SCROLL DOWN FOR DAILY UPDATES
MWC2020 USA Bus Payment Page : https://xcskiworld.com/mwc2020-cogne-bus-transport
Pre-Trip Countdown To-do Items: https://xcskiworld.com/mwc-pre-trip-countdown-items
International Travel 101 https://xcskiworld.com/international-xc-ski-travel-101
MWC2020 Race Entry List: https://www.datasport.com/live/startlist/?racenr=22667
Local Organizer Website: www.MWC-2020.com
Web Cam of Cogne Stadium Area: https://www.bergfex.com/cogne-gran-paradiso/webcams/c4735/
BergFex Weather Forecast: https://www.bergfex.com/cogne-gran-paradiso/wetter/berg/
Waxing Notes from Andy Newell about Cogne: https://xcskiworld.com/cogne-waxing-notes
Official tourism website: http://www.cogne.org
Final Balance Payment Info Page: https://xcskiworld.com/mwc2020-final-balance-payment
USA Helper Page for Race Registration (and link to Registration): https://xcskiworld.com/mwc-race-registration-helpful-info
Diana Lynn Rau Contact Info: 970.887.3095 or Dianalrau@cs.com
Friday, April 3 -- 3:30pm PST update
--> Couple quick items while waiting for word out of Italy likely first half of next week....
--> Diana Lynn Rau is back in Colorado now. I believe she's already been getting in contact with folks that were in limbo while she was on her Grand Canyon trip. So if you were needing to chat with Diana about wrapping up some MWC2020 logistics -- she's around.
--> Today (Friday, 3rd) Delta sent out an email that many of you will have gotten that they are extending the time frame to use flight credits from the MWC2020 meltdown all the way out to end of May 2022. It is entirely possible (likely?) that other airlines will come up with similarly extended time frames. Especially given that flying anywhere is now looking less and less like something most of us will easily be able to do for several months to come.
--> Finally, earlier this week, multiple international media sources reported on the anticipated extension of the government lock down across Italy until (at least) 13 April. At face value, that could mean that we are all looking at a new extension of the delays in getting resolution to the whole MWC2020 refund process. But what we actually need is word from the organizers (really, we need word from just one person in the Cogne Tourism Office) as to when exactly it will be possible to physically get into the Tourism Office and get back to work. So we just will have to see what everyone says as of Monday/Tuesday next week.
Friday, March 27 -- 12:00pm PST update
--> Some days you are the windshield -- some days you are the bug. This morning is pretty much the latter for your loyal National Director. Well, actually it's not that bad, but I really hoped to be able to finally get cracking on putting the unfortunate saga of the MWC2020 to bed around this point -- and now we are going to be delayed in that effort yet again.
--> After nearly two weeks no response, the OC finally got in touch with the WMA Executive this morning with a note essentially claiming that they would not be able to initiate the final refunds on Lodging Deposits until after 6 April (at the earliest) due to the on-going Shelter-In-Place lockdown throughout Italy. On a diplomatic level (given I wear a couple hats within WMA including an Executive role), I must refrain from giving you all my honest appraisal of this latest notification. But you might get a decent idea of how of my thoughts right now from the following -- &%#@!(&^%%$$$#$%#%$#!!!!!
--> I can let you all know that I have serious questions whether Italy will lift their Shelter-In-Place lockdown by 6 April enough to get money flowing back to national associations for the final Lodging refunds. Whereas if you look at the new virus tracking charts for Italy, the numbers show an "undulating plateau" with both new cases and fatalities -- my guess is that it's going to take a really steep and sustained drop in new cases over several weeks in a row before they will start allowing greater social interaction. Bottom line: If the OC is truly unable to complete the remaining bank transfers now under the current controls, I'm dubious that the situation will change significantly magically as of 6 April. My current guess is that the lockdown will be extended which will in turn extend the waiting for full Lodging refunds.
--> On this end, my plan will be to write the 50% Entry Fee refund checks to Independent USA skiers and at least a couple USA skiers eligible for a medical refund. All of you are not waiting on any Lodging Deposit funds should expect checks from AXCS in the early part of April (provided no adventures happen on this end!).
--> For everyone else waiting to see Lodging money refunds, I'm afraid I have nothing else to offer at this point except to report back as of the 6 April week (I'm guessing it'll take 1-2 days after the 6th for emails to fly across the Atlantic on next steps). Once again I'll repeat that to keep the huge workload of the refund process manageable for AXCS, it's essential that we wait until we have all of the Lodging money back into the AXCS account so that there is only one refund made to each of you. Every refund is a separate calculation based on several dozen different rate charts (hotels, rooms, nights stayed) plus we have to calculate in two currency exchanges on top of fixed AXCS expenses over the past 13 months plus other office costs (some known, others not so much) that will flex depending on exactly when and how money is finally returned to AXCS. Trying to do part of your refunds now and the remainder sometime down the road this spring would literally more than double the workload -- and reduce the amount you ultimately get back. So your continued patience with this whole process is (as always) sincerely appreciated!
--> If I have any other type of notice to report on, I'll post before the week of the 6th. Otherwise look for something around the 7th-9th. Please continue to stay healthy, follow best practices, and be as active as you can when you can.
Wednesday, March 25 -- 1:30pm PST update
--> Second Wednesday 25th Update (1:30pm PST) -- The 50% MWC2020 Entry Fee refunds for USA registrations has now begun the deposit process into the AXCS account. That process usually takes 24-48 hours to complete. Once it is done, I can start writing checks for those skiers that are just waiting for refunds on 50% of entry fees (everyone not waiting for Lodging refunds). Yea!
--> 10:30am PST updates below...
--> As of this morning there has still not been any sign of bank transfer(s) taking place to the AXCS account with refunds of the 30% MWC2020 Lodging Deposits. Wearing my other WMA hat as WMA President, I have began reaching out to the OC to try and get an update on what is happening. Although I still cannot elaborate due to privacy issues, what I can let you know is that the WMA Executive is concerned about potentially significant health issues within the Cogne OC itself. If the rumor we have heard is correct, these health issues could be the direct cause of the current delay in refunds. Not only does this present a really significant challenge, the folks on the OC are very real people that myself and other WMA officials have been working with for several years so there are a personal concerns as well.
--> With Cogne's lock down now a couple weeks in and a tiny population in the best of times, if the health rumors are accurate, it is possible we will have no option but to wait on a final MWC2020 financial resolution for several weeks -- all the while hoping for the best for those impacted.
