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Can I go skiing in 2021? Here’s everything you need to know

We know that travel is especially difficult right now. But alongside the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates, we want to continue to inspire you with new travel content so that when the world opens its doors again, you'll be ready.

Will ski resorts open in 2021? Whether you’re an après-ski party animal or an adrenaline-seeking snowboarder, it’s the question on everyone’s lips this winter. While nobody knows exactly what’s around the corner, we’ve looked at current guidelines and regulations to help you consider, plan and book your winter 2020-2021 ski holiday. We’ve also added a few recommendations on where to go. We might be in lockdown now, but it’s always nice to dream and plan ahead.

Quick note: things change quickly and often at the moment. Before booking your 2021 ski holiday, check the latest government guidelines.

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Skiier dressed in blue and red skiing down a snowy hillside

Will ski resorts open in 2021?

Cable cars making their way above a snowy mountain towards the camera

A pre-New Year trip seems unlikely, but it’s likely that ski resorts will be open in 2021. At the moment, Germany, France and Italy are seeking a Europe-wide agreement to keep slopes closed until 10 January at the earliest. Austria and Switzerland are against the idea, however, with the Swiss Health Minister saying that they will keep resorts open as long as they have strict safety measures in place.

Unfortunately, an intercontinental ski break looks unlikely – even in 2021. The USA, which is famous for resorts like Aspen Snowmass, Telluride and Breckenridge, is closed to UK tourists. Canada is also closed to Brits, so we’ll have to wait a little longer to visit resorts like Whistler, Banff and Tremblant.

So, will ski resorts open in 2021? If you’re looking for a safer bet, stay in Europe and book for February, March or April.

What safety measures are in place for the 2021 ski season?

A skiier on a slope beneath a cablecar, with the sun setting behind them

Many mountain resorts stay open during the summer, and were able to test and tweak COVID-19 safety measures before the winter high season. Every ski resort will be different, but you should expect:

  • Mandatory face masks on resort shuttles and ski lifts. They count as public transport
  • Managed lift queues. Again, you will need to wear your mask
  • Fewer people allowed in cable cars at a time
  • Rented equipment will be thoroughly disinfected between customers
  • Face masks required inside ski shops.

Some ski resorts might also ask you to bring a negative COVID-19 test, dated no more than 72 hours before you arrive. Some may take your temperature on check-in.

For employees, resorts are likely to have ongoing testing throughout the season and daily temperature checks for lift operators.

What will après-ski be like in 2021?

Two sets of skis and ski poles (sticks) are propped up in the snow, with mountains in the background

One of the best bits of a skiing holiday is the after-party. This year après-ski is going to look a bit different. InTheSnow reports that the slopeside cafés in Austria, usually known for their buzzing parties, are now ‘more like coffee bars with subdued music.’ Most resorts are offering a reduced programme. Instead of packed bars and lively DJ sets, think relaxed outdoor gatherings and small indoor events with limited capacity.

Basically, it’ll be similar to eating and drinking in the UK this summer. Expect:

  • Table service only
  • To wear a face mask when you’re not at your table
  • Tables placed at least one metre away from each other, or with fixed partitions between them
  • Surfaces cleaned more regularly and thoroughly.

Which resorts are likely to be safest for skiing in 2021?

View of a busy but small ski resort from above, with a mountain in the background

We can’t say for certain which ski resorts will be safest in 2021. Every resort will have safety measures in place to keep the virus at bay, following government guidelines in their own country. The best way to work out if your resort is safe is to visit the official website and find out what they’re doing.

Val Thorens, in Les 3 Vallées, is an example of a resort that’s going above and beyond. As well as winning the title of Europe’s best ski resort for the fifth year running, it’s also implemented a “Clean United Label” across the resort. Hotels and accommodation displaying this label show a commitment to respecting coronavirus-fighting measures.

