to the UK)

The risk: The Alpine country was the first in the world to implement nationwide Covid-19 testing for anybody working in the travel and tourism industry. Businesses where staff have been tested will be given signage to allow tourists to know their employees are being regularly screened and the premises is ‘Covid safe.’ The current case rate in Austria is now 227 per 100,000.

The rules: In the biggest blow for Austrian resorts, famed for their lively après-ski, restaurants and bars in ski resorts will be subject to social distancing rules. They must only operate table service, both indoors and outdoors and singing and dancing will not be permitted. Groups in restaurants will be limited to 10 people (excluding children) and there will be a 1am curfew in place – in SalzburgerLand, Tirol and Vorarlberg this will be even earlier at 10pm. Masks will be mandatory when not seated at a table as well as during ski lessons, when one metre social distancing cannot be maintained, and on ski lifts and buses. No more than six people are allowed to meet indoors in Austria. Outside, a maximum of 12 people are allowed to get together.

Innsbruck is surrounded by snow-capped mountains Credit: Christof Lackner/Innsbruck Tourism

The reward: Innsbruck is one of Austria’s most beautiful cities, boasting a medieval old town of narrow cobbled streets and colourful buildings along the River Inn. As well as being the Tirolean capital, Innsbruck is also a ski resort, with 13 ski areas within a one-hour radius, all covered by one lift pass. Traditionally on New Year’s Eve the centre of Innsbruck becomes a party destination, where at midnight Strauss’s Blue Danube strikes up, and there’s waltzing in the streets. How organisers will adapt the usual festivities under new Covid rules remains to be seen – but the city’s wide choice of restaurants, hotels and bars, all of which are now open, will no doubt go out their way to celebrate the end of 2020 safely.

Getting there: No traditional ski operators run packages to Innsbruck, but there are plenty of hotels to choose from. The aDLERS’ Hotel is built in a modern style with sweeping views of the city skyline and mountains, from £109 half board per person per night. Flights to Innsbruck are available with Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa, EasyJet and British Airways from major UK airports during the winter season, but are currently running a reduced schedule.

Val d’Isere, France

Travel status: Red (two-week quarantine on return to the UK)

The risk: Cases continue to rise dramatically in France, the infection rate there is 414 per 100,000 and there's talk of another national lockdown. However the number of cases in mountain resorts are significantly lower than in major cities such as Paris and resorts are confident that new measures will ensure the risk of infection is kept low during the winter.

The rules: Val d’Isere is one of the many French ski resorts to announce the new rules that will be in place this season, like Val Thorens (above). Val d’Isere is also one of the few resorts in the Alps that was able to reopen for summer skiing and snowboarding on its glacier. This has given resort bosses ample experience in managing the ski holiday experience in a Covid-secure way, including social distancing on lifts and pre-booked lift passes – putting them in good stead when cases begin to drop and travel to the country is permitted. As it stands, like the rest of France, the resort will be in lockdown until December 1 at least and skiing will not be permitted.

Val d’Isere shares it ski area with neighbouring Tignes Credit: vanessa fry

The reward: Linked to neighbouring Tignes to form a ski area of 300km of pistes and 90 lifts, Val d’Isère offers high quality, snow-sure slopes for everyone from complete beginners to veteran powderhounds. The village, located at the end of the Tarentaise valley, stands at a respectable 1,850m, with top slopes at an altitude of nearly 3,400m, beneath the summit of the Pointe du Montet. Apres ski in the resort, including the on-mountain cabaret experience the Folie Douce, will inevitably have to undergo a Covid-friendly makeover but its popularity with British holidaymakers will no doubt create a jovial atmosphere.

Getting there: Le Ski offers a week's stay at Chalet Bel Air, which sleeps 16,  from £1,940 per person. The price includes five days chalet board, flights to Chambery and transfers, departing December 27 2020.

Courmayeur, Italy

Quarantine status: Red. (proof of a negative Covid-19 test on arrival in Italy, two-week quarantine on return to the UK)

The risk: Italy was the last and final Alpine ski nation to have its travel corridor with the UK revoked as a second wave of the pandemic hits Europe, whether a New Year break there will be possible is uncertain. Courmayeur sits on the border with France and is part of the Aosta Valley region, where cases have managed to remain relatively low.

Courmayeur sits in the shadow of Mont Blanc Credit: fabio cappa

The rules: Courmayeur’s year-round appeal has given it some experience in managing tourism throughout the summer months – local markets have returned and facilities such as the indoor climbing wall have reopened. However, face masks must be worn in outdoor spaces across the country and indoors everywhere except in private homes, as well as on gondolas and public transport. Currently only four people are permitted per table when dining out and après-ski is currently banned.

