Austria bans party skiing

Photo: Photo: EPA Elisabeth Koestinger

Austria will host an unusual tourist season this winter amid rising number of COVID-19 positive pations. Restrictive measures will be further tightened. Skiers and other tourists this winter will have to sit at tables in bars rather than dance and feast under new pandemic rules.

The country's cabinet shared plans to suspend apres-ski parties that have fuelled the spread of the coronavirus.

Winter sports account for serious business in Austria, which is a superpower of competitive skiing where tourism gains directly and indirectly around 15% of economic output. But its resorts are also known for less athletic fun. Once lifts shut, skiers pile into often rowdy bars that became a breeding ground for the virus last season, fuelling several outbreaks, including one at the resort of Ischgl.

“There will be no apres-ski as we know it from earlier times,” Tourism Minister Elisabeth Koestinger told a news conference, adding the seating requirement would also apply to outdoor areas. “Standing, dancing, singing while densely packed in small bars or under-umbrella bars is a potential source of infection and we are distancing ourselves from it,” she said.

In closed ski lifts, face masks will be required and passengers must stay 1 metre apart, Koestinger said, likening it to public transport. The requirement to sit at tables is in line with new rules for bars and restaurants in Austria, which is trying to bring a second wave of infections under control. Daily cases here are as high as they were in late March, when the first spike was decreasing under a national lockdown.

The conservative-led government wants to avoid such drastic measures for the sake of the economy, but its top source of foreign guests, Germany, has already issued a travel warning for one of its skiing regions, the province of Vorarlberg.

Similar articles