With the season approaching as fast as the COVID19 positive numbers are rising a certain part of the freeskiing community, like myself, are asking ourselves how we will be able to do what we do in the snow this year without being total egocentric narcissus dicks. I scraped together a bit of information and thoughts and wrote this little guide like thing :P.
First lets get one thing out of the way. If you are one of those skiers that skis 90% backyard and only a few days or a week or two outside of the bounds of your own municipality (or the next) this trail of thoughts is not for your. This one is for the people who hunt for powder. The once who get the season tickets and do the mileage required to get to the resort that has the best report for the best, you know deep days. For those of you out there who still explore and never seem to get stuck in the same routine of destinations on endless repeat looking for new lines and terrain all the time. Lets start off with:
At the beginning of the season as usual we are torn. You saved up some cash for new gear, and as you scrape it together, you have enough on the side to buy your season ticket of choice.
As we here in the north of Slovenia tend to ski more in Austria then in the Julian alps, for obvious snowpack related reasons, the selection of your season ticket used to be more of a first world problem. You either get the Skiamade ticket, the Schneebären, Top Ski pass or the Queen of accessibility close by the Salzburg super ski. If, like me, you sometimes like to add extra millage and are a bit more terrain starched with riding buddies almost as far as that friends tend to think you live in Innsbruck already, you get the Tirol Snowcard. The decision always depended on three things. Frist, who will you be riding with, second what tickets they have, and third which topographies are your favorites.
Now with the pandemic all of the above becomes secondary. After all if you buy a season ticket you upfront at least a plane ticket to Hokkaido to be carefree in your destination choice and the days you spend on the slopes. Presumably in total that is more then buying daily tickets. To make it worth your while it tends to hover around 16 – 21 days if you are an adult.
With this in mind the various snow cards say they have you covered in COVID19 times. At least for the Salzburg super ski and the Tirol Snowcard you can get some money back if the borders stay closed. All that is tied, it seems to 15 or 20 days of “warranty”. If you get those in.. no refund. So basically they are asking the customer to upfront the usual amount (more expensive every year) without the possible benefit of skiing more. That used to be the main reason for a season ticket. In short you are the one who takes on all the risk. It would be more customer friendly to give a refund with possible days left in the season based on closure. Or extension of the time into the next season. But hey.. capitalism right…
It makes sense from a “not make loss” perspective. It thou makes little sense in the context of what season tickets are for. After all if we play capitalism if you are part of a system that can not be interesting to the customer you as a service are obsolete. But in the great age of bailing out every piece of BS we live in that logic does not seem to apply to anything. Still the base principle of the season ticket from an operators point of view is basically to offset high season operation start costs by “early adopter customers” willing to foot your bill for it. They are not the once who will give you the extra ROI. I understand that you have to find a middle ground between the capitalistic side of the whole thing and skiing, but I do disagree with the assessment that that this kind of pandemic policy will help the ski business in general. It is a bureaucratic smokescreen solution. Not a real one.
It also seems like shortsighted thinking that this pandemic season is a great exception and then all can go back to the good old glory days. The way we are fucking up the planet, extreme situations that hinder our YOLO activates are here to stay. Also when I checked the fineprint on the bigger two cards it is very flaky to what is even needed, if the borders get closed and who closes them, and what constitutes your right to get any compensation for so called “higher power”.
A fun thing I read in the Tirol Snowcard rules is that if the resorts in one municipality are closed and some resort still works a lift in the coverage area in another municipality of the card you are not entitled to a refund. So if a municipality gets closed and you can not leave it seems you can not get a refund. Also if you go to the other area and expose your self to risk by them forcing your hand how far does their liability extend. Last thing we want is another Ischgl due to some paper war mambo jumbo.
So in light of this the whole season ticket model begins to shake if there is so much risk involved. If I do not live next to a lift resort why even get one. Better to keep your money and stay flexible.. in case that plane to Hokkaido gets to take off 😛 On the other hand the pre-sales end in November so there is still time to monitor the situation and make a final decision. Currently I am more for staying off the season ticket, the first time in 12 years for me, if the situation does continue to slide further into the gutter.