The reward: Courmayeur’s proximity to both Geneva and Turin airports makes it a popular destination for weekenders from Britain – those looking to get away at New Year will find five-star comfort in Italy’s chicest winter destinations in the shadow of Mont Blanc. At the heart of the stylish but lively village is the pedestrianised Via Roma, lined with smart boutiques, enticing bars and restaurants (which have been permitted to reopen under new social distancing rules). The resort is popular with Italian holidaymakers, many of whom don’t bother skiing, meaning the slopes are usually not very crowded, even in peak times. 

Getting there: Crystal Ski offers a week’s stay at the three-star Hotel Dei Camosci, a short walk to the resort centre, from £1,055 per person. The price includes half board, flights and transfers, departing December 27 2020.

For families

Åre, Sweden

Quarantine status: Green

The risk: On September 12 Sweden was granted a travel corridor by the UK government. Its current case rate of just over 103 per 100,000 people and whether it can hold onto its travel corridor remains to be seen. As it stands though a ski holiday to the Scandivian slopes could be on the cards this winter. There is no need to quarantine at either end of the journey.

The rules: Last winter Åre was one of the final resorts in the world to close because of the pandemic. Before this new measures were brought in, including curtailed après-ski, no self-service buffets and new takeaway and delivery services – insight into what the upcoming season could hold. Unlike the UK and other European nations masks are not mandatory in Sweden. Official rules are yet to be announced.

Åre is Sweden’s biggest ski resort

The reward: Åre is Sweden’s biggest ski resort, with three separate ski areas strung out beside a frozen lake, and a winter season that goes on well into April thanks to the long hours of sunlight and warmer temperatures later in the season. It’s popular with families who love the off‑slope activities including dog-sled or reindeer-sled rides, tobogganing, snowmobiling, skating, curling and ice fishing.

Getting there: Ski Safari offers seven nights for a family of four at the five-star Copperhill Mountain Lodge from £1,095pp at Easter. The price includes half board, flights and transfers, departing April 11 2021. 

Passo Tonale, Italy

Quarantine status: Red. (proof of a negative Covid-19 test on arrival in Italy, two-week quarantine on return to the UK)

The risk: Italy’s current case rate of 231 per 100,000 means the country is no longer rated safe for travel. Passo Tonale lies on the border of the Lombardy and Trentino regions, which were some of the worst hit earlier in the year, but the resorts are now getting back on their feet. 

The rules: Official guidance for the ski season in Italy is yet to be announced, but skiers and snowboarders should expect face coverings to become commonplace, as well as social distancing in restaurants, bars (which now must close at 6pm) and hotels – it is unlikely there will be reduced capacity on the slopes. Under the latest rules ski lifts have been ordered to close to the public until November 24, meaning skiing is off the cards for now.

Passo Tonale has access to high-altitude glacial slopes Credit: getty

The reward: Passo Tonale is set on a high mountain pass in the Val di Sole (Sun Valley), which luckily lives up to its name. It’s one of the few Italian resorts to be snow sure from late October to mid-June, thanks to the Presena glacier at 3,000m, with ideal slopes for intermediates. The gentle wide-open pistes that form the resort’s near-perfect nursery area are ideal for children who are taking their first turns and gaining confidence.

Getting there: Crystal Ski offers a week’s stay at the four-star Hotel Grand Paradiso from £554 per person. The price includes half board, flights from Birmingham to Verona and transfers, departing February 6 2021.

For experts

Scotland

Travel status: Green

The rules: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that Scotland will remain in a partial lockdown until at least November 2. Under these rules licensed premises are required to close at 6pm, and the consumption of alcohol is only be permitted outdoors. Only hotel restaurants are allowed to remain open after 6pm, but only for residents, and without alcohol. There is nothing to stop people from England, Wales and Northern Ireland from entering Scotland – but advice differs depending on which coronavirus alert level tier a region is in.

The reward: Scotland versus the Alps is a hard battle to draw as both offer such different experiences. However, skiers and snowboarders with a sense of wanderlust will enjoy the adventure skiing in Scotland offers.

Undeniably the infrastructure is a lot more basic, the weather is arguably less reliable and the ski areas much smaller, but the views are incredible, the atmosphere electric and while admittedly skiing in Scotland isn’t for those looking to clock up serious mileage, those happy with exploring a varied ski area, with off-piste options, and aren’t afraid to repeat the same runs a few times it comfortably fits the bill. Glenshee is Scotland’s largest resort with 36 runs, Nevis Range and CairnGorm Mountain both have 32, while Glencoe Mountain has 21 and Lecht, 20 – combined the areas cover a total 130km. In order to ensure quality conditions a trip to the Scottish slopes requires a certain amount of spontaneity. It’s possible to drive and do a roadtrip of all the resorts or catch the Caledonian Sleeper from London. 

