After widespread closures last winter, ski resorts across Europe have opened for business.
But with the outbreak of the omicron variant sparking new lockdown measures and border closures, and Covid measures now the norm at resorts, it's worth putting time into the preparation for your trip.
But rest assured, once you take those first turns on corduroy pistes, all the hassle will melt into the background and your pre-planning will be worth it – I speak from experience.
By getting organised before you go, and making a checklist of things you need to do, you can minimise the confusion and worry – here we walk you through the process, day by day.
14 days before you travel
Check in with your tour operator
If you have booked with a tour operator, check direct with them for their latest updates. For example, leading operator Inghams has a Covid-19 Hub for advice and information, and Crystal Ski has a very good information page here.
Check the status of your destination
It is important to know if your destination is on the red list. The gov.uk website lists those on the red list here (it is currently empty, after all 11 African countries were removed on December 15).
You will also need to check whether your destination is accepting travellers from the UK. Currently, while Italy, Switzerland, Bulgaria, the US and Canada are open for British skiers, France has banned British travellers for non-essential reasons. Austria, Canada and the US have also recently announced tightened rules for testing.
Keep up to date by checking the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office’s country advice page for your destination – you can also sign up to alerts so any updates are emailed directly to you.
Ask yourself these key questions
Once you’ve established the status of your destination, check the finer rules for travel. Questions to ask yourself include:
Do you need to take a pre-departure PCR or lateral flow test? (Yes, if travelling to Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Canada and the USA)
Do you need to take a test on arrival? (Yes, if travelling to Canada or Norway)
Do you need a Covid booster? (Yes, if travelling to Austria)
Is the NHS App accepted as proof of vaccination where you are going? (Yes, in all major ski destinations)
If you’re travelling with unvaccinated children and teenagers, have you worked out what tests you need to do while on holiday? Find all the rules surrounding vaccinations and skiing this winter here
Book your ski passes and equipment rental online
Not only will booking in advance save you money, but you can avoid queuing in resort and ensure the exact equipment you need is available when you arrive to maximise time on the slopes – many resorts are encouraging this in the age of social distancing, but do check cancellation terms and conditions in case circumstances change.
10 days before you travel
Organise your pre-departure tests
Many countries require visitors to take a test in the 72, 48 or 24 hours, before they depart, and for a growing number of destinations such as Canada, Italy, Switzerland and Austria this is mandatory regardless of your vaccination status. The NHS testing service is not available for travellers so you must book a private test.
You must also now arrange for an antigen (lateral flow) test at your destination two days before you return to England and for a Day 2 PCR test once you are back in the country. You will need this code in order to complete your Passenger Locator Form before travelling home. The FCDO's advice on travelling back to England is here.
You can either order a home test kit or book an appointment at a clinic or drive-through test centre. It is also possible, though costly, to book a private GP to visit your home and administer a test.
If you book a home test kit, make sure you check the time scales correctly – most home kits promise to arrive within 24 hours, and you need to send them back the same day that you take the sample for results within 48 hours.
Download the official Covid app for your destination
Most ski resorts in Europe require proof of Covid status (vaccination, recovery or tests) to buy a lift pass and enter restaurants and bars. Here's how to show proof of vaccination status while abroad. It’s much easier and quicker if you have the country’s designated app downloaded and ready before you leave, as hospitality and resort staff will easily recognise the QR code in front of them.
Finally, carry your photo ID (a photo of your passport page or driving licence on your phone will do) to accompany your digital certificate, and a backup paper copy of your NHS certificate – just in case your phone’s battery is zapped by the cold on the slopes.
Seven days before travel
Double check all the rules for your destination
Things are moving so fast right now that you need to keep in touch daily. If you haven’t already, sign up for email alerts on the FCDO country page for your destination so you don’t miss any changes to travel requirements – if you use social media, follow relevant destinations, operators or airlines on Twitter for updates you might miss elsewhere.
Stock up on face masks
Ensure you have plenty of face coverings and the correct type of mask for your destination. When you’re wearing sunscreen and sweating while skiing and carrying your skis around, masks will get dirtier faster than they will for shopping trips in the UK, so backups are essential.
In Austria and Italy, for example, FFP2 masks are required on resort shuttle buses and ski lifts, and in France neck gaiters (buffs) and other fabric will only be allowed if approved and certified as a proper alternative to a surgical or category 1 fabric mask (AFNOR SPEC S76-001).
