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Austria...friendly?

 Poster: A snowHead
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Today in The Telegraph

Exclusive: The true story of the British skiers quarantined indefinitely in Austria


Austrian ski resorts have been allowed to reopen under strict new rules CREDIT: LEONHARD FOEGER/REUTERS
Abigail Butcher

9 FEBRUARY 2021 • 4:53PM
British instructors, trainees and the Austrian owner of a ski school near Kitzbühel in Austria, have spoken about their treatment by locals over a cluster of coronavirus cases found in the village in January.

The students were subjected to harassment by locals and international media following the outbreak and sentenced to an indefinite quarantine as false headlines spread. Lois Reichholf, owner of the ski school Snow Academy Jochberg, received death threats.

The students who were sharing accommodation with qualified ski instructors in three staff houses in Jochberg, a small village within the ski area of Kitzbühel, were quarantining after contracting coronavirus locally, but became trapped after a series of false allegations.

The story began January 3 when one student from Ski Instructor Academy Austria (SIA) tested positive for Covid-19 while undertaking her final training prior to instructor exams. Following health and legal guidelines, her fellow students and housemates — all qualified ski instructors working for Snow Academy Jochberg — were also tested. Of 18 housemates, 17 tested positive, the Behörde (local authority) informed and a 10-day quarantine began immediately.

Two other staff houses, also accommodating both nine and 18 students and instructors, tested negative.

The Covid-positive students had been in Austria for more than a month, arriving at SIA’s headquarters in Kaprun between October and early November when they underwent a PCR test before joining the SIA instructor course. SIA director Paul Simpson registered the students locally as tourists for the duration of their six-week course — which came to an abrupt halt just days later on November 3 when Austrian resorts were closed to tourists.

The Snow Academy Jochburg, which employs between 40 and 50 instructors each season, took on 35 of the SIA students, legally registering Jochberg as their main place of residence (Hauptwohnsitz), where they could teach local children before they qualified belatedly in January.

Snow Academy Jochberg owner Lois Reichholf said: “I had to plan last summer how many instructors I would have for the season, and authorities have kept saying the resorts will open, and then changing their mind. I had no option but to take on staff. I’ve worked with SIA for many years because they have such specialised training — usually this would have finished by mid-December when they would start with us, but when they couldn’t do their course (as tourists Kaprun) I could still employ them because legally in the Tyrol they can teach children until fully qualified. They were due to finish their exams in January.”


Jochberg is a small village close to major ski resort Kitzbühel in Austria CREDIT: WESTEND61 / PETRA SILIE/WESTEND61
Police checked on the quarantined house every other day, taking a headcount, as is normal for Covid quarantine in Austria, and a local supermarket made regular food deliveries to occupants.

But then it blew up and the following weeks were terrifying for these British ski instructors.

The fact that Britons had tested positive sparked an investigation by AGES, the Österreichische Agentur für Ernährungssicherheit Gmbh (Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety), concerned about the possibility of the emergence of what has been dubbed the ‘Kent Variant’ of SARS-Cov-2, discovered in Kent last December.

“Alarm bells started to ring. The majority of us here are British, but there are Irish, Estonian, Dutch and Spanish skiers here too but Reuters wrote a story about a cluster of Covid in the Tyrol among just British ski instructors,” said qualified instructor Mick Ledger who, along with his wife Becci, was among the 17 who tested positive.

“AGES arrived on January 11 and Austrian national news immediately reported a suspected case of the British strain, before the tests had been returned and despite the fact that most of the Brits in the house had been in Austria since October and those who arrived in early December — a month before this — had tested negative on arrival.”

AGES tests produced another two positive cases in a second house — of nine occupants — resulting in a further 10-day quarantine order. To ensure the virus hadn’t spread, around 1,000 villagers in Jochberg (which has a population of around 1,500) were tested on January 14 and 15, with just two testing positive, proving that the cluster had been contained.