The Gleneagles resort is offering skiers a UK-based alternative to their usual ski holiday this winter Credit: TinaHillier2019

Getting there: The Gleneagles resort, in Perthshire close to Glenshee, has launched a new Strathearn Valley Pass, in addition to its Winter Playground Pass – designed to offer skiers an alternative to traditional Alpine ski holidays this winter. As well as the winter activities available across the 850-acre estate on the Winter pass, such as horse riding, zip-wiring and shooting, plus spa access, bike hire and complimentary drinks, the new Valley pass includes a guided hillwalking experience, with lunch, two evening meals at The Strathearn restaurant and an optional upgrade of a helicopter ride to Glenshee ski resort for a day’s skiing, with return transfer in a Land Rover Defender. A Valley pass package costs from £2,895 per room for two nights, available from January 3 to February 25. 

Jasná, Slovakia

Quarantine status: Red (two-week quarantine on return to the UK)

The risk: Slovakia’s travel corridor has now been taken away, meaning you will have to quarantine on your return to the UK. The infection rate there is 281 per 100,000.

The rules: Businesses have reopened across Slovakia, large events are permitted as long as social distancing is adhered to, and masks are no longer compulsory in outdoor spaces – some of the most lenient rules in Europe, which could mean the ski season there is as close to ‘normal’ as anywhere else. Official guidance for ski resorts is yet to be announced.

Experts will enjoy the slopes of Jasna

The reward: Jasná is the largest and most challenging ski area in Slovakia, offering the best all-round slopes in Eastern Europe (furthermore, they are often deserted in comparison to resorts in the Alps). It’s a destination with sufficient terrain and facilities to keep even expert skiers and snowboarders blissfully happy. From the nearest airport at Poprad, served by Wizzair from Luton (a limited flight schedule is back in operation), it’s a 45-minute drive to the resort, which is a small purpose-built village. The ski area is served by five modern gondolas and five high-speed chairlifts among its 28 lifts, and there is also a good choice of modern hotels and attractive restaurants.

Getting there: Jasná Adventures is offering a week’s sole occupancy for 14 people at The Dragon’s Lair Chalet from €569 per person. The price includes bed and breakfast, guided skiing, transfers to the lifts each day, equipment hire and airports transfers, departing January 3 2021.

Verbier, Switzerland

Quarantine status: Red (two-week quarantine on return to the UK)

The risk: Switzerland’s case rate has risen rapidbly again in recent weeks, at 515 per 100,000 (versus 230 in the UK). Switzerland has now removed the 10-day quarantine for anyone arriving from the UK.

Verbier's off piste terrain is world famous Credit: melody ski/verbier.ch

The rules: Ski resorts in Switzerland are gearing up for winter, implementing a number of new safety measures including face coverings in gondolas, hygiene stations on the mountain, hand sanitiser and masks available to buy at lift stations and social distancing in resort restaurants and bars – events with over 1,000 people are currently banned. Skiers will be encouraged to purchase lift tickets online in advance  Switzerland’s tourism industry has launched a new ‘Clean & Safe’ campaign in an effort to reinstate traveller confidence and label the Alpine country as a safe destination to visit. The campaign includes a ‘Clean & Safe’ stamp that will be adopted by hotels, restaurants and transport providers, among others, that commit to a new set of Covid-19 health and safety guidelines. 

The reward:
While Verbier, the main resort in Switzerland’s largest ski area, the 4 Vallées, has slopes to suit all levels, it best suits confident, adventurous skiers and snowboarders. The 80 lifts access more than 410km of runs, including some of the best lift-served off piste in the Alps. Thanks to the altitude of the ski area and the extensive snowmaking, it’s pretty safe to book early or late in the season and this winter, thanks to recent snowfall, it plans to begin reopening its slopes from October 30.

Getting there: The Warren Smith Ski Academy runs ski technique courses in Verbier throughout the season. It’s five-day Supergroup course focuses on off-piste performance. The course costs £619 per person, running on various dates. Accommodation is available at the Academy’s partner hotel, La Rotonde, with prices starting from 630CHF for a week’s stay, with 10 per cent discount available for Academy clients. 

What do I need to know before I book?

It is essential you check the latest travel for a destination before booking – many ski countries are currently on the Government’s “red list”, meaning the FCDO is advising against all essential travel there and returning travellers have to self-isolate for 14 days. This does not make trips to such countries illegal but means you will find it trickier (but not impossible) to find insurance. 

Whether you leave it until the last minute, until travel restrictions are (hopefully) lifted, or book now to secure your spot on the slopes, as long as you book with an Atol-bonded tour operator, or – in most cases – pay for your holiday with a credit card, you will get a refund in the event of the operator going into insolvency. Package holiday providers also have a legal responsibility for your safety, so they won’t take you to a destination that the FCDO advises against, and they are legally obliged to refund you for a cancellation – though many have been taking weeks or months to do so.

Many travel insurance companies have now started to sell policies again and nearly all will cover you if you get ill. Relatively few offer Covid-related cancellation cover though. Winter sport specialists MPI Brokers announced they will be one of the first to offer customers coronavirus cover this winter.

Before booking, you need to check explicitly the policy of the operator or airline you are dealing with and whether they will allow you to cancel without penalty if your local area goes into lockdown again or enters tier two or tier three restrictions.