It felt a bit surreal to stand in a ski area parking lot in the October sunshine this weekend and watch life Attempt to return to something approaching normal at the 35th Kaunertal Opening.
Of course, “normal” is relative. Face masks were mandatory in the brand village, where booths were spaced out in an area that was twice the size of the usual layout. From the glacier restaurant to the lift line, signage proliferated advising mask and other pandemic countermeasures, while centering on the theme of personal responsibility. The ground rules seemed to be: if everybody plays along and plays it safe, we can have our cake and eat it too.
Needless to say, this Kaunertal Opening felt quite different to those in the past, as the first edition in its 35-year history to take place during a pandemic. But if anything felt normal, it was this: lapping a pristine snowpark again with friends, breathing fresh mountain air, and feeling that brimming excitement for the coming winter.
Snowpark Kaunertal is a jibber´s delight. Photo: Felix Pirker
Even with the pandemic looming over the weekend and the coming season, it simply felt good to be out again with skis underfoot. The tantalizing prospect seems to be that, with the right precautions in place, we can still enjoy our shred this winter with only minor inconveniences. But it’s very important to remember the role that personal responsibility still plays in all of this. Masks and distancing work when everyone remembers them. But after a few exhilarating runs through the park—and especially after that apres-ski beer or two—it’s easy for discipline to slip. Even with all the measures in place, a crowded lift line full of panting skiers and snowboarders—not all of them remembering to mask up—doesn’t feel like the most comfortable place to be at the current time.
More resort openings are on the way, even as coronavirus infections in many places are currently spiking to numbers not seen since the start of the pandemic. In this uncertain space, the Kaunertal Opening offered both the promise and the challenge of the coming winter. We’re able to shred again, but it comes with caveats. As it always should be on the mountain, our freedom to recreate ends where it jeopardizes the safety of others. This season, be sure to look out for your fellow snowriders—not just on the pistes, but in the lift line, the gondola and in the parking lot too. If we're all able to do that, we're all much more likely to enjoy the ski season without major disruptions.