Hi Everyone – we hope you are all staying fit and well! Once lockdown measures were eased in the Alps and the UK, we resumed guiding activities over the summer using our new safety protocols and we are now confident using Alpine huts, cable cars and other mountain services in a Covid secure manner.
At the moment, we are understandably answering many questions about our booking, cancellation and refund policies – so from the outset, we’d like to re-assure you that if we have to cancel your trip due to Covid-19 restrictions imposed by the Uk FCO or within a destination country, then we will offer a full refund of all fees paid to Alpine Guides.
Financial Security Through our membership of ABTOT, all of our package holidays are fully insured and fully compliant will all UK/EU Package Travel Regulations – please see our Financial Protection page for more information.
Flexibility For the coming ski season we have undertaken contingency planning for all of the holidays on our program, in order to keep trips running in as wide a range of scenarios as possible. Adjustments have been made to travel joining info and alternative tours have been planned, so if necessary we can modify itineraries with the agreement of the group and if we have to cancel a trip, then we will offer you the option to transfer your booking to an alternative trip if places are available.
Finally, if a number of our regular trips are affected by cancellations, we have plans to offer a short notice program of ‘pop up’ trips to open ski destinations through the season. Numbers on these trips will be strictly limited and offered to customers who already have a booking with us; ie we will do everything we can to help our regular customers enjoy skiing this winter.
Below you will find some common FAQ’s regarding Covid-19. If you have any other questions not answered below, please get in touch.
*Refunds include all package holiday/guiding fees paid to Alpine Guides. We cannot offer compensation for cancelled flights or other travel/logistical costs, but these may be covered by your own holiday insurance.
Please refer to our booking conditions for full terms and conditions.
New Participation Requirements
Following guidelines set by our UK and International guiding federations and in compliance with government regulations, we have adopted new Covid secure operating protocols. If you would like to join us, then you need to understand and accept our new participation requirements as detailed below. Although the risk of contracting Covid 19 whilst backcountry skiing is extremely low, these requirements will help us to ski safely and stay within government regulations in the countries where we operate. The key requirements are summarised below:
- If you are required to self isolate during the dates of your booking (eg due to developing Covid-19 symptoms, testing positive, being exposed to someone who has symptoms or has tested positive etc) then you must not attend! You must engage with your government test and trace program and complete the period of self isolation.
- Bring your own food and drink, sun cream, clothing and technical equipment where possible.
- Bring a Covid Kit with you (face mask, protective gloves, hand sanitiser – more details below) and eye protection such as ski goggles or sunglasses.
- For single day trips, meet at lift stations or car parks to avoid/minimise car sharing.
- Maintain 2m separation as much as possible and be prepared to use mitigation techniques such as use of face coverings and sunglasses, in situations where separation is difficult to maintain.
- Be prepared to be a bit more ‘self sufficient’ on the hill – eg taking responsibility for sorting out minor problems that a guide would normally quickly offer to help with.
- Take ownership of any small personal medical problems, such as blisters etc.
- Adopt a flexible approach and be prepared to adjust plans to avoid over crowding – eg avoiding popular outings or huts/cable cars at popular times, reduce time spent on summits etc.
- Understand that mountain rescue teams currently need to take increased precautions, which may increase response times to an incident.
- Should you become ill within 14 days of spending time with us, we need to be informed.
Ski Season 2021
Our 2021 Ski Program is up online and we are taking bookings for the winter 2021 ski season. Regarding flights and other travel arrangements, we have updated our travel information for all of this winters’ trips with new flight availability and recommended airports. We are advising people to either book flexible tickets, or wait until the travel outlook for winter 2021 becomes clearer before booking flights and other travel arrangements.
If it is not possible to run a trip, then we will offer you a full refund – as we did for all customers affected by trip cancellations in the 2020 ski season.
A number of trips are already confirmed to run, since many regular clients either postponed their trips, or cancelled and have subsequently rebooked – we really appreciate this and look forward to seeing you on tour this winter!