Another French resort, Pays de Gex, has partnered with the French safety label COVID-FREE. Two of its hotels have already been certified and it hopes to become the first fully accredited ski resort. Meanwhile, Austrian ski areas like Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn have been regularly testing their staff since September.

Limiting the spread of COVID-19 is all about avoiding big crowds. If you usually go to a popular ski resort, why not choose a smaller, lesser-known one this year?

Chalet or hotel: which is safer for skiing in 2021?

View of a chalet hotel with a ski lift running past it and a snowy road in the foreground

Safety is going to be the key theme for ski accommodation in 2021, so it won’t make too much of a difference where you stay. Hotels will have measures in place to limit how many guests and staff members you come into contact with. That said, it’s all down to numbers. Smaller hotels have fewer guests and staff, so less chance of crossing paths with someone who has COVID-19. At a self-catering chalet you have the added peace-of-mind that comes with preparing your own food.

Another thing to consider when booking ski accommodation is cleanliness. On our hotel search results page, we’ve put the cleanliness filter at the top. This makes it easy to limit your choices to hotels with a rating of 4.5 stars and higher. We’ve also brought the free cancellation filter to the top, too, helping you to stay flexible. Look for both at the top left-hand side of the page, under the heading ‘book with peace of mind’.

What happens if I book a 2021 ski trip, but can no longer travel?

Skiier standing at top of mountain taking a photo of the scenery on their smartphone

As you’ve probably noticed, the government’s travel guidelines change quickly. When you travel internationally you’ve got two sets of restrictions to worry about – the British ones and those of the country you’re visiting. This means that there is always a chance that your trip could get cancelled at the last minute.

Luckily, travel insurance policies are changing to reflect the current situation. Before taking out a policy, read the small print and make sure you’ll be protected in case restrictions change or if you develop symptoms of COVID-19. It’s also important to choose flights and resorts with flexible cancellation policies. You might need to pay a little extra, but you’ll be able to get your money back or re-book if the situation changes.

Where can I go skiing without quarantine?

Looking down from the top of a ski jump to the lights of Sapporo city in Hokkaido, Japan.

At the time of writing, there are currently no ski-friendly countries that you can visit without quarantine – either when you get there or come home.

On the plus side, the UK government announced that UK quarantine will be cut in half from 15 December, provided that they test negative for COVID-19 from day five. Returning travellers will have to spend five days at home before taking a PCR test, at their own cost. If the test comes back negative, you no longer need to quarantine, but you’ll have to self-isolate for the full 14 days if you don’t buy a test. However, you won’t need to isolate at all if you’re visiting a country on the travel corridors list.

It’s important to check the travel advice for the country you’re visiting, too. Our quarantine agreements don’t always go both ways. Even if a destination is on our travel corridors list, it might ask UK visitors to quarantine when they arrive. Always read government advice thoroughly before making a decision about where to travel.

Remember, quarantine restrictions are constantly changing. For the latest advice, check the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) list of travel corridors and Skyscanner’s interactive travel restrictions map.

Will ski resorts in the UK open in 2021?

Ski resorts in Scotland, including Glenshee and Cairngorm Mountain, are planning to open in December 2020. This could be a quarantine-free option, provided that local lockdown restrictions allow for tourism and travel between regions. Keep an eye on current guidelines:

Where are the best places to ski this winter?

Smaller resorts in lesser-known regions are likely to have the best ski deals for 2021. As they’re less popular than the Alpine ones, they’re also likely to have fewer crowds. Here are some of our top picks:

Bansko, Bulgaria

Two skiiers sit with their back to the camera looking at the mountains of Bansko, Bulgaria

Bansko is renowned for its reliable snow and excellent value for money. The atmosphere is more light-hearted and cheerful than glamorous, so it’s a great option for families. There are 18 ski slopes in the resort, with a good selection of blue and orange for beginners as well as challenging red and black pistes for adrenaline hunters.

Entry restrictions and quarantine: At the time of writing, arrivals from the UK don’t have to quarantine when they reach Bulgaria. You will have to self-isolate when you get home, however, but under test and release it will only be for five days if you get a negative PCR test on day five.