'Stop blaming skiers, we're neither narcissists nor super-spreaders'
“Then, a British tabloid newspaper published a story saying we had been partying every day, mixing within houses and beyond — it was a total lie,” said Mick. “The only person who ever came into this house was a plumber to fix a broken boiler. It’s a staff house with shared kitchen and bathrooms, but it’s not a party house — I’m 59 and Becci is 54 for heaven’s sake.”

The house was surrounded by reporters and photographers as the Kriminalpolizei — Austria’s criminal police, reserved normally for serious crime including murders and fraud —were dispatched from Innsbruck to investigate the damaging headlines.

Mick said the situation became so stressful the occupants of the house kept their curtains closed as the furore took place outside. “For two days we had an Austrian TV station outside taking photographs, watching and livestreaming from here — the Kriminalpolizei came to interview several people on January 16 and 17 but found absolutely no wrong-doing. No one in the house, to our knowledge, spoke to the press.”

Despite the police finding no substance in allegations, AGES issued a directive to both houses requesting they quarantine “indefinitely”. Eventually, on January 19, one of the quarantined instructors — who wishes not to be named — phoned the British Embassy saying they felt threatened and “locked in”. Quarantine was that day lifted for them all.

The pressure of the situation, inactivity from lockdown and as a side-effect of suffering Covid caused Becci Ledger to have a minor stroke and spend two weeks in hospital.

Her husband, Mick, said: “There was so much nastiness, from locals, politicians, racism because we are British — everyone here lives in fear of the British strain — that it pushed her over the edge. Becci is out now, and recuperating, but the nastiness hasn’t stopped.

“We never go out in groups, and when we go out we keep quiet because you feel like people are waiting to throw rocks.”

But Mick said that despite the bad feeling, and his wife’s illness, he and Becci feel fortunate to be stuck in the mountains, with the stimulation of living in a shared house, rather than be alone at their home in Cornwall.

Snow Academy Jochberg owner and former ski racer Lois Reichholf said: “We followed the letter of the law, and had been praised for acting so fast to contain this by authorities, but this storm hit us from press all over the world.

“My company has been investigated by every authority in Austria, the criminal police, the financial police, from every angle you can imagine, upside down and inside out. Every instructor, all the neighbours. The newspaper that printed this damaging article never checked its facts, these ‘parties’ never happened.

“False news can destroy people’s lives and this was the very worst week of my life.”




A bit of Googleation revealed that it was The Sun wot did it...the false story of parties etc.


Last edited by Poster: A snowHead on Wed 10-02-21 15:07; edited 1 time in total
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Sounds very unpleasant but not that different from NIMBYISM being reported from elsewhere. This pandemic is bringing out the worst in some people.

Small towns and villages - anywhere - are not often noted for their tolerant acceptance of outsiders.

My own rather limited experience suggests that Austria is, in general, no more and no less "friendly" than France. As an outside spending a short time (but lots of money) one can get a misleading impression.
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@pam w, you are so right about the NIMBYISM.

I live in a very picturesque and much visited village.
It is only because of the visitors that the village has proper shops etc that are viable.

CV brought out some really unpleasant behaviour by some locals towards the visitors and the business owners...one even had death threats for daring to stay open when it was perfectly legal to do so (he closed) Shocked Shocked
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pam w wrote:


Small towns and villages - anywhere - are not often noted for their tolerant acceptance of outsiders.



Though ironically, reports of their refusing to accept the outsiders' dosh are almost impossible to verify!