Finally, if our scheduled program is significantly affected by Covid restrictions for part of the season, we will offer a small number of short notice ‘pop up’ trips to alternative ski touring destinations in open countries (Eg Italy, Germany, Sweden etc). These will be small trips with a single guide, so numbers will be strictly limited. Places will be offered to committed customers who have already made a booking with us, just so you know the score!
Skiing the Haute Route in 2021
The Haute Route starts in France and finishes in Switzerland, which leads to the obvious question: ‘What happens if one of the countries visited on the Haute Route is ‘closed’ – will the trip still go ahead?’
Answer – If Switzerland is ‘closed’, the trip will be cancelled and you will receive a full refund. If France is closed but Switzerland is open, we will meet in Martigny and ski the Haute Route to Zermatt from there. Please ensure you are happy with this before making a booking.
Please Note – As a UK based travel company, we follow UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice when making decisions about whether to run or cancel a trip – ie if UK FCO are advising against all but essential travel to a country, then it is regarded as ‘closed’ for UK travellers and we will have to cancel. You need to bear this in mind if you are booking on one of our trips and live in a different country, where your own governments’ travel advice may be different.
Clearly this could be an issue on the Haute Route, where international groups are common, so we will try to put all eg. all US based skiers in the same group, in order to make such decisions easier. Please get in touch if you have specific questions on this matter, as there are different situations for people living in different countries.
For single day bookings, you need to make your own travel arrangements and be able to meet your guide at the cable car or car park, in order to minimise car sharing.
For multi-day bookings and courses, car sharing may be undertaken with additional mitigation measures such as the use of face masks, if local regulations allow.
When travelling from home to join your trip, we advise that you avoid ‘transit’ countries where possible, as this reduces the risk of disruption – ie try and fly direct into the same country where your trip starts, rather than changing planes in an intermediate country, or flying to another country and crossing a border to join the trip.
We have modified trip itineraries and travel joining instructions to avoid transit countries as far as possible, but for some destinations this is still a common travel plan, so you need to be prepared to make alternative travel arrangements if a transit country becomes ‘closed’. Eg Flying into Geneva for Chamonix – if France is open but Switzerland closes, you will need to fly into an alternative French airport, such as Chambery, Grenoble or Lyon and travel to Chamonix from there.
For travel to overseas destinations, please plan plenty of extra time into your travel itinerary and make yourself fully aware of any special requirements at airports, airlines, borders etc by visiting their respective websites and plan accordingly. For country specific information within the EU visit: Reopen EU and for information for Uk travellers worldwide visit: Uk Government Travel Advice.
NB Due to the requirement in most countries to wear face masks on public transport, aircraft and indoor spaces, we recommend that you always carry a face mask with you whenever you are out and about on your trip – as failure to have one may lead to denial of entry or boarding.
Accommodation providers (both valley accommodation and mountain huts) need to comply with local Covid regulations, which may mean changes to occupancy rates, meal arrangements and other services (eg bars, communal areas etc).
Using Alpine Huts Alpine Huts re opened over the summer and are still relaxed and enjoyable places to hang out in the mountains. In order to reopen safely, they have made a number of changes to their routines and sleeping arrangements. You now need to take the following personal items with you to each hut:
- Covid Kit (see below)
- Towel, soap
- Garbage bag (small bin bag or ziplock bag)
- Footwear (crocs, flip flops)
- Sheet Sleeping Bag Liner (with integrated pillow cover, or bring one)
For bedding, you need to take a sleeping bag liner. Sleeping bag liners are mandatory in all huts, with duvets and pillows still provided. The odd Italian hut require you to take your own sleeping bag – we will tell you if this is needed.
At the moment we need to adopt a flexible approach to ski objectives, so be prepared to adjust itineraries in order to avoid busy locations; huts/cable cars at popular times, reduce time spent on summits etc. For bigger objectives, we need to know that conditions are good and that the chosen descent is comfortably within your ability level.
Kit and Personal Equipment
In order to avoid sharing kit on the hill, use of communal equipment will be kept to an absolute minimum (ie for skiing, just essential safety kit such as ropes for glacier travel). All participants must bring their own:
• Lunch, Drink and Snacks.