--> The timing of the next update is uncertain as I'm at the mercy of someone in Cogne or in the greater OC nearby to get back to the WMA Executive with information that can be publicly shared with skiers and National Directors. I ask everyone in the USA contingent to hang in there and I do greatly appreciate your patience. Please keep checking this page every few days and I'll be back with more ASAP.
Sunday, March 22 -- 5:50pm PST update
--> As of Friday PM, both bank transfers of the MWC2020 Lodging extra pre-payment funds are in the AXCS bank account again. So AXCS has roughly two thirds +/- of the total Lodging money paid by folks in AXCS possession. Not all of that is refundable, but we are a lot better off than we were in late February now!
--> Unfortunately as of Saturday AM I have also been made aware (can't say more) that we may or may not have an unavoidable delay (something not anyone's fault -- OC, AXCS, WMA, hotels, etc) in getting the remaining Lodging Deposit funds transferred over to AXCS. This delay would completely be on the Italian side and is very much related to the virus situation. I'll know by probably Wednesday latest if this delay is really happening or not.
--> Per notes many days or weeks ago, it's really necessary to wait as long as possible to get all refundable money into the AXCS account given the sheer amount of workload in making refunds to so many people plus the calculations of each refund depend on knowing exactly what the total numbers are both in and out. I'm hoping that the potential delay mentioned above doesn't happen. If it does happen, I'm also hoping it's not a long-term issue. But I'm at least mentioning this now that we could be looking at a multi-week extension of my original refund timeline in the worst case. Again, hopefully I'll know more soon.
--> As of this weekend I have word that the 50% refund of entry fees will be on the way to the AXCS account this week. That part will allow me to issue refund checks to at least the folks that did independent lodging and our one medical hardship case.
Tuesday, March 17 -- 10:50am PST update
--> In checking the AXCS on-line bank account this morning I am super happy to report that the very first of several bank transfers of refunded Lodging funds is now pending deposit into the AXCS account. This is significant because it not only signifies the refunds are really starting to happen -- but also because it means that the OC didn't run into a snag in the bank transfer process even with the on-going virus situation worldwide.
--> Based on the plan I was emailed on Friday, we should get a second bank transfer for pre-payments and then 1-2 additional transfers roughly 3-4 days later for the original deposits. If all that happens, the refund process on the AXCS end can officially begin right around the end of the month.
--> Take care everyone. Good best practices. Find creative ways to stay active as we ride out this latest adventure.
Friday, March 13 -- 5:30pm PST update
--> As of this morning, the OC has agreed to refund the Lodging Deposits paid on all MWC2020 rooms. Further, Team USA has (finally) gotten word that bank transfers for the additional pre-payments made on USA lodging are starting to work their way through financial institutions. If all goes well (yes, you have heard that before on this page, but hopefully this time it happens) -- AXCS will have the first bank transfer funds in two installments next week. I would realistically think the Deposits would then follow the fourth week of March. Once we have verified all the money back into the AXCS account, I can then run calculations less all AXCS expenses and start writing refund checks to put in the mail. (!)
--> WMA and the OC are working out details on the 50% entry fee refund for all USA registered skiers. Please note that this refund will actually turn out to be less than whatever the US dollar current exchange rate is on 100 EUR. There will be a small loss on the currency exchange when you signed up for MWC2020 -- there will be a small shared loss on the bank fees to transfer a bulk payment for refunds into the AXCS account for all entry fee refunds -- and then there will be whatever loss on the currency exchange to get 100 EUR or so converted back to USD. But overall you'll be only looking at a few percent less which is better than you would get back from (I'm told) the Engadin which also cancelled and is not doing any entry fee refunds.
--> I believe I mentioned it some days ago, but to save a lot of time, postage, and resources -- I will only be writing one refund check combining your entry fee refund with your lodging refunds. I may be emailing in coming weeks to identify couples that really prefer your refunds separated between yourselves -- but I'll probably put both checks in the same envelope. I know I mentioned below that the actual refund process will be insanely time-consuming so your patience will be greatly appreciated.
--> Yes, I'm very pleased and excited this is looking so good after two straight weeks of work trying to get to these positive decisions. However -- using the almost insanely cliche' phrase of the month -- "in an abundance of caution" I would ask everyone to refrain from counting chickens until all the money is in the AXCS account. At that point then a great deal of most excellent Oregon fermented beverage products will be joyfully consumed.
Tuesday, March 10 -- 1:25pm PST update
--> Well, at this point if there was anyone in the world that had any lingering doubts why cancelling the MWC2020 was an absolutely necessary decision 12 days ago, I really don't know what I could say. You all undoubtedly have seen the media reports that the entire nation of Italy is now enclosed in a quarantine "bubble". Apparently tourists still have a few ways out still -- but how long these routes stay open and what the quarantine penalty would be on return home is very uncertain. You really feel for the people of Italy that are not only dealing with the very real world health impacts of the virus, but also are collectively being required to take a national "staycation" for a month. Deep sigh.
--> In terms of the MWC wrap-up, the forecasted quiet of the past couple days continues. The latest communications from WMA to the OC are undoubtedly being digested by locals. The only question is how mobile everyone is within the village given the new government decree. Cogne is not a place that many folks can tele-commute. We know from the handful of USA skiers that have been in the valley in the past few days that the hotels were already shutting down operations. I really can't say at this point if this means any type of functional delays in whatever decisions are reached on the local level towards the WMA questions over Lodging refunds. But for the time being, the WMA Executive will still point towards Monday, 16th to get some kind of definitive word on the Lodging deposits.
--> On this side of the Atlantic, it is now conclusively a wait-and-see situation. The one upside of not going to the MWC is that I've been able to use the past week to get AXCS accounting caught up (usually takes until June). Once we know the situation with money flow back from Cogne to AXCS, that catch-up process being completed will enable a much faster response in determining all your individual refunds. Note that the operative word there is "faster" -- not necessarily fast.
--> Same message as the past couple posts in terms of checking back for more news. We may not have much happen this week, but when anything does take place worth noting -- I'll be sure to pass it on as fast as possible. Take care, stay healthy, enjoy snow while you have it!
Sunday, March 8 -- 2:05pm PST update
--> The forecasted quiet weekend on this end has played out as we thought with not a lot to report originating out of the AXCS global world headquarters.