CROSS BORDER TRAVEL
I will be short here. Regardless of what the talking heads of our state say on TV and the reality on the ground this is going to be a clusterfuck. Rules will change rapidly communicated trough intransparent different channels not getting all the way down to the grunts at the borders and the police stations. In short. Move like you are in a warzone. Keep a low profile, avoid chokepoints and stay out of sight. Use small border crossings, pretend to be dumb and unknowing when confronted and don’t be to smart for your own good. Generally it has been proven (except for Croatian vacations) that normal cross border travel does not do much for the virus to spread. Still contacts outside your immediate group are a risk. Main source are still parties, workspaces, funerals and weddings. Places where a lot of people who sometimes barely know each other flock to gather to pretend to know each other, excuse my sarcasm. So your solo expedition might not be super risk from the pandemic after all to a certain degree. Avalanches etc. still remain of course…
ON THE MOUNTAIN
THE SKI TOURING SCENARIO
Now the safest option this season is definitely a ski touring scenario. You take of at 3 am. Cross the border somehow and move to park in some secluded secret valley to do your FAT MAP scouted objective. You and your friends in the car are alone all day and you have a great snow day. You start returning home and at the border you get a quarantine notice, because you do not have a receipt of a hotel or any such thing. If you are lucky the cops don’t care or you lobby your way out of possible work related consequences. Who knows maybe that buddy from Schlutming that you ran into halfway even had COVID and you are now patient zero.
Monitoring that is impossible and that will become a bit of a nightmare as the whole idea of the limited movements and lockdowns is to well, limit movement, and prevent you from seeing people who are potentially a infection risk. Compound that with our general populations “not giving a fuck until I get sick attitude” and we might be looking at more of these kind of seasons.
Still in reality there would have to be a way to do this kind of thing with the authorities being able to track safely, us being responsible, to report your outing so in case the shit hits the fan you are on the safe side and can get tested. Since we STILL do not have Germany like car return testing in place in Slovenia the infections will be seeping trough the cracks here. And this is the safe option the way I see it. Also with the current right wing thief’s ruining quite a few countries in Europe trusting is the last thing the population equates with the government.
THE EXPEDITION BIWAK
Well the scenario goes like the one above only that you are self sufficient with your buddies or your super freestyle better half in a snow cave or a tent for a few days or a week. Bad thing that can happen while you are out of communications range is that the borders get closed or your area of interest is designated red and you again land in quarantine. If you report that you really were in a high risk area you will have to quarantine. The basic decision between being a dick and decency for the common good will be the main issue. Also pack a UKW station or a radio so u can stay up to date.. even if it is just over news from “Radio Maria” :P.
THE RESORT POWDERDAY
Before we go into this check out this video:
Since most of the resort preparations in Austria (unlike in Slovenia) have been ongoing with the pandemic in mind and have already worked under a somewhat self reliant protocol combination of being a responsible guest and disinfection/distancing from the bike and hike summer, the big resorts are gearing up to start operations in the new normal. My experience with the responsible part in Austria over the summer has been more of a “for show” measure.
As much as I would like to say this video “how too” from Stubai is temporary I think this is how skiing/mountain biking/hiking is going to look in mass tourism destinations in the foreseeable future. A bit of Japanese order to the rambling chaos of kids who step on your skis and drunk tourists who Apre more then they ski.
What we all need to remember is that we are going to all have to take a step back in resort operations to ski. It is going to be less descent meters a day. The good thing will be that for once you will be able to stop for a minute and really take in the view. Instead of fighting for the first/best line. Overcrowding will, also thanks to the economy collapsing. be a thing of the past. of course it will put immense pressure on areas of mass tourism that have been spanning mega projects all over the mountains for the last two decades. Maintenance of these marvels of modern engineering is NOT cheap. Specially if your in one of those all in contracts with certain, lets call them vendors…
Yet in reality as nice as these security concepts are and as straightforward as they seem. Even in over technologized Austrian ski tourism there are few resorts who could even guarantee the infrastructure to run like this. The small once have a chance here I think. I am not even going to go into the mismanaged amalgamation called resorts in France and Italy. The Swiss will not give much of a damn as there, expect maybe in Laax skiing runs differently and more moderately when it comes to crowds :P. Also they said some will be just shut down and maintained aka keep the loss at a minimum and see if it all comes back.
