The ridiculous rule of six threats to ruin the festive season, but a solution can be found in the Alps
I never thought I’d be writing about the festive season in September, especially during a mini-heatwave – for this I apologise. But as the UK adjusts to life under the ridiculous new rule of six, surely it’s only natural to look for a (twinkling) light at the end of the tunnel.
That light should be Christmas, with 100 days to go, but if the hapless Government is to have its wicked way we might as well throw it on the waste pile that has been 2020.
The rule of six is impractical for the majority of British families during the festive season (or, indeed, any season). I refuse to choose which members of my family I will be fortunate enough to pull a cracker with. Do I trade my brother for my grandparents, tell my niece and nephew they’ll have to wait to unwrap their presents until another day, and then what about my partner’s family? It’s a big game of Happy Families, only nobody is going to be a winner, or happy.
I’m speaking from experience. It’s both mine and my mother’s birthdays this month, and, unless we break the law, on neither occasion will our entire family be able to celebrate together. In fact, it’s been a logistical nightmare to organise any form of jubilant affair – if Christmas is to have the same fate, count me out.
Luckily, there is a blindingly obvious solution to this draconian nonsense that skiers and snowboarders in particular could use to their advantage.
If Boris must insist on cancelling Christmas by imposing the rule of six, I’ll be looking to our European cousins for a more friendly festive season.
When it comes to Christmas, ski resorts have it all – giant Alpine fir trees decked in a blanket of white, local markets selling unique stocking fillers, gluhwein flowing on every corner, streets lined with twinkling lights, enough activity to burn off a week’s worth of turkey, and hotel and chalet staff in traditional dress bearing a remarkable resemblance to Santa’s elves. There’s time to save 2020 yet and the Alps hold the key.
If there was ever a year to book a Christmas ski holiday this is it – so wave your living room goodbye and flee to the mountains. Christmas Eve spent around a board game, family all together, snow falling outside and a fire burning, with the promise of fresh tracks on Christmas morning, surely trumps the prospect of having to endure another virtual family pub quiz over Zoom.
Of course there is one hurdle still to overcome. Grant Shapp, with his weekly tweet to strip or award countries of a travel corridor, is the gatekeeper to any festive getaway in France, Austria or Switzerland – all three of which have been removed from the Government’s quarantine-free list in recent weeks. Currently, airport testing seems to be the only realistic chance of sprinkling these red-listed nations with some festive cheer, ridding Shapp of his Grinch Who Stole Christmas persona.
However, after its moment in the pandemic spotlight back in March, under-the-radar Italy remains on the safe list with a case rate hovering around 16 per 100,000 – around half the figure for the UK.
Staying optimistic, Italy has a number of resorts that boast impressive early-season snow records. High-altitude Cervinia, for example, which has access to Europe’s highest skiable glacier in the shadow of the Matterhorn. Or family-friendly Passo Tonale with its snow-sure Presena glacier that reaches 3,000m and presents the opportunity to spend Christmas morning above the clouds.
Those looking for charm will feel right at home (away from home) in Cortina d’Ampezzo, an ancient mountain town in the Dolomites and Italy’s chicest destination, or unassuming Champoluc with its typically laid-back Italian atmosphere and crowd-free slopes.
Of course, the festivities continue in abundance across the borders in France, Austria and Switzerland too – from horse-drawn carriages in Mégéve to traditional Krampus stories in the Tirol and family fondues in the Swiss Alps – we can only hope that by the time Santa starts packing his sled Shapp has granted us the early gift of being able to travel there without a New Year quarantine.
Understandably people are nervous about booking a holiday right now. But book with a bonded operator and you can rest assured that your money is safe, come what may. If travel restrictions remain in place, trusted operators and agents such as Crystal, Inghams, Mountain Heaven and Alpine Elements are offering a full refund or alternative trips free of charge. If travel restrictions are lifted, or airport testing is in place, you could be on your way to the mountains in less than 100 days. If the rule of six is lifted by then too, so what, there’s no better way to end a miserable year than with a week on the slopes.