--> Many of you have noted already that the situation is getting "interesting" in Northern Italy as the newest overnight government decree has placed a quarantine around the entire region of Lombardy. Apparently no one really knows if the Milan airport is functioning. Mixed reports are coming in with trains. For sure ground transport is restricted. Those handful of USA folks that visited Cogne are planning "escape routes". Needless to say, this latest development combined with the prior government decree (as of Thursday) that eliminated functional possibilities for holding literally any events (on tracks or even social) validated the timing of the MWC2020 cancellation in all respects.
--> For those USA folks wondering about this, as of today the WMA Executive definitively confirmed that the potential for doing a "triple postponement" of MWC events over several years is not practical or in some respects even possible. Not only has WMA formalized contracts with both the Canmore/CAN MWC2021 OC and the Les Saisies/FRA MWC2022 OC -- those organizing groups have already been impressively organized and they would face the guaranteed or potential loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in sponsor and grant funding attached to the specific years they bid on hosting the MWC. Further, Canmore has no choice but to launch global promotion RIGHT NOW to guarantee their best possible turnout this time next year (when we all hope the COVID-19 virus will no longer be dominating headlines or global attention).
--> In terms of the on-going discussions about refunds, the OC set a self-imposed deadline of Monday, 16 March to reach a final decision on the Lodging deposits. If all has gone as AXCS has been told it would, a bank transfer of all pre-payments above and beyond the 30% deposit should be winding it's way already through international financial channels to the AXCS account. My guess being by Friday, 13th we should have that money in hand (but this is a true guess since there is no way to confirm anything until the money appears on the AXCS books).
--> The next few days will be wait-and-see for more info. I'll generally aim to post in the late afternoon PST if I learn anything or have notes to share. Thank you once again for patience everyone!
Friday, March 6 -- 9:10am PST update
--> As we hit the one week benchmark since the event cancellation (yes, it's just been one week since the decision was reached -- seems like months from this chair!), we know some things and we are going to be in a hold phase of "7-10 day" for other answers. There's going to be more emails back-and-forth across the Atlantic in coming days by WMA and others. Then I anticipate a pause until on any more significant news while the emails are processed by various groups and individuals. The main issue that concerns most of you continues to be what will happen with the 30% Lodging deposits. If we have set a drop deadline now, it would seem that it is going to be 17 March.
--> Based on now two written assurances I have this week, we can presume that a bank transfer has been initiated today from the OC to AXCS for the "middle amount" of pre-payments towards AXCS Lodging Balances. Typically in the past it has taken 3-4 business days for international wire transfers to be completed -- assuming that all information was entered correctly (which can be tricky). But if all goes well, then by Thursday, 12th AXCS would be in possession of roughly 70% of your refund-eligible Lodging Package money. Please remember that AXCS does have fixed costs to cover from the past year plus there is a shared cost to everyone on two currency exchanges plus all the various bank transfer and processing fees. But every possible step will be taken to keep these deductions as small as possible. Once we can get those pre-payments back, then it's just a game of waiting out the discussions on the Lodging deposits (the 17 March deadline) plus waiting for remaining financial steps to be completed -- then checks can go in the mail. My updated guess on when you could reasonably hope to see a refund check from AXCS would be the same as many days ago -- probably end of the month or first weeks of April. Note that when we get into that period, I will likely become part of any continued delays due to pre-existing schedule conflicts on my end (work and family). I'm a one-man-show with AXCS and issuing checks to you won't be something easily farmed out.
--> A refund of 50% of entry fees (100 EUR equivalent) to all registered competitors is something that remains very likely. This is currently not a point of disagreement between the various parties. But it is a step that will be held up until some other items and issues are resolved or completed. My hope is that everyone that registered will simply get a refund issued to your credit card directly by Datasport. That would make the process really fast and painless for all of us. But the final decision will be forthcoming on that functional point in coming days/weeks. If I had a guess, the entry fee refund will also take most of the month to complete.
--> It might be until Monday afternoon before you see the next update. Only if I have something worth sharing will I post over the weekend. Take care everyone and stay healthy!
Thursday, March 5 -- 1:55pm PST update
--> This is going to be short for unrelated logistical reasons today. I will have more information tomorrow, but probably not anything concrete until early next week at the earliest.
--> The WMA believes via early communication "smoke signals" that yesterday's government decree is now a game-changing factor in how the refund process will play out. That's the good news. However, the WMA also believes it will probably take a week or two for the local organizers and businesses to figure out how to leverage the decree into actual economic aide that then allows for a very liberal return policy with regards to lodging deposits. So -- hope is now on the horizon, but we also should be prepared for a fairly long unwind of the overall financial situation. My near-term priority remains getting all possible funds outside the 30% deposit back into the AXCS account in short order so that at least I can report to all of you a certain level of known refund to be on your way.
--> In case anyone is wondering, it would be logistically a nightmare for AXCS to try and issue refunds in stages. We really have to know the exact amount of money that is coming back to the group as a whole -- we need all those funds to be in the AXCS account (currency flux is a big part of the loss equation here) -- and only then can I run numbers to know what each of you will see back based on the several dozen different amounts you all paid. But hopefully all this plays out to limit economic cost to all of you as much as possible. More tomorrow...
Wednesday, March 4 -- 3:45pm PST update
--> This could be the piece of the puzzle we all needed (ironically including the OC) to unlock the current questions surrounding MWC financials and get the clean-up process underway. Be sure to note paragraphs 5-6-7.... https://www.cyclingnews.com/news/coronavirus-italian-races-face-cancella...
--> I have fired off a bunch of emails this afternoon trying to get the original text of the full government decree. That documentation is needed to make sure that WMA and AXCS are not missing any details. If the Cycling News translation and article account is correct, then MWC would be the same as the cycling races and having the MWC would now be impossible due to the government restrictions. That becomes a game-changer for the whole situation. It would establish MWC cancellation as not only the only responsible move as of 28 February -- but a brilliantly prescient decision given the MWC would now be impossible right as official training would have begun. Government decree also has the lovely side benefit of offering official cover for the OC as I believe they can now apply for government relief from losses. Don't count your chickens folks -- but this could be big.
--> Diana Lynn Rau sent me this today just before hitting the river regarding TravelGuard claims. (Note that Diana is now "off grid" until 25 March as far as I know. Before anyone asks -- no -- I do not have any magical way to contact her before the 25th, sorry.)
