Sat. Feb 27th, 2021

By Colleen Barry, associated Press

CORTINA, Italy (AP) – Granite says the year’s most blizzard surrounds the northern Italian city of Cortina d’Ampezzo, a brutal prank of nature while the COVID-19 epidemic shows Italy’s winter resorts .

The month will see Cortina shine on TV sports channels for two weeks as the 2021 World Ski Championships are held in the Olympic host city of the past and the future, sending downhill skiers down a downhill slope. But the event will occupy a fraction of the available hotel rooms, and it is unlikely to bring much business to the city’s luxury boutiques. No viewers are allowed.

In fact, the cramps of activity look like a mere flicker in a ski season that seems to never be far off, as the Italian government reopens the lifts for leisure skiers. The World Championship will provide a good option in view of the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Olympics, but economic relief for local businesses and workers, who stay away from the winter sports economy, which has been closed for almost a year.

“Absolutely, we made snow in November, because we had no idea that there would be a lot and the slope would have to be prepared,” said Marco Zardini, Chief Executive Officer of Cortina Skiworld. There are now only four lifts for use by local clubs and aspiring world-class athletes that should be sized for future seasons.

Italy’s 2019-2020 ski season closed unexpectedly in early March, when the country became the first western country to be hit by an epidemic. Unlike neighboring Switzerland, a new season has yet to be launched, which allowed lifts to be banned in December or open in Austria, where residents can still ski. France’s ski lifts remain closed at least through February.

In Italy, epidemic closure is a hit in an industry that generates 1.2 billion euros ($ 1.5 billion) in annual revenue and employs 5,000 permanent and 10,000 seasonal workers, according to a collaboration with ski lift operators, ANEF.

The association said last year saw a 20% revenue decline at the early end of the season and called the current season a total loss. Spanning hotels, restaurants and other services, the ski industry generates 11 billion euros ($ 13.2 billion) in annual revenue, but travel restrictions have kept activity near zero on top of static lifts.

“You can’t leave the mountains, you left yourself. He said,” AEEF president Valeria Ghezi said that they should be taken care of.

The paradox is that 2020-21 would have been a season for the record books in Cortina, and the Alps of Italy, where snow has been in abundance, elsewhere.

In any season, Cortina’s Tony Corso d’Italia Shopping Street can compete with Milan’s Montanapoleon Golden Triangle for a concentration of luxury brands, including Dior, Fendi and Monsalar. But shops are empty of customers and most hotels are closed. Many hotels have heaps of snow on roofs and roofs.

In a typical year, Italians have more than half of Cortina’s nearly 1 million annual visitors, and Americans are the top foreign visitors, ahead of the Germans and Britain.

Although global fashion brands can expect to balance the decline in business with increasing sales in China, this is not the case for local businesses. Bruno Pompin Dimai, the owner of a sports store, called the season a “disaster” for Cortina. He has sold just a few pairs of shoes and a ski jacket in the winter. Their only comfort is that ski brands have promised not to update their offerings in the next season so that they can sell their remaining inventory.

“With all this snow, I would have done double the job,” Dimai said.

Ingrid Siorpaes, who runs a local handicraft shop, said sales are down 90%. There are only local people walking on the snowy main road and people ride the epidemic to their second homes.

“We remain open, even though I had to close one vendor,” Siorpes said. “This store is missing foreign tourists.”

This is no different with other ski areas around the Alps and with Apennines, where instead of generating cash, many lift operators are racking up costs for a season that may never come.

While ski resorts generate cash in four months of the year, maintenance and upkeep are year-round costs – some ski resort operators say the government in Rome has slowed down to understand.

No aid package is forthcoming for the ski industry, and the situation is grim for workers. Permanent workers may be placed on short-term layoffs, but such programs are not available to seasonal workers, who make up a large proportion of industry lift operators, ski instructors, mountain guides, rental shop workers, and hotel and restaurant workers .

Ghezi, president of the Ski Lift Association, suspects the lifts will open on February 15 as currently planned.

“Unfortunately, I must say this season has been compromised,” he said. “We can say that the weather is a total loss. If we can open in March, then maybe it becomes 90% or 95%. I cannot rule out that some companies may fail. “

In early March, more and more teaching time will be given to Giulio De Luca, who runs a ski school in San Vito, which is part of the Cortina SkiWorld. He has seen only two 600-euro ($ 722) payments from the government since last spring – which was hastened after a tax bill of 950 euros ($ 1,143).

“In November, December and January, the trainers did not receive a single penny from the government,” said De Luca. Nor is the ski school still eligible for assistance, while rent, utility, phone and tax bills keep coming.

He said, “I have money to pay taxes now, but not next month.”

Follow all of AP’s epidemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/Understandingtheututbreak

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