Skiing and the Pandemic: On Lockdown in Italy’s Dolomites

No one is immune from the coronavirus—not young people, not countries, not ideologies, and certainly not skiers. If you’re a skier, your lifestyle, and perhaps your livelihood, has been upended in recent weeks. In parts of North America, backcountry skiing is still happening, while all the resorts are closed. In much of Europe, that is not the case. People face hefty fines for disobeying their government’s orders to stay home–and that includes not skiing.

a view of a snow covered mountain

To take the pulse of our global ski community, we will be talking with skiers in various countries to learn about their current situations, their states of mind, and simply life at a time unlike any other we’ve experienced. Look for more interviews in the coming days.

Stefano Martinello, 42, has lived in Moena, Italy, since he was born. A professional ski instructor at San Pellegrino and Alpe Lusia in the Dolomites, Martinello is also a longtime product tester for Volkl and Dalbello, notching more than 200 ski days a year. He and his two children, ages 14 and 9, have been locked down like the rest of Italy’s 60 million residents for more than two weeks.

a couple of people that are standing in the snow: italy

Their country is the pandemic’s epicenter and, as of this week, has seen nearly twice as many deaths as any other nation. They’ve watched the pandemic explode from the heart of their village (population 2,600), which has 13 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Friday, March 27.

What is life like in Moena right now?

Life in Moena? Let’s say that there is no life. Everyone is home.

How did the last few weeks unfold as the virus took off and the ski season came to an abrupt end?

At the beginning of March, we were having one of the best winters ever: excellent snow and perfect weather with lots of people on the slopes. We were working a lot, and all the hotels and resorts were happy. Then this virus started. Around February 22, we had like 50 cases in all of Italy. Then suddenly it blew up like a bomb.

We were skiing at San Pellegrino on March 9 when we learned the resorts were going to shut down the next day. [Government officials] were thinking of keeping open some of the small areas, but in one hour they changed their mind and decided to shut down all the lifts in all of Italy.

I went ski touring with my children the day after the resorts closed, but then the authorities asked us to not even go ski touring or snowshoeing. Not because of spreading the virus, but because our hospitals are collapsing.

Was that a requirement or an ask?

At the beginning, the authorities just said please do not go. But then as some people continued going, they decided to make stricter controls in the mountains.

If they catch you, you have to pay a fine. And the police put you on a list, saying, like, you’re kind of a bad guy. Then they changed again and said if they catch you, it will be a really high fine and you will have to appear in front of a judge.

What’s the lockdown like in Moena?

You can go outside, but you must stay within 100 meters of your home. And you must be alone. If you go out with your wife or children, you should stay three meters apart from them.

We can go to the supermarket once a week, just one of us. We have to cover our mouth and nose and it’s better to use gloves.

How is your family?

My mom still lives in Moena, but I haven’t seen her in two weeks. She is 67 and lives with my grandmother, who is 97. So it’s better not to see each other, even though we live 500 meters apart. We talk on a video call every day.

In what ways has the temporary loss of skiing affected your life?

I’m living a life I never lived before. I’m always wanting to go up in the mountains. When I open a window at my house, I see the mountains, and we still have a lot of snow.

So you feel like a piece of your life is missing now. My friends in Germany were still allowed to go skiing last week, so I asked them not to send me any pictures from the mountains. I’m avoiding everything that concerns skiing, like videos, because I would like to go.

But the positive thing is, I’m doing things I’ve never done. I’ve never been home so much with my kids in all my life. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I’m always in a rush, always working, always moving.

Now, we wake up in the morning, have breakfast together, we’re not in a hurry. [Martinello also livestreams classic vinyl records on Facebook from his porch.] We just have to keep thinking what to do every day—not stay in front of the TV or with your mobile phone always in your hand or in front of the computer.

What are your feelings about the coming weeks?

Here in the Dolomites, we haven’t lost too many people up to now. We hope that it will be similar in the coming weeks. When I take my car to the supermarket, you see that everyone is following the rules.

You don’t see anyone around. It’s not nice to see your small village completely dead when it normally has 50,000 people during this time. But that’s a good thing. This is probably the only solution.

WATCH: Andrea Bocelli Performs ‘Con te partirò’ from Italy (provided by CBS Entertainment) 

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