Buy a house opposite a school and whine to the council about parents collecting their children. The tourism trade astounds me at times.
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In the village where my sister lives, in rural Worcestershire, the people who bought houses on a new housing estate complained vociferously about the noise and smells from the famous Aberdeen Angus pedigree herd of cows who'd lived there for 45 years. And on Chichester Harbour one of the remaining working wooden boat yards was driven out of business by complaints from people in the new and extremely expensive houses next door. In my own town, some people complained in the summer about "outsiders" - from up the road - coming to park in "our" streets and launching their SUPs and kayaks from "our" beach. An acquaintance I met out walking the other day complained to me about all the other walkers who were endangering her health. She looked aggrieved when I suggested we should both have stayed at home.
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Pam, I was quick to jump in and moan, but in the more 'normal' skiing times I've encountered, I've only found the local Froggies to be very friendly to 2 Welsh oldies. (Until I call them Froggies, natch- can then get ugly!).
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I think the title for this thread is very misleading. As I recall the British media seized on this story and distorted it just as much as the Austrian media did. It's hard to know where the (mis)information came from but that seems normal in these times of mass media and social media.

Clearly it's a weird season here, and a few times when out skiing and people have heard English being spoken amongst friends, others have asked what we are doing here, should we be in quarantine, etc. It's fine when I reply in German that we live here and haven't been to the UK since 2019.

Anyone can understand why people are nervous. Challenging times indeed.
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Yes, I am sure we all remember how this was reported in the UK. It makes you realise how much most of us tend to accept what we read (at least until we read a contrary view we trust). Fake news isn't just believed by idiots.
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Quote:

Anyone can understand why people are nervous

I can, but I also expect them to be rational and treat people decently. I hope people speaking German around here wouldn't be pounced on by locals and expected to explain themselves.
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FWIW I haven't had any issues or experienced any unfriendliness at all.

And I can completely understand locals being pissed that they are being criticised internationally and being placed under harsher restrictions than the rest of Austria, just for using the local infrastructure in their local mountains (which by the way has not been the cause of any transmissions at all so far), when it is the citizens of the same countries whose media and politicians are doing the complaining and fomenting the harsher restrictions, who are the ones breaking the rules and causing the clusters and bringing in the mutations.

In short, Tyroleans feel they are the ones being blamed for stopping life from getting back to normal quicker, and are also angry that their own lives are getting back to normal slower than they should/could have because other nationalities continue to break the rules. And on top of that, they are being affected more economically than the rest of Austria and most of Europe, and worry that headlines caused by other nationalities will continue to affect them more economically in the future too.
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If there was a group of trainees primarily from Austria- but with other nationalities too in anything at all who arrived in the Autumn in Keswick and then said that they were all permanent residents so that they could stay and then got COVID then there would be chaos.
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in the last few weeks Scarpa and me have been stopped and asked 3 times why we are here, each time super friendly, just curious locals.
One guy actually banged on our car window as we were leaving Zauchensee because he was curious why a car with local plates has the steering wheel on the wrong side Laughing Laughing One guy kept insisting we should be quarantining, despite me telling him I have lived here over 20 years.

The Austrians are a funny bunch though, some of my work collegues are very racist, there is a lot of open hostility towards the Balkan states who the all lump together as "yugos", and of course, the ongoing saga of the Piefkes Laughing Laughing Laughing
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@ed123, Some decent skiing down Blencathra so keep an eye out - if I had some skis and boots (mine in Austria in a garage) I might be there myself!
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 You know it makes sense.
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pam w wrote:
In the village where my sister lives, in rural Worcestershire, the people who bought houses on a new housing estate complained vociferously about the noise and smells from the famous Aberdeen Angus pedigree herd of cows who'd lived there for 45 years. And on Chichester Harbour one of the remaining working wooden boat yards was driven out of business by complaints from people in the new and extremely expensive houses next door. In my own town, some people complained in the summer about "outsiders" - from up the road - coming to park in "our" streets and launching their SUPs and kayaks from "our" beach. An acquaintance I met out walking the other day complained to me about all the other walkers who were endangering her health. She looked aggrieved when I suggested we should both have stayed at home.