Everyone must file your own individual or family claim - not the travel agent. Since most of the airlines are refunding much of your air costs, don't consider the full value but only the amount you have actually lost on an exchange or refund penalties. Note the circumstances - flights canceled, the USA travel advisory, and the program in Italy canceled due to the logistical challenges when cancelled services made it impossible to travel. People were warned not to come.
Your refund claim is based on the terms of your policy. Written in terms and conditions, the policy states it does not protect against viruses, pandemics, or epidemics but your medical issues. The Corona virus is not considered an unforeseen event.
Only licensed claims adjusters will determine the validity of you claim. Since the call volume at this time is extremely high, we suggest going online at Travelguard.com, click on claims, and click on start your claim. Or simply wait until things calm down a bit. You have a year from date of policy issue to start your claim. Just remember to save all receipts and proof of loss need to support your calculations.
Your refund claim is based on the terms of your policy. Written in terms and conditions, the policy states it does not protect against viruses, pandemics, or epidemics but your medical issues. The Corona virus is not considered an unforeseen event.
Only licensed claims adjusters will determine the validity of you claim. Since the call volume at this time is extremely high, we suggest going online at Travelguard.com, click on claims, and click on start your claim. Or simply wait until things calm down a bit. You have a year from date of policy issue to start your claim. Just remember to save all receipts and proof of loss need to support your calculations.
--> JD's added notes to Diana's note above: I would anticipate that it will take many months before any of you will get a decision about any claims on this trip. I had a very small claim on a June 2019 trip element (<$200 at stake). It took almost half a year to process. So taking your time to file things; taking the time to figure out exactly what your true losses were; and taking the time to read/re-read the policies to find logical points of argument are all smart moves on your part. Further, this is a really messy situation so you will not help yourself if you try and get stuff covered that you know is a stretch. You'll be better off aiming low and just going for the pieces for which you have the strongest case to make.
--> Folks are in bed over in Europe now, so I do not expect another update today. Any news tomorrow will probably be short and sweet because if this is a game-changer it's still going to take another 48 hours for everyone to get details in place of how to move forward.
Wednesday, March 4 -- 11:302am PST update
--> A potentially significant development towards wrapping up the MWC2020 finances may be in the works within the Italian government. This evening (Europe time), the Italian government confirmed schools and universities across the country would be closed 5 - 15 March.
That itself is a fairly big deal as it covers literally the entire official period of the MWC2020. But far more significant is reports of a draft decree that would shut down all public events nationwide. If this takes place -- especially in the next 48 hours -- then it would represent a categorical obstacle should the MWC2020 have taken place. The upshot for all of you would be a much better chance of positive resolution to far more funds returned from the lodging package. Cross your fingers on this one folks!
Tuesday, March 3 -- 8:40pm PST update
--> Not much of note today (Tuesday) except (hopefully) later in the week a bank transfer of at least the middle third of the Lodging funds starting back across the Atlantic. Cross your fingers. Tomorrow probably will again be a day waiting for fresh updates so checking back later in the day should tell that tale. Otherwise please see notes from past few days below.
Monday, March 2 -- 5:55pm PST update
--> Although updates have been quiet on this page, Monday has been another day with a ton of emails going back and forth around the world. The next few days will hopefully produce some concrete results in terms of what I can tell all of you with regards to returns on the Lodging Packages.
--> A couple people have asked about reaching Diana Lynn Rau with rearranging your flights or other trip logistics. Here's the basics of what I've shared with others....What I know is that Diana is driving from Colorado to Grand Canyon today and Tuesday. Email and cell phone would be the only ways to reach her. Email being best because she'll only have limited time to respond to people when she's not driving. If you sent specific written information via email on what you wanted changed on your tickets or other arrangements, Diana has that list and she told me Sunday that her plan was to do what she could when she has cell or wi-fi on the route down to Grand Canyon today and tomorrow — then she was going to try and finish Wednesday morning just before the boat launches. If you get everything to her on what you want done, there’s a decent shot she’ll do it in time (I hope).
--> Tuesday will be a wait-and-see day in terms of seeing what the responses (if any) are back from Europe on various wrap-up items. If I get limited information that will be useful for any of you, it'll be another day where my update will post in the later PM with minimal new info. However, if I get faster word of notable notes -- I'll post earlier.
--> It is very helpful if all of you can keep a little personal log or record of notable international developments related to travel warnings -- flight cancelations or major changes that would have impacted you -- anything of note specific to Americans and Italian travel this week -- and notable notes with the impacts of the virus on logistics that would have been obstacles to the MWC or your own situations. Please do NOT send all this stuff to me at this time! But please keep a little log or file on your own in case it can be useful in the future. It is very possible that some of these notes could help with individual insurance claims. There is also some things that might help AXCS or WMA later on.
--> I again thank folks sending me a variation of the statement below or putting your name on the google sheet if you feel it applies to your situation.
--> This afternoon I have made the final cuts to our reservation and sent word to the OC along with what I hope will be a successful request for refund of the "middle third" of payments back to AXCS (and then back to all of you). Cross your fingers. No small level of sadness in sending that email with all the cancels on it. Truly hit me personally harder than cancelling the event. I will greatly miss seeing all of you and watching your races. But I'm keeping a firm eye on March 2021 in Canmore now as the ultimate pick-me-up :-).
--> If anyone wonders, we had exactly three bookings left on the USA chart in the end today. One USA skier currently lives in Italy so she's going to go ski for a few days. Two other USA skiers have been in Cogne for the past week so they'll stay a bit longer. A final USA couple has been in Italy south of Aosta for several days and will go up to ski for a week. That's it. This virus has done a number on things for sure.
