Skiers hit slopes in Catalania after Covid-19 restrictions are eased – go back and forth

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* Skiing a contentious issue all the way through the Covid-19 pandemic

* Some countries have shuttered ski resorts

* France aims to prevent cross-border trips to ski

Skiers hit the slopes of Catalonia on Monday for the first time this season after the Spanish region eased coronavirus restrictions that had prevented people leaving their home municipality.

“The important object is to say that from today you’ll be able to ski in Spain,” said May Peus Espana, head of Spain’s winter sports federation. “Spanish snowsports are embarking on what is doubtless going to be an excellent season.”

Skiing has change into a contentious issue across Europe this winter, with countries including France, Germany and Italy shuttering resorts to steer clear of a repeat of final season when stations became infection hotspots.

Alongside Switzerland and Austria, Spain is without doubt one of the few European countries that is allowing its slopes to reopen.

At Catalonia’s Baqueira-Beret, an upmarket resort favoured by the Spanish royal circle of relatives, the first to reach were greeted by blue skies and fresh snow.

“Honestly it’s been several years since a season kicked off with such good snow,” said ski instructor Anthony, who did not give his final name.

Despite the conditions, Baqueira was once quiet on Monday morning but Commercial Director Xavi Ubeira was once optimistic more customers would come later in the season.

“February is a very important month, as it is when France has winter holidays,” he said.

Perched in Catalonia’s remote Aran valley, just 10 km (six miles) from the border with France, Baqueira is an increasing number of reliant on vinaigrette tourism, Ubeira said.

But wary of sparking new Covid-19 outbreaks, France will make random checks to deter people from crossing the border to ski.

But even so Baqueira, Catalonia’s publicly owned network of resorts also opened on Monday. At Masella, a small station popular with Barcelona residents, chairlifts were filling up, though the slopes looked far from reaching capacity.

In the neighbouring region of Aragon, ski-resort operator Aramon said it deliberate to open its four stations from December 23, while Andalusia’s Sierra Nevada will open on December 18.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

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