See also people who buy houses near churches and complain about the bells ringing, or near a pub and complain about the noise of people leaving the pub. Very Happy
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That'll be me then, buying next to a church and a popular school Laughing

This one really made me angry at the time. If I remember correctly, the original planning application for the development was refused and only granted on appeal. We could all see what was then going to happen.

https://www.morningadvertiser.co.uk/Article/2019/07/02/Shepherd-Neame-successfully-appeals-noise-abatement-notice-at-threatened-Surrey-pub
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On the flip side when we moved into a small village in Bedfordshire I couldn't get to sleep as it was too quiet....
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Strange Dutch woman who stayed in the same hotel as us in St Anton said she wasn't going to stay there anymore because of the droning noise of the lifts, and potential of catching dementia from underground force fields from the power lines to the lifts, she could hear the ski lifts from the room she stayed in and was sure the buzzing was under the hotel and was doing her no good. Laughing Felt like saying she should get outta bed and go skiing!
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We had some people staying in the apartment next to ours in Saisies in summertime who complained about the noise of the cowbells.
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@Kooky, they sound a charming lot.
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Kooky wrote:
The Austrians are a funny bunch though, some of my work collegues are very racist, there is a lot of open hostility towards the Balkan states who the all lump together as "yugos", and of course, the ongoing saga of the Piefkes Laughing Laughing Laughing


I had to Google Piefke, sHs is so educational. Toofy Grin
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In Oakland, CA some white, well-to-do folks moved into a neighborhood that was mostly poor black folks. After a short time, the new residents complained about the locals barbecuing at the park. So the locals got together to decide what to do. They did what they should have done, and I'll quote the story: they barbecued harder! I'd rather hang with them.
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Markymark29 wrote:
Strange Dutch woman who stayed in the same hotel as us in St Anton said she wasn't going to stay there anymore because of the droning noise of the lifts, and potential of catching dementia from underground force fields from the power lines to the lifts, she could hear the ski lifts from the room she stayed in and was sure the buzzing was under the hotel and was doing her no good. Laughing Felt like saying she should get outta bed and go skiing!


Hah was whitewater rafting in Nepal and we had the misfortune to have a middle aged Dutch hippie woman in our raft who would make no effort paddling then fell out in some relatively innocuous rapid, threw a fit and refused to get back in the raft. Cue long delay while the guide hiked her out to the road and the support bus. I mention her because of her attempt to ruin every meal we had by swinging a pendulum over the food and declaring whether it was good or bad to eat.

Mind you was staying in a typical Austrian pension with the usual stuffed marmots and boar's head decorations in the corridor and found one morning the animals outside my room were all missing. When I enquired at breakfast they said with a scowl that the English woman in the next room had complained about them.
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Laughing Laughing

25 years ago stayed at a tiny place in Greece and took pity on a poor donkey tied up in the sun all day, spent all night baying and screeching and we couldn't sleep.....sneaked out and untied it after a couple of beers on way home.....it went awol and in the morning for a couple of hours early morning loads of locals were all running around shouting - thankfully it came back, and we put up with the racket again, thought best to adopt local etiquette and much better than spending time in a Greek prison. Laughing
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@Markymark29, @Dave of the Marmottes, was it Stanton?

not sure their gender has ever been exposed Toofy Grin Toofy Grin
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Quote:

the usual stuffed marmots and boar's head

Marmots' heads? Poor man's hunting trophies?
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@Alastair Pink,
There is a 2 part video, The Tirolean and his Piefke, we will put it in a new thread.

Beautifully shot, hilarious and showing the ongoing love/ hate relationship between the Össies, and the Piefkes!