Sunday, March 1 -- 3:30pm PST update
--> Several questions have come in today asking for information and recommendations regarding filing travel insurance claims. Diana Lynn Rau and I chatted briefly this afternoon and here's our collective take on things.
a. First thing to note, with Travel Guard policies you have up to a year to file a claim. There is no particular reward in filing right away. In fact, the way the COVID-19 situation is playing out (expanding in impacts by the day), your claim very well may be boosted by waiting to gather more ammunition for your case. For example, today some flights into Milan have been cancelled. It is likely some more will be cancelled tomorrow. Even more likely more return flights will be cancelled mid-month. It will pay for all of you to pay attention to the airline websites and see if your original flights would have made it to Italy. It will also pay for everyone to monitor by the day the State Department and CDC warning levels. We are at the highest CDC level now. We are at 4 of 5 on the State Department scale. Those types of things can bolster a claim if you can document where the warnings were at when you needed to travel. Yes, it's possible that the worldwide situation could go so far off the rails that if you waited too long then there could be questions about the viability of insurance companies. But if that happens we all have much bigger problems than recovering the costs on this trip.
b. Second, it is likely going to take several weeks for the AXCS lodging picture to be fully clear. If locals play nice in coming days, we'll get a positive answer on the pre-payments being refunded. Then it's a matter of waiting for a bank transfer to be excepted back to the AXCS account. In that best case scenario (yes, we are back to best/worst cases again!), I then have to sit down with all the funds available and figure out the dollar amounts that can be refunded to each person. There are a lot of you that are going to want the most you can get in lodging refunds. An individual calculation has to be made for every person then checks hand written and mailed. Even if I had all our eligible refund money tomorrow, it'd be at least a couple weeks to get all this done. In a worst case scenario where the OC really wants to play a dangerous game, the scenarios get so complicated that the timeline just goes on and on. I'm just coming to grips with how complex all of this is and will continue to be in coming weeks. So I beg all of you for as much patience as you can muster.
c. Third, all insurance claims involving lodging package amounts will require some type of letter from AXCS certifying non-refundable amounts. Getting claims honored for flights or other travel elements Diana arranges will require a letter from her on the pieces you are claiming. Diana and I realized after chatting today that the wording on these letters has to be very carefully constructed. Simply filing an insurance claim just because the MWC2020 was cancelled may not get you a positive outcome. Similarly, almost all policies will not cover a pandemic and they specifically will not cover just being concerned about health or logistical issues.. There has to be specific language in the claim that establishes your rights to coverage and getting that perfect language or argument together is the trick. Right now neither Diana nor I have those perfect answers. But in coming weeks we might.
d. Best recommendation that Diana and I can offer is that everyone sit tight on trying to file claims until the end of March. One way or another, by then I'll know how much lodging package money can be recovered. We'd know exactly how all the air situation played out. We'd know all the warning levels over the trip span. There's just a better chance of getting common language on your various claim letters that could get a positive result if we analyze this awhile. Finally, I'm going to add something that Diana and I didn't chat about. There is a lot of smart folks in this contingent. Some of you have offered to help in any way you can. It could be awfully helpful if some of you could open up that nifty fine print for travel insurance policies, maybe poke around on-line for ideas -- and see if you can come up with suggested common language that could bolster insurance claims on this trip.
--> In addition to sending me a simple version of the statement below, I have set up a google sheet so that you can just put your name in the chart and then do a simple "I agree" with a basic statement much simpler than the version below....
--> Or you can do the statement route if you don't mind writing a short/sweet email:
I am asking ALL of you to help with something that could help recover some of your deposit value -- but for certain this will help shield WMA (and the future of the MWC event itself) from legal shenanigans. I need to collect as many statements from as many skiers as possible that says that you would not have traveled to Northern Italy this week had the MWC2020 still gone ahead as planned. I'll point out that anyone getting on a plane at this point from the USA would have run counter to a Level 3 (out of 3) Travel Warning from the CDC. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/warning/coronavirus-italy and a Level 4 (out of 4) Warning from the US State Department about travel to Lombardy (the region Milan is in so all transit via Milan-Malpensa or the train stations would have involved this exact region.
Please note that we only want to collect the legitimate feelings of as many skiers as possible as of this moment in time (when most of us would have been traveling or almost ready to go). If you are over in Cogne already or know you would have gone if the MWC had gone forward, obviously this statement doesn't apply. We do not want you to give a false statement of any type.
You can make this statement as simple as this example (please feel free to put this in your own words):
"I _____your name(s)_____ was booked for lodging in Cogne, Italy by my USA national masters association for the MWC2020 event. Due to extreme health and logistical risks and the current Level 3 warning from the USA Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I hereby certify that I would not have elected to travel to the MWC2020 this week even if the event had not been cancelled. I believe the cancellation of the MWC2020 was a positive protective measure on behalf of my health, safety, and welfare." Please put your name(s), date the note, and email to jd at xcskiworld dot com.
Sunday, March 1 -- 9:30am PST update
--> For a morning update, I'll just say that all the items below that I posted last night are in progress as you see them. A couple USA folks have already sent in the little statements I mentioned last night that could help AXCS and WMA. Some of you already sent emails last week that would serve the same purpose. So I'll try and assemble a list of names where I have some documentation that will help AXCS and WMA protect against continued negative actions or reactions from the former organizers. I will also try and create a very simple checklist where those of you lacking time to write a little notice can just check a box that gives me the data points I need for the same purpose.
--> This is a final notice for anyone that still intends to travel to Cogne, Italy in the coming days and wanted to still stay in your original hotel bookings (all or part). By this evening Pacific time I will give formal notice to the OC of all the rooms that we need to cancel unless I had prearranged something with you. So that everyone realizes the equation on this, we have exactly one (1) couple that is confirmed with their original reservations. I am now waiting for decisions on a grand total of four (4) additional people spread over (maybe) up to three bookings. So unless a bunch of you suddenly rush emails to me today, we'll have a tiny percentage of the original USA booking heading over. That situation is precisely why the OC and hotels are being so difficult. This is a true economic emergency on their end. I get that, I think we all do. But at the same time, there are some things going on that are improper and other things that could be downright illegal (US, Italian or EU laws). I continue to hope for the best in the unwinding process.
--> Final morning note -- I have already reached out to one member of the erstwhile Team USA contingent for MWC2020 that has a legal background. For anyone in the group that similarly has a legal background or if you have close friends/family that would possibly be willing to be part of an ad hoc, pro bono Legal Advisory Committee on behalf of the USA contingent and AXCS -- please shoot me a quick note. I am very, very, very hopeful that nothing will transpire in coming days that requires legal action by any party. The big goal for the week is to try and get some reasonable formal agreements in place, recovery of as much of your money as possible, and move on towards Canmore MWC2021. But I want to be prepared if this really gets ugly simply because of the amount of YOUR money that is involved in a couple of these steps. Thank you in advance.
Saturday, February 29 -- 10:30pm PST update
--> I currently have very, very few names as possibly wanting to still stay in Cogne for all or part of your original MWC booking. If you do want me to still set up your booking, you have until Sunday at noon Pacific time to confirm via email exactly what you want me to do. Otherwise I'll be assuming I need to put everyone in the recover-as-much-value-as-I-can pile.
