Stop blaming skiers, we're neither narcissists nor super-spreaders

Abigail Butcher
·4-min read
skiers
skiers

January 2021 began with a conversation on Twitter I could have done without. A follower, commenting on my coverage of the ‘Verbier Midnight Express’ kept insisting skiers were narcissists for wanting to go to Switzerland for a holiday.

The travel corridors policy that allowed skiers to enter Switzerland perfectly legally at that time also allowed sun-seekers to hit the Maldives and Dubai – yet those holidaymakers were not subject to the same nasty names. Why?

It’s because skiing has always, and will always, be viewed as a pastime for the rich and famous, and surely any Hooray Henry stupid enough to strap planks to his feet and pop on a woolly pully is fair game, right? And of course this 'entitled' section of society believe they are above the law, right? No. Wrong. All wrong.

Calling them narcissists or super-spreaders is also just downright untrue.

Let’s look at the facts. In 2020, the ski season and half-term holiday was in full swing when Covid-19 struck Europe and it was nothing short of devastating for thousands of holidaymakers and businesses. But since, ski resorts, like every other industry, business and sector of society, have learnt lessons and invested hundreds of thousands of Euros on installing Covid precautions, think mass testing in resorts, and sanitising measures, like fogging machines in gondolas, to make the ski holiday experience safe. Most resorts, unfortunately, remain shut, but in those that are open, bars, restaurants and aprés-ski — especially the type that involves beer and ping-pong balls — are off-limits. Resorts are doing all they can to curb the spread of this virus and the majority of skiers, who are lucky enough to be out in the mountains right now, are complying with the rules.

Let’s go back to basics. Ski holidays are an unadulterated pleasure – not an egotistic or self-indulgent pursuit. Look how much 24 hours of snow lifted the spirits of the nation this week — are skiers really to be damned for wanting an innocent week in the mountains to cheer themselves up? In fact many, like myself, rely on it for our mental wellbeing. What’s more skiing is an outdoor sport, so arguably it’s safer than going to the supermarket.

Despite all this the naysayers are still keen to tar skiers with their derogatory remarks.

Often, to fuel the fire, the ‘facts’ they refer to are wrong. The news that 450 people ran from Verbier in the middle of the night was laughably incorrect, and left the resort's reputation in tatters, but why let the truth get in the way of a good rant on Twitter? A Brit took Covid to Wengen and caused the cancellation of the Lauberhorn, didn’t he? No, he’d actually been there since early December and caught the virus in the resort, but no matter, the gossip steam-train had left the station.

wengen - jean-christophe bott/shutterstock
wengen - jean-christophe bott/shutterstock

And this past weekend, a group of gap-year students, desperate to continue their lives and gain much longed-for ski instructor qualifications, have come down with Covid-19 in Vallorcine near Chamonix. The travel was organised above-board, discussed with the French consulate in London and the manager of the hotel in which they are quarantined has reportedly said the teenagers are behaving “respectfully”. They took PCR tests before they left, which returned negative, and were unfortunately caught out on route.

These are kids whose lives are on hold – they’re missing out on their teenage years and the chance at training that they will never get back because of this pandemic – who cares whether they are the offspring of lawyers or postmen, does their financial status allow us to lay into them?

To some, sadly, it does. This name-calling and rubbishing of skiers comes down to pure and simple age-old class war; it has nothing to do with whether they're following the rules or not. The coronavirus pandemic has caused deep divisions in our society – should we be locked down or shouldn’t we? Should we be travelling or not? Should we wear masks, have clandestine piss-ups or dinner parties or not? All these debates have fuelled unnecessary malice between groups on social media and it’s a sad reflection of where we are as an ‘online’ society.’ Surely, the real-life stories of hundreds of thousands volunteering in vaccine centres and helping neighbours in need are far more heart-warming and worthy of our time.

As well as a journalist I’m a qualified ski instructor and have spent most of my career involved in and reporting on the ski industry and too many friends are now losing their homes and dreams as their travel businesses go up in smoke – the online trolls should take a moment to consider that before joining in with the name calling.

Nobody knows the answers to any of these should-they-or-shouldn’t-have-they debates or how ski resorts will recover from this financial blow, but I do know we need to treat others with compassion and not judge people’s actions within this pandemic unless we know the full facts.