Here at home in Slovenia from what I am told we will be mimicking what Austria is doing in our own half assed way. As you all know public safety is secondary to fun and games and pretending business is as usual…it is the Slovenian way. Ironically I have yet to see any Slovenian resort do any kind of outreach to its guests regarding how winter will be handled here. I do see them complaining thou how the state has to save the resorts with taxpayer money. Selling off national silver and building up debt just “for show” is a national sport here…
Generally I think distancing on the slopes will not be an issue as even in the lift lines the risks are lower then walking trough your town center. Of course as we pass the outbreak control threshold in November and things become a clusterfuck all of this is prone to go sideways as the “soft lockdowns” are not working at all.
The funny thing is that if we all would be smart and use basic sanity, instead of being loud about all our rights and everything we are entitled too, it would not have come so far. Yet now we are in the mess we are in, and the Jeanie is out of the bottle. Hell if we curtail the outbreak now we might even have a chance to get the thing under control before the big powder dumps. The reality of the thing is that the big numbers in EUR of endless greed will never let that happen.
THE WORSED CASE SCENARIO
We are familiar with this one. Everything locks down. Snow falls and you can only watch the instagram feeds of the people who live at the mountains and resorts with the snow as they use the lockdown for some running away from reality or bleeding their savings, a who am I kidding… YOLO. Then one of them gets injured or dies in an avalanche and uses medical resources we might need to save lives of infected. Tradeoff? Carma? Dicks? You be the judge of that…
The ethical question here is “If there is war is it war for everyone?” or “can a few unicorns pretend to not give a fuck and fuck it up for someone else”. After all actions have consequences and in a shared system like our society it is often someone you do not even know who feels the impact of your own egoistic actions.
The answer in our current state government and personal responsibility is a negative one. Still that is a decision everyone has to weight for themselves. We are a kind of oligarchic plutocratic neolib nightmare for show democracy after all. In the end thou there is going to have to be some kind of accountability and consequence for peoples actions. Sure you might leave it to karma… Maybe the rescue chopper will just not fly anymore…. Oh well, shit happened to that guy, everyone will say in a bar after reading the news on a feed or a paper…
MY SECURITY PROTOCOL
It is a fact that we will ski this season. It is what we live for. We will accept certain adaptation but as long as climate change does not force us all to go mountain biking we will do this activity in one from or another for at least a few more winters.
So for me I have devised a bit of a protocol as to how stay “theoretically” safe and somewhat sane in this madness. As I do make a good 40.000 km a season with my car all across the alps this season will be a challenge. So here are my bizarre points:
- Treat every outing as an expedition and keep a low profile.
- Use masks have a disinfection protocol and generally touch less stuff
- Stay away from people you do not know. Since we all wear masks googles and ski gear that should be relatively straight forward. I’m not going to try to overthink this… Yes there are definitely going to be out of control kids from dick parents in the cable car line somewhere…
- Use cable cars only with friends and keep the windows open and masks on
- Avoid huts even thou I already know I will no be able to stay away from a knödl and a beer all the time. If you go, go eat at times where there is little commotion in the huts. Remember people are creatures of habit and will still stick to them. You do not need to eat that lunch at exactly midday.
- Daytrips and border closures might become a problem so make sure you have something that proves you where there (parking ticket, GPS tagged photo) in case you run into a specific type of border officer.
- Do not travel to destinations deemed “high risk” areas. Only exception I would go with is solo touring missions where you specifically act like you are in the middle of Alaska and there is NO ONE around. Problem will be return home thou. So weigh options between quarantine, virus exposure and current state of prevalence among local population. Also for these missions choose low risk lines. Last thing you want is call the Medivac or Mounting Rescue there.
- Stay optimistic and enjoy less days more.
- On a series of pow days consider staying at destination sleeping in the car or biwaking on mountain for 2-3 days. Sleeping at friends places might be problematic if its a high risk area.
- Take UKW station to listen to radio news if you are out of GSM or data range.
- Adapt your cleaning protocol for gear (gloves, bananas helmets etc.) to include some form of disinfection.
- Use the small side border crossings.
So that’s my two cents. What do you think? The debate is open. 😛