--> News as of Saturday isn't honestly isn't the best from local organizers and hotels in terms of their cooperation or even friendliness on working out a mutually-agreeable wrap-up of this event cancellation. The short version is that WMA is going to have a lot of difficult discussions and communications in days ahead. Unfortunately we all (WMA, National Directors, and ultimately all of you) do not have a whole lot of leverage with recovering 30% of the actual lodging booking costs. I've only got a few moves left in the chess match as it were -- and these last moves are somewhat of a Hail Mary. As WMA President, I literally typed up my latest proposal while coming back from the family journey (I was not driving at the time, don't worry). I'm running that proposal past the WMA Executive tonight (their Sunday morning). If all goes well I'll have it on computers in Cogne as of Monday morning their time.
--> WMA does have considerably more leverage to help guarantee rightful (and currently non-disputable) recovery of another 35-40% of the USA pre-payments. As your representative, that amount is actually my first priority to recover. Hopefully very soon as it would ease tensions for all involved and make the deposit negotiations less complicated. As mentioned previously in my notes, AXCS has another 30-35% of USA billing amounts in our bank account and as much as possible of those funds will be refunded less AXCS expenses.
Friday, February 28 -- 2:15pm PST update
--> Note below added about almost all bus fares are now refunded to Team USA folks as of Friday afternoon.
--> Remember that there likely won't be many or any updates until perhaps very late Saturday night (Pacific) due to my family commitments in that span. I think it is very likely it's going to take most of the weekend to get firm answers out of the Cogne OC and hotel owners on what the story is going to be with the lodging deposits anyways.
--> Please follow steps below if you are for sure not traveling OR you are for sure going ahead with travel. Take care. Wash your hands and follow good hygiene practices on either side of the Atlantic!
Friday, February 28 -- 9:45am PST update
--> Hi again everyone -- The MWC2020 event is now officially cancelled. I could give you the official statement, but I think you all have the full picture by now. It is very regrettable. I'm personally bummed beyond words. But it's better to focus on the next steps and move on to more positive things at this point.
--> WMA still is in negotiations with the OC over the terms related to paid hotel deposits on all lodging packages. It's a very sticky situation, but the upshot to all of you is that WMA is trying now to preserve value of the deposits towards stays in the Cogne hotels at a future date. If we can get that part worked out, all of you in the AXCS Lodging Package will essentially have a credit (with terms and conditions attached) for a portion of what you paid to AXCS.
--> For any skiers already in Cogne or on the way or determined to go to Italy and ski the next couple weeks regardless of the MWC2020 cancellation -- to the best of my knowledge your hotel reservations are currently still fully in place and will remain so until the OC and WMA fully work out details of this cancellation. So anyone that still wishes to stay some nights in Cogne (there is good snow I'm told), I need to know latest by Sunday morning (March 1) what your exact plans are and I will pass on word to the OC. The upside of someone going ahead with a stay is that you can preserve all or a great deal of your paid value without worrying about how things shake out between the hotels, OC, and WMA. You can easily change nights now if you wish (but your pricing still depends on a minimum of 5 nights stay). Because all the hotels now will have minimal occupancy, you also could presumably change hotels if you want. But note that I'm sure some hotels may go to minimal staffing levels so we'd have to know for sure what hotels are still going to be open for business and for what nights.
--> For everyone that is going to pull out of the trip now that the event is officially cancelled, see my notes below on the various steps you need to follow. I will try and clean the wording up to be less confusing now that we are in an official MWC2020 cancellation situation. Please remember that both myself and Diana Lynn Rau will be out of our respective offices later this afternoon thru Saturday evening. So messages will be very delayed in that span. Sunday is going to be a better day to get caught up with either one of us on details of unwinding this entire situation.
Step 1.) Decide right now if you still want to go to Italy now that MWC2020 is officially cancelled. Note that you can still go over to Europe, but it may or may not be best to just avoid Italy (simply to avoid complications with the virus stuff). It'd just be down to how easily/cheaply you can change tickets. Delta and United tickets can be changed right now largely without fees. Lufthansa is now cancelling flights so you should have an out with them. Other airlines are case-by-case. If Diana Lynn Rau booked your tickets, you need to EMAIL Diana (do not call) and say in writing that you still want to go to Italy/Europe no matter what -- then list any modifications you want to make. Remember my note above that all of you do have the option to still keep your hotel reservations in Cogne (all or part of your booking window). So you can still go to Cogne and ski (snow is good) no matter what. But tell me by Sunday exactly how you want to configure your reservation now that the MWC2020 is cancelled.
Step 2a.) If Diana Lynn Rau booked your airline tickets -- you need to EMAIL Diana (do not call) to confirm that you want a full cancellation of your air tickets or any changes Diana needs it in writing that you have decided to cancel your MWC tickets. Her plan is to tackle the big pile of ticket changes/cancellations all day/all night Sunday. Note for those that booked with Diana, she is on the road with limited on-line access both Monday/Tuesday so this all has to happen this weekend.
Added 11:05am: For those that booked air tickets with Diana Lynn Rau, she is going to automatically cancel all air bookings that she made for people as of Saturday AM unless you contact her IN WRITING with alternative plans or changes!
Step 2b.) If you booked your own tickets, your options and requirements of what's next depend on your airline. If you are on Delta or United tickets, go to the airline sites and you can see your options.
If you are on another airline ticket, you need to contact that airline. Now that the MWC2020 is officially cancelled and if you have travel insurance, you can apply for relief from travel insurance. Just be careful to say in your claim that the event was cancelled due to unexpected and unavoidable complications and risks with the event organizers -- do not say anything about COVID-19 coronavirus.
Step 3.) UPDATED Friday afternoon -- I have completed refunding almost all the bus fares paid by USA skiers directly back to your credit cards. There are a few more folks that I need had credits from lodging applied to bus fares that I need to figure out details on. This one part of the equation we'll have completely refunded by Monday. :-)
Step 3.)I (JD) will automatically start working on refunds for all Cogne lodging packages as per the notes above regarding negotiations with hotels and preserving as much value as possible Right now the only people that will need to contact me about Cogne lodging are anyone that still intend to stay in Cogne at your hotel for all or part of the original MWC booking in the next two weeks. Everyone else I'm assuming you are not going to be near Cogne, Italy in the next two weeks so I need to figure out how to get as much of your money back as possible. I'm on it. Please sit tight and I will keep you as informed as possible as I wade thru this sludge (I know that sounds graphic, but it honestly feels like the situation this morning).