Find out where to get a test
Check the website for the ski resort you are visiting for their information and specific rules on Covid and how and where to get tested in resort (local pharmacy details should be listed, as well as designated testing sites).
Three days before travel
Fill in paperwork for entry to your destination, if required. For France (once it reopens to Britons) you must fill out a sworn statement of absence of Covid symptoms, and for Switzerland (and transit through Geneva) you must complete an entry form for the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health.
Pre-departure testing time
Take your test, if required by your destination. If you have an ‘at home’ test, do it first thing in the morning and post it to the lab and if you’re booked with a clinic, do so as early in the day as possible to make sure there are no delays in obtaining results.
Create an account for your Passenger Locator Form
If you haven’t been abroad during the pandemic yet, it’s worth signing up to the system in preparation for filling out a Passenger Locator Form on your return – it’ll save you precious time you could spend on the slopes instead.
Last day before travel
Organise the final bits of admin
You should by now have all your negative tests – if needed – as well as the apps downloaded and an NHS Covid status certificate. For a belt-and-braces approach, print out paper copies of everything — boarding pass when you have checked in online, along with NHS Covid Certificate, PCR test results, photo ID. Sometimes a couple of copies will be handy — especially if you have children who might lose them.
Head to the airport
Take all your documents to the airport including print outs and electronic versions. Make sure you pack your forms in hand luggage, as well as extra face masks. It’s useful to carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer and a phone charger in your hand luggage, too.
Follow any rules for arrivals
Some countries require visitors to take a test on arrival, some such as Canada require you to isolate until the results are known or for longer.
Participate in any necessary passenger tracing technology/questionnaires. Have your accommodation details to hand, most destinations will want this. Some countries will also ask you to sign up to their tracking app — in Canada it is the ArriveCAN, for example.
Cover your face
Be prepared to wear masks and face coverings everywhere, especially on ski lifts and in resort shuttle buses, and to socially distance while queuing. Most ski lifts are operating at reduced capacity and rules are being enforced. In Switzerland, for example, if you don’t have your mouth and nose covered on a chairlift, the lift operator will stop and reprimand you.
Test your kids
While you are away skiing, especially if you are travelling with unvaccinated children or teenagers, you will be required to take regular tests. Hopefully having done the necessary planning beforehand, you will know where to get this done, how much they will cost and how to upload results to the relevant Covid health pass app. In France, for example, tests can be done at resort pharmacies or testing centre for a cost of roughly €40, on receipt of a negative result the results can be upload to your pass sainitare.
Three days before your flight home
Before you return to the UK, you must take a PCR, antigen or rapid flow test — results of which can take up to 48 hours to come back. Here’s a link to the official UK government guidelines — and let’s hope by now the whole family has got used to swabs down the throat and up the nose, though we know it’s particularly hard for children.
The day before your flight home
If you haven’t already, now is your final chance to take your antigen (lateral flow) test and register the results, which will enable you to return to England. This must be done in the 48 hours before your flight/ferry/Eurotunnel return journey.
When you are notified by your airline, likely 24 hours before departure, you will be able to check-in online. Before doing so you’ll have to fill in your Passenger Locator Form for returning to the UK, and fill in test details – this can be done anytime 48 hours before your return home.
To fill in the Passenger Locator Form you need:
Travel details including times and dates
Your address in the UK
Booking reference numbers for Covid-19 Day 2 tests
If needed, an invoice number for your quarantine hotel booking
While it is not necessary to print out, there’s no harm in having a paper copy if you have easy access to a printer, otherwise, take a screenshot on your mobile phone.
After completing those final few turns on the slopes, return all your equipment to the hire shop and head out to the shops to buy any last-minute souvenirs, such as that wedge of raclette, to keep the ski spirit alive when you get back to the UK.
Two days after arrival in the UK
Regardless of where you went skiing or your vaccination status, anyone who has been abroad must take a PCR test within two days of arrival. This includes all children over the age of five. And you must self-isolate until the result comes back.
The day you arrive is 'day 0', so 'day two' is the third day after you land. You can do this test at home yourself or take the tests in a dedicated centre – there is a list of government-approved PCR testing companies here. You can take an express test and some companies offer a same-day result service – these are more expensive, of course. Here are the quickest, easiest and cheapest Day Two tests for travel.
Eight days after arrival in the UK
If you are unvaccinated, you should still be isolating and on day eight take a second PCR test (as detailed above). Provided the result is negative, you will be permitted to continue life as normal on day 10 after your return.