COVID-19 advice

Summary (01/09/20)

The situation regarding COVID-19 remains very unclear, particularly in relation to international travel and local restrictions. This section:

  • 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

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.
  • There remains significant concern about the chances of a second wave of COVID-19 in the next few months (particularly as we go into winter).
  • Local restrictions are likely wherever there is a local spike in cases.
  • 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 12-18 months.
  • Being flexible and adaptable is really important. Go ski touring with your eyes open! Things may well go wrong and issues may arise.

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 will need to follow the guidance provided through 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

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 2020/21

For ski touring trips, the main risks 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. Looking at the available advice, 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 14 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.