Step 4.) I (JD) will have information for you in the coming 10 days about the 50% refund of entry fees. Most likely the funds will be returned in a lump sum direct to AXCS and then I will need to combine those refunds with lodging package refunds. But no one has to do anything on this step. I know who you all are and I have your addresses. It just could take awhile due to working out the financials with the lodging packages.
Thursday, February 27 -- 11:15am PST update
--> The Engadin Ski Marathon cancelled today the entire week of activities.
This is a significant development as it puts even more pressure on the WMA, the OC, and local/regional Italian authorities with regards to a decision about whether to proceed with the MWC2020. But as we enter mid-evening Cogne time on Thursday -- there is no immediate changes to all the Wednesday updates as yet.
--> What I can say is that the WMA Executive has put in the entire morning today on very specific questions and points between ourselves and also now directly to the OC in Cogne. We have raised literally every point that has been raised by all of you, by myself, and by National Directors worldwide. The biggest issues now are for certain not health-related. The virus is a legit concern particularly to select members of our worldwide MWC family. But the overwhelming concerns are logistical and economic in nature. WMA remains trapped, but we are doing everything possible to make sure that the OC and local/regional authorities fully understand the wide range of extended issues surrounding the MWC2020 if we move forward with the event. Ironically we have far less unknowns if there was an official cancellation.
--> I can also say that as WMA President I'm going to be having a preliminary chat with a key OC official within the hour and then I may be involved in a teleconference in the middle of the night upcoming. If it happens, that teleconference will provide a definitive answer of some type on the event status.
--> For sure stop by later today for more notes. Absolutely stop by mid-morning Friday as that could be super helpful notes. -- JD.
Wednesday, February 26 -- 6:15pm PST update
--> News Item #1: The WMA and OC were able to negotiate a "worst case agreement" that would get all skiers deposit and pre-payments back for lodging should the MWC2020 have to cancel due to authorities shutting down the event. This is both great news and also not-so-great. On the great side, if the worst case emerges in coming days then AXCS can get the lion's share of the AXCS lodging packages back and eventually refunded to you. On the not-so-great side, the agreement requires the event to be shut down by an official entity at this point. The WMA can't just walk in and say "hey, this isn't happening, let's call it". Literally, I can't do that even with the awesome level of Presidential power that comes with being a volunteer in a tiny international non-profit. So we are stuck at the moment with the ability to get lodging refunds, but it can only happen if there is enough of a problem to actually warrant shutting down the event.
--> Big caveat to news Item #1: For anyone that opts out of the MWC before there is an official declaration that the event is cancelled for official reasons, you cannot get a refund. For this reason, I am going to be ultra-careful about who I say is abandoning the trip early. If I say that Mr. John Smith is cancelling as of Thursday -- at that point the OC can rightfully claim 100% of the billing due and there would be no refund even if the event was cancelled on Saturday. The problem is that at some point I have to show our cards because assuming we get on planes next week and I need to pay final bills on arrival, I'm going to also try and reshuffle some rooms to maximize benefits and minimize costs for various people both in and out of the trip at that point. So basically this poker match that your loyal National Director never imagined this year becoming.
--> News Item #2: The WMA and OC have agreed to a 50% refund of all entry fees should the MWC2020 have to cancel due to authorities shutting down the event. See above discourse for why this is a mixed blessing situation.
--> News Item #3: This one is actually an emerging positive development for those that are thinking you want escape route. As of this evening, if you have a ticket on Delta you can modify, change, or cancel for credit your ticket for flights in/out of Milan-Malpensa thru March 15.
Depending on how long the virus situation takes to play out, the smart money says that window is going to extend as at mid-day today the window was only thru 2 March. This means that if you are on Delta and have a flight sequence within the March 15 window, you can contact Delta at any point and modify, change, cancel with full credit and no fees. I have checked United's site and Lufthansa's tonight and I do not see a similar policy in place -- yet. But if you look at the seats for United/Lufthansa March 4 arrival right now, you can see the Lufthansa flight from Newark to Milan is only half full. Today British Air already started cancelling and consolidating flights because of half full planes. My guess -- and this is only a guess -- is that all airlines will need to cut their losses soon on flights to Northern Italy the first half of March. Thus many flights may be cancelled on all airlines which provides a measure of flexibility to many of you in coming days as we wait this out.
--> OK, that's all good stuff to know, but what about the event status?
As of Wednesday, very little from Tuesday has changed on the stuff that impacts MWC. The alpine World Cup in La Thuile near Mont Blanc remains "on". Everyone is still in wait and see throughout the Pietmont region. No new cases have appeared in the Aosta Valley. Cogne remains clean. Numerous isolated virus cases have appeared throughout Europe today from people that "were in Milan recently". But Milan is a big metro area and there is nothing in these reports that actually indicates how any of these new cases likely were contracted. Context matters a lot. As of Wednesday 10pm PST, the total Italian case count has breached 400 -- the assumption being that most new cases are in the quarantine areas, but there's scant word on that.
Going into Thursday, the MWC2020 is still officially "go". As WMA President I fired off about 100 emails today trying to get every possible angle on what can or should be done to improve the position of our athletes, the OC, and our National Directors. The bottom line....
a. The OC wants to hold this event unless they are told not to by someone that has power to tell them not to. Those at every level of power in Northern Italy are doing everything they can to maintain a sense of normalcy as there are billions on the line for the Italian tourism industry and general economy the longer this plays out.
b. All MWC athletes are in a very difficult spot because you face financial penalties if you opt out. But if you attend the MWC2020, then you are rolling the dice somewhat due to worries over extend quarantines.
c. WMA is in a no-win situation. We cannot arbitrarily cancel the event without actually hurting athletes. If we go forward, we know already there are some people that cannot attend at all an still others that are opting out voluntarily because of one or the other previously-stated risks.
d. WMA has requested the OC and local authorities honor a deadline of Saturday, 29 February to make an official announcement that would allow WMA to determine if the MWC2020 is happening or not. I'm guessing that deadline will be met one way or another. But it's more likely to be met with a "sure, we are still go with the MWC2020 -- but note that things could change at a moment's notice because we can't control what the virus does". The latter part is the gut punch of truth and there is nothing at all that WMA can do about it.
