COVID-19 advice

Summary (8/03/21)

It looks as if national lockdowns and the Covid vaccine rollout are leading to an improving outlook and indicative roadmaps out of Covid restrictions have been published. A return to group activities in the early summer is looking possible, but considerable uncertainty remains around national and international travel even then. Therefore, whilst the longer-term outlook is improving, current restrictions are expected to continue for a time with only gradual easing over the spring and early summer.

Given the current government COVID-19 advice, particularly in view of the timings of when international travel from the UK will be permitted, most remaining tours have now been cancelled. It is possible that one or two trips, led by Guides/Instructors who are resident in the country where the tour takes place, may still run with members who are also resident in that country.

Similarly, in view of the ongoing restrictions on travel between different areas in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK, the remaining Scottish meets for this season have been cancelled.

This page continues to give general travel and mountain sport specific advice during this COVI-19 pandemic, including:

  • highlights that things are uncertain and are changing rapidly
  • provides links to official advice
  • summarises the main risks
  • describes some of the possible implications for ski touring in 2021, including advice for members and leaders on tours

Tour leaders have been asked to build in maximum flexibility and decision points into their planned tours. It is up to you, as individual members, to make your own choices and decisions based on your own assessment of the risks involved.

Key things to consider

Before a tour:

  • assess your own risk tolerance to COVID-19
  • be aware what your insurance does and doesn’t cover
  • it’s your decision whether to go on a ski tour or not
  • be aware that local restrictions may change quickly
  • be aware that the tour may need to be cancelled or substantially rearranged
  • remember to read and sign the participation statements in the tour application forms

During a tour:

  • follow local guidance in the country you are visiting
  • be flexible
  • monitor your own health and think about the team

Things are uncertain and can change rapidly

The COVID-19 pandemic, which reached Europe in early 2020, resulted in a widespread lockdown worldwide. This led to the closure of mountain huts, ski areas and hotels, and severe restrictions on travel. Our ski touring programme came to a premature end in mid-March and over one-third of our tours were cancelled. Significant problems with insurance cover and providers were encountered. Looking ahead:

  • International travel remains very uncertain and quarantine rules are changing regularly and at short notice.
  • Local restrictions are likely wherever there is a local spike in cases.
  • Some mountain huts are reopening and taking measures to ensure social distancing. Each country is approaching things a bit differently (even within the UK).
  • Some combination of social distancing, wearing of face masks, use of hand gel, etc is expected for the next 6-12 months.
  • Being flexible and adaptable is really important. Go ski touring with your eyes open! Things may well go wrong and issues may arise.

A key challenge is keeping up-to-date with the latest on travel restrictions and quarantine arrangements. The European Commission’s Re-open EU web platform contains real-time information on travel restrictions and quarantine arrangements for travel between member states, including Switzerland.

Following the exit of the UK from the EU 31/12/20, freedom of travel has changed in all the member states but also in other countries which adopt the Schengen agreement, such as Norway, Switzerland etc. See Insurance webpage for further information and links.

Official guidance on health risks and symptoms

The current advice is that you may have COVID-19 if you experience any of the following symptoms (but note that you might be asymptomatic):

  • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you've noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal

Keep up-to-date with official guidance on COVID-19. Guidance might change over time, so keep an eye on official statements and advice from the UK Government (and Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Governments if you live in these countries). A useful source of information is:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-COVID-19/

Meets in Scotland

There are some differences between the detailed guidance in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK. If you are attending a meet in Scotland, you should read through our COVID-19 advice for Scotland and follow the guidance provided by the Scottish Government:

https://www.gov.scot/coronavirus-COVID-19/

UK Government travel advice

Keep checking the official guidance through the FCO – this is particularly important for your insurance. This is where to find FCO advice:

https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

Further information on making your own health risk assessment for travel can be found at:

https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/factsheet/93/COVID-19-risk-assessment

Travel advice from EU countries (as of 21 January 2021)

Keeping up-to-date with restrictions and other arrangements is difficult. To the best of our knowledge, the latest situation in various countries is as set out below. This is likely to change so you must check the latest information for each country (see section below on "travel advice from EU countries"). A useful website to check regularly is the European Commission’s Re-open EU web platform contains real-time information on travel restrictions and quarantine arrangements for travel between member states, including Switzerland. 