It actually had me laughing out loud, especially as its 2 real life friends who are actually ski God's. Well worth a watch!
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Posting it now.
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Late to this thread..but an important point to mention is that broadly speaking - there are some exceptions for second home owners - ONLY skiing by „Tagesreisende“ (app = „daytrippers“) is lawful in Austria at the moment..so it is not surprising that anything denoting tourism can at present attract attention & maybe a query - whether it be a foreign language spoken (or here in Vorarlberg even an obviously Swiss bzw Berliner accent) or maybe a RH drive car or a car with foreign numberplates..fwiw this season I have spoken only German when skiing (even with non local friends who find English easier) & generally kept a low profile..Naturally, the Austrians „in ländlichen Gebieten“ (where most of the ski resorts are situated) tend anyway to be inherently conservative & „clannish“/wary of outsiders but as others on this thread have remarked you can find the very same mentality in country areas in the UK without looking very hard..
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& A belated response to Pam W. I can well imagine that in the UK a group of apparent foreigners (= speaking German) carrying out highly restricted recreational activities might be asked whether they were following the rules...
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@Bergsteiger278, re: language, I think it depends where you are. In the Innsbruck region, there are a lot of non-Austrians (many are students, but there are a lot of others too) who live permanently in the area. English is often the common language and I don't worry too much about using it, though I've also heard French, Italian and Czech recently. I think people are pretty used to that around here, but I can see how it might be different further away from the cities. We do use local plates though, so that tends not to attract attention.
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Das stimmt ganz genau..mind you we normally get a lot of relatively „working class“ Swiss visitors from the border regions (it‘s much cheaper for them to ski here) and when they start speaking „Schwyzerdütsch“ with me, I definitely think it would be easier to speak English with them.. Eh oh!
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Kooky wrote:
in the last few weeks Scarpa and me have been stopped and asked 3 times why we are here, each time super friendly, just curious locals.
One guy actually banged on our car window as we were leaving Zauchensee because he was curious why a car with local plates has the steering wheel on the wrong side Laughing Laughing One guy kept insisting we should be quarantining, despite me telling him I have lived here over 20 years.

The Austrians are a funny bunch though, some of my work collegues are very racist, there is a lot of open hostility towards the Balkan states who the all lump together as "yugos", and of course, the ongoing saga of the Piefkes Laughing Laughing Laughing


Ironic given the role played by The Voralburg and Tirol in spreading Covid throughout Europe a year ago. Presumably they are now super sensitive ?
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Peter - you mean „the role played by Tirol“..none of the incidents were in Vorarlberg!!
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..& Kooky is reporting on the demeanour in Salzburgerland which is about as far away from Ishgl (which is in Tirol) as, say Forest in Teesdale is from Inverness..(I know the B6277 very well & still have a base in the region which I use to go hillwalking when back in the UK)..
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@Bergsteiger278,
today we again got asked by an elderly couple who we shared a gondola with if we were here on holiday, people are quite edgy, but after I explained I ve lived here over 20 years they were very nice and we had a great conversation about all the places in the UK they have visited!
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We were stopped today and asked for directions to one of the sectors in Dachstein West by an Austrian....initially she was a little “concerned” about what 2 Brits were doing here....we offered to guide her to her destination, explaining we live here. She then got ever so slightly flustered when I asked her where she was from and was it her first time at Dachstein West Laughing
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Kooky, Cacciatore - this is exactly my experience in Vorarlberg..people are edgy until you speak in German with them and make it clear you are not a tourist..indeed I was walking in the mountains rather than skiing today and another couple were reluctant to share the Gipfel with us „ als eine ersatze Jausenstation“ until we started chatting & it was clear that none of us are tourists. After that „ist reinunglos gegangen“..
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Oje „reibunglos“ Eh oh!
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Peter S wrote:


Ironic given the role played by The Voralburg and Tirol in spreading Covid throughout Europe a year ago. Presumably they are now super sensitive ?


That is as much of a media invention as the ski instructor's parties in Kitzbühel (most UK cases originated in Spain, the cases in Ischgl originated in Singapore probably via Italy), the concept of rich Tirolean's making lots more cash by hosting Covid parties is one that has run and run without any real basis in reality. Unfortunately it continues to influence politicians hence the current treatment of the Tirol as a leper colony without any real evidence.
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And now Mayrhofen is to be isolated, no exit without a negative test for a week:
https://tirol.orf.at/stories/3091821/?fbclid=IwAR27QpLFh1jB1HyPLct5FoNBwumH_YtIKsN2sWsXLwyVFquYa0HJn2DXMZU
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