• Covid Kit – hand sanitizer, face mask, protective gloves,
• Basic Personal First Aid Kit – blister kit, plasters, alcoholic wipes etc (the guide will have a 1st Aid kit for emergency use only)
• Sun Glasses/Goggles, Sun Cream etc.
• Outdoor Clothing appropriate for any conditions.
• Specialist Equipment if possible (helmet, transceiver, shovel, probe etc.)
• Sheet Sleeping Bag Liner if staying in Alpine Huts.
• Hut Footwear if staying in Alpine Huts – crocs, flip flops, hotel slippers.
In Summary – in addition to your regular kit, you need to bring a Covid Kit, Small Personal First Aid Kit, your own Technical Equipment if possible (see further info below), plus a Sheet Sleeping Bag Liner and Indoor Footwear if you are using alpine huts.
Covid Kit: face mask, protective gloves, hand sanitizer
Technical Ski and Safety Equipment
Try to provide all of your own technical ski and safety equipment if possible – ie transceiver, shovel, probe and ice axe, crampons, harness if required etc. We still have hire kit available, but less than normal due to the requirement to disinfect everything between users. If you need to hire kit – please advise us right away, so we can confirm availability and plan accordingly.
What to Expect on your Trip
Briefings will take place at a venue where social distancing is possible and may be held outdoors. In some circumstances, briefings may take place over the phone. For kit checks, expect the Guide to be a bit less ‘hands on’ than normal – eg if a piece of personal equipment needs adjusting, they may demonstrate and ask you to make the adjustment yourself and verify that it’s done correctly. Please bear with us – we are all having to do things a little differently now!
Personal Clothing and Equipment You need to make sure you have everything you will need for the day – ie no sharing of food, water, sun cream, clothing, personal equipment etc. Please double check you have everything with you before setting off each morning and make sure you have sufficient clothing for any weather, not just the bluebird forecast..
Mountain Infrastructure Expect to see various different arrangements at car parks, ski lifts and huts – eg reduced capacity and face masks required in cable cars, huts serving meals two sittings etc. Regular hand washing and observing social distancing are especially important in indoor settings and anywhere there are lots of people about for significant periods of time.
Using Equipment During the trip, ideally you need to be as ‘self sufficient’ as possible, as the Guide is required to be less ‘hands on’ than normal when it comes to sorting out minor problems – eg practice using your touring bindings and putting skins and harscheisen on correctly a few times before the trip!
Teaching Sessions Please try and use as much of your own personal kit as possible – if you are issued with kit on a course, keep it for the duration and don’t swap or share it with other students. Teaching sessions are pretty much as normal: the Guide will typically explain and demonstrate a skill, then coach and allow you to practice in a controlled environment.
Out on Tour Backcountry skiing is a well ventilated(!) outdoor sport, so the risk of transmission from breath droplets is very low and the virus is not likely to persist for long at altitude, due to high UV levels. Nevertheless, we favour quiet backcountry routes over busy resorts and in situations where distancing is difficult, be prepared to adopt other measures such as use of face masks in cable cars etc.
Mountain Safety If at any point during the day, there is a conflict between maintaining social distancing and mountain safety, then mountain safety will always be maintained as an absolute priority. We will plan ahead for such eventualities and where possible, adopt mitigation measures such as wearing a face covering, eyewear, gloves and disinfecting hands/exposed items as frequently as possible.
Alpine Huts Please see our accommodation section above for info about extra kit needed when visiting alpine huts. Huts still have a relaxed atmosphere and are a great place to hang out and escape everything for a few days, but routines have been modified to comply with new regulations, so expect to use hand sanitisers and wear face masks when not eating and drinking, there may be two sittings at meal times, take your rubbish back to the valley etc.
Minor Medical Issues You need to be equipped with a small personal first aid kit and prepared to take personal responsibility for small medical problems such as blisters etc. The Guide will be carrying a first aid kit as normal, but this is reserved for emergency use only.
At the End of the Trip If you experience any Covid symptoms within 14 days of returning home, then we need to be informed.