Safety measures: The resort has a wide range of sanitary and social distancing measures in place,  including wearing face coverings on the gondola and staying 1.5m apart from strangers. You can read their COVID-19 guidelines on the official BanksoSki website.

Baqueira/Beret, Spain

Snow covered peaks in the Spanish Pyrenees

One of the largest ski resorts in the Pyrenees, Baqueira/Beret is quickly developing a reputation as an excellent winter fun destination. As well as plenty of snow – yes, in Spain – you can also enjoy delicious Catalan cuisine. Another great value resort, it has plenty of great beginner zones on the Bosque plateau. On days with heavy powder, the bowls here could easily give the Alps a run for their money. Snowboarders, take note.  

Entry restrictions and quarantine: At the time of writing, travellers from the UK to Spain don’t need to self-isolate. You may be asked to bring a negative PCR test, taken within 72 hours of your flight, if Britain remains on the list of ‘at risk’ countries. As Spain isn’t currently on the travel corridor list, you will need to quarantine for five-14 days when you get home.

Safety measures:  Baqueira/Beret announced a range of safety protocols to reduce overcrowding and ensure public areas are disinfected. They’re also offering a COVID-19 guarantee for season pass holders, ensuring 15 days of skiing. Pass holders can get a refund on unused days if capacity limits mean that they don’t get a chance to hit the slopes. Read more on the official Baqeuira/Beret blog.

Uludag, Turkey

A tree-lined snow-covered piste in Uludag, Turkey

Turkey isn’t all golden beaches and buzzing cities. It also has ski resorts like Uludağ – the country’s oldest Alpine resort is sometimes known as the St Moritz of Turkey. The season is quite short, lasting from December to late March, but during that time it gets the most reliable powder in the country. There are 28km of slopes, with 24 lifts moving guests up and down the mountain. The smooth, tree-lined slopes are best for intermediate skiiers. There’s also a terrain park and 20km of cross-country.

Entry restrictions and quarantine: At the time of writing, you won’t need to quarantine if you’re flying into Turkey from Britain. When you arrive you’ll be subject to a medical check, including getting your temperature taken, to make sure you don’t have coronavirus symptoms. If you do have symptoms, you will need to undergo a PCR (swab) test. Turkey isn’t currently on the travel corridor list, so you will need to self-isolate for five-14 days (depending on getting a negative PCR test on day five) once you get home.

Safety measures: Hotels, cafés and restaurants in the winter sport area have a ‘Safe Tourism Certificate’. They’ve put a stop to the rental of ski clothes and some accessories to reduce the risk of transmission. Ski run tickets are limited to 3,000 for the year, and you can buy them from their online shop.

Ready to hit the slopes?

A family sitting on a ski lift and cheering at the camera, while the sun sets over an Alpine landscape

You don’t have to give up your annual ski holiday in 2021. With many European resorts looking to reopen in January, plus a shorter quarantine in the UK, you can still get your fill of powder this winter.

Remember to book in advance, as a reduced capacity in the resorts (as well as fewer flights) will mean that spaces are limited. Expect social distancing and enhanced hygiene measures, and a far more chilled-out après-ski scene. And don’t forget to check the government’s latest travel advice before making your booking.

Discover where you can go

Making plans to get back out there? Find out whose borders are open with our interactive global map, and sign up to receive email updates when your top destinations reopen.

This article was last updated on 1 December and travel restrictions may have changed since. Please check your local government websites for the latest rules and regulations.

Want to read more?

  • Coronavirus travel advice – we update this post every day with the latest news about travelling during the pandemic: from government restrictions to flight cancellation policies.
  • How to plan travel in 2021 – planning ahead is tricky just now, but we’ve put together some top tips to help you book a holiday for 2021 safely and securely.
  • Flights and travel rules during lockdown – not sure where you can go? This article runs through everything you need to do about travelling during lockdown part two.