UK

The UK has banned all non-essential travel internationally.

France

Entry restrictions apply to all non-EU citizens and in some form on EU citizens. Essential travel only may be allowed. Passengers arriving by whatever means from the UK must have a negative test result taken not more than 72 hours prior to their journey, complete sworn declarations of well-being and be subject to a 7-day isolation. The ski areas in France will not be allowed to open until at least late Feb following an announcement yesterday. The French Government Covid website seems to be updated regularly and links to other French Government websites for more detailed information.

Italy

There is no non-essential travel permitted into Italy until 5th March at the earliest. Direct UK flights have been suspended, any visitors are subject to entry tests and a 14 day quarantine. Ski areas are shut and unlikely to open until mid- to late-Feb at the earliest. The Ministry for Health coronavirus website seems to be a good source of up-to-date information on restrictions and requirements.

Switzerland

UK citizens are not permitted to enter the country unless they have residential status or a permit for exceptional reasons. It is not possible to transit via Geneva to France either. There is a 10-day quarantine restriction for entry to the country. However, if you are there, ski areas are operating. The website of the Federal Office for Public Health in Switzerland has Government advice and information for travelling to and from that country. 

Austria

There is currently a ban on UK flights to Austria. Any essential travellers face a 10 day quarantine on entry or a shorter 5 days if they take a PCR test at that point which is negative. Skiing is only possible for locals. The official travel portal for Austria has information and advice which seems to be updated.

Spain

It is possible to enter Spain without having to self-isolate BUT by air or sea entry is conditional on negative test evidence from no more than 72 hours prior to journey and there are restrictions on mobility between provinces. Ski areas are open and operating on a limited basis but only for local residents. There are no restrictions for overland entry BUT you have to get through France to do this.

Norway

No entry allowed currently for UK residents unless one of a number of special exemptions apply. If you are allowed in, a negative test result from no more than 72 hours prior is required and THEN a negative result of an antigen/PCR test on arrival with a second test mandatory at 7 days later AND 10 days of quarantine.

Advice from local mountaineering organisations

Please keep up-to-date with the advice for countries that you plan to visit this coming winter. Here are some links to advice from alpine clubs and similar organisations (note that you will need to use something like Google Translate or equivalent for some):

Austria (https://aacuk.org.uk) (also https://www.austria.info/en/service-and-facts/coronavirus-information)

France (https://www.ffcam.fr/COVID-19-ffcam.html)

Italy (https://www.cai.it/COVID-19/)

Norway (https://www.dnt.no/COVID-19-english/)

Scotland (https://www.mountaineering.scot/coronavirus)

Spain (http://www.fedme.es/index.php?mmod=staticContent&IDf=594)

Switzerland (https://www.sac-cas.ch/fr/covid/)

Ski touring in 2021

For ski touring trips, the main risks of catching COVID-19 seem likely to arise from:

  • travel to and from the UK
  • accommodation (hotels, huts)
  • close contact following an accident (rescue, medical treatment)
  • close proximity with other members of the team

Tour leaders and guides have reviewed their planned tours, and may have changed some of their plans as a result to help reduce risks. COVID-19 advice is available for members and leaders on Club tours. In summary, the Club and its officers would suggest:

  • Be honest and upfront about your own health. Please tell the Tour Leader if you display any COVID-19 symptoms or have come into contact with anyone displaying such symptoms in the 10 days prior to start of the tour, with the understanding that this may result in not being able to take their place on the tour.
  • If you fall ill during the tour then prepare to leave the tour as soon as possible, and follow local health guidance on testing, isolation etc.
  • Decide what your risk tolerance is (this will be different for each of us) and what this means in terms of your ski touring trips (e.g. single base v multi-hut tour).
  • Take your own sleeping bag, pillowcase, face mask, hand gel, etc with you.
  • Members on ESC tours should comply with official travel and health guidance of the relevant country and responsible bodies. Follow social distancing rules/advice for the country that you are in.