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Will I need to get tested to go skiing next winter?
Driving up to Stubai, Austria’s largest glacier resort located 30km away from Innsbruck, the spring views of Alpine valleys transformed as the temperature kept dropping. Once I arrived at the gondola station, frosty air and blue skies above 3,000m peaks promised a perfect ski day – all that stood between me and the slopes was a Covid-19 test. Following new regulations that came into effect on February 15, a negative Covid-19 test result is mandatory to ski in the Austrian state of Tirol. It took Andreas Kleinlercher, director of the Stubai Glacier and his team, less than two weeks to finalise the complex organisation of setting up a testing centre at the foot of the slopes. “At the beginning people were sceptical about the tests,” says Kleinlercher. The ruling was met with diverse opinions in Austria and caused an abrupt closure of St Anton am Arlberg, one of the country’s leading winter destinations, which was able to reopen later once a testing station was in place. Locals in Austria are used to regular testing, which is also required for close-contact services such as hairdressers and has been in place in the hospitality industry since last summer. “People aren’t deterred from skiing,” said Kleinlercher, and neither am I. After my arrival in Stubai, I headed to the testing station, located in a locker area at the back of an InterSport rental shop that’s directly underneath the Eisgrat gondola station. I was asked to fill out a form, there was no queue and I was taken for my test straightway. Less than 15 minutes later, my negative test result came back and I was free to ascend to the gloriously white slopes above – and won’t need to take another test for 48 hours if I want to ski anyway in the Tirol (but could be subject to random testing in the interim). What are the restrictions on skiing in Austria? Compulsory testing is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to barriers skiers in Austria face. Restrictions in Austrian ski resorts are almost the stiffest in Europe – despite a cluster-analysis by the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES) proving there’s no higher risk in ski resorts than elsewhere. As well as strict FFP2 masks and distancing requirements on the slopes, there are one-way systems and reduced lift capacity in place. Hotels and chalets remain shut and restaurants serve only takeaway – except in Vorarlberg, the western Bundesland, where, due to a low incidence rate, restaurants opened on March 15.
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