--> I have found a couple media pieces that are somewhat useful in terms of practical advice for this situation so I'll link them here....
Tuesday, February 25 -- 4:45pm PST update
--> I'm pretty certain by now all of you are intensely following media reports so I'll skip doing daily summaries on the overall situation reported to the public since you probably have read most of the same stuff.
--> The OC is meeting overnight our time (morning Wednesday in Cogne) with local health authorities and government officials to go over the current situation. Results of that meeting will be reported to the WMA Executive by morning Pacific time. But it is likely we won't have significant news pro/con if there continues to be a middle ground between really best case (little to no new cases of the virus in Northern Italy) and worst case (more clusters pushing even more quarantines and government restrictions).
--> AXCS, OC, WMA all are continuing the planning process as if there was no virus in the equation. The snow remains quite good. Weather favorable. Organizational pieces going into place.
--> An interesting parallel situation is taking place maybe 30km west as a crow flies from Cogne. La Thuile near Mont Blanc is scheduled to host alpine World Cups this weekend. Those events are currently "on" -- but I can guarantee you that organizers (including FIS) and health/government authorities are in hourly contact. The Aosta Valley is still either free of virus cases officially -- that's the word I have from the OC this morning. But the unknowns remain unknown with all events in the north at this time.
--> The WMA Executive is pushing quite hard (yes, I have to be THAT guy as President) for the OC to come back to us with their position statement on hotel refunds if the worst case scenario happens by next week. That hotel refund issue is by far the biggest on-the-ground financial risk if there was a cancellation to all skiers (not just USA) and I'm just going to grind away until we get an answer.
--> I'll say with a heavy dose of political cover at work that there will be no announcements on entry fees until we know for 100% certainty that we are "go" or "not go". But honestly that is a much smaller amount of money at risk than the hotel payments.
--> The USA bus transport equation actually is a determining factor in the emerging drop deadline for an early decision on whether MWC2020 can happen or not. AXCS has to give notice to the bus company a certain span of time (typically 24-48 hours) ahead of any bus booking. So tonight (Wednesday morning in Europe) AXCS will be sending our latest bus list over to Cogne and pushing yet again for all specifics on the bus arrival logistics. The OC and I will determine in those emails the drop deadline -- which will then become a marking point for when we have to know whether MWC2020 has a reasonable chance of taking place (or not). I'll say again that refunding most of, or all of bus money is relatively simple. But I will add that if a substantial number of you decide to opt out of the trip and the MWC2020 goes forward, it becomes trickier as costs have to be rebalanced to new bus numbers.
--> There are at this time a few USA folks that are already opting out of the trip. That has been anticipated and I am sure that there are more of you uncertain what to do. A big part of writing these updates is to provide as much as I can offer in terms of information for personal decisions. Whereas some of you will be game to go as long as the flights get off the ground. If you are in a grey area, right now I would argue it is smart to continue your pre-trip planning as long as you possibly can before you need to reach a decision. There are indeed scenarios where this turns around in a hurry for the positive. That said, I will not hide from the fact that there are legitimate reasons to opt out.
--> If you do reach a decision to pull the plug with the MWC still "go", please note that there is almost nothing I can do immediately to explore trying to extract any value from your trip. If the MWC2020 happens, AXCS will have very little power to extract value from the hotel packages. With the bus rides, there is a lot of math and communication with a slow-to-respond OC that will be needed in a short span of time. It is entirely possible I might not be able to get answers to you until well after the trip. So your patience and understanding is greatly appreciated.
--> Now to something that I'm obligated as your USA National Director to point out. One of the USA contingent correctly brought up this afternoon something I've been working on the past 24 hours. In a scenario that MWC2020 is game on as of this weekend and we all get over there to get skiing, there are potential situations that could arise that literally have nothing to do with anyone of us contracting the virus. There have been examples in just the past 24 hours where people were put under containment controls just for being in possible contact with a person with a confirmed case of the virus. Further, there have been requested self-quarantines for folks returning home from Italy (UK and Ireland). If these instances turn out to be outliers and we don't see a lot of repeat situations over the next few days -- then one could presume the "guilt-by-going-to-Italy" element won't be a big issue for the subsequent two weeks. But this is something the WMA Executive is putting into the equation.
--> And finally ..... Today I have been in communication with a UC Davis fellow alumni who is directly involved in coordinating responses to COVID-19 in Asia. I reached out to this contact and ran the big and little picture by them about our situation. A couple things in our emails jump out that I want to share to make sure I am giving all of you the most accurate picture I can as this is a truly the most bizarre situation I've ever encountered in 46 years of Nordic skiing.
a. On the positive side, my contact agreed that as athletes you are all a strong demographic that would be less likely to be vulnerable to the worst COVID-19 can dish out. Being at higher altitude in Cogne also helps as UV is a great defense with viruses. But it was pointed out that non-racing spouses, those of you M/F10+ skiers or anyone with med conditions that you simply race thru because you are awesome need to more carefully weigh your exposure risks.
b. Washing hands has long been a golden standard in the AXCS mandate to help skiers stay healthy. But my contact gave an expanded recommendation to not only bump up from 20 seconds to 30 seconds robust washing plus washing your hands before AND after using the toilet.
c. Ditch the masks over long periods. The value to the healthy is very low and there actually is some risk you can create new issues. In a tight space (planes) maybe helpful, but otherwise not so much. But if you are sick, the masks can help temporarily spread droplets so there is value there.
d. COVID-19 is largely as I've painted, a parallel virus to influenza. It's not established yet to be milder nor more dangerous than influenza. There are clear differences between what the virus is doing in different parts of the world. That could be due to response times and awareness or it could be something else. 80% of the cases outside of the Wuhan outbreak are considered mild.
e. A bit more unsettling was this tidbit -- The incubation period for COVID-19 is uncertain within the expert pool worldwide. Right now the best public info is saying 3-8 days. But there are suspicions within the lab and medical groups working on the virus that the actual incubation period could be as long as 21-24 days before becoming symptomatic.
Monday, February 24 -- 10:45pm PST update
Coronavirus COVID-19 Situation (notes from AXCS National Director JD Downing)
Updates for Monday.....
--> As of Monday evening, the CDC has increased the travel advisory for Italy to a "Level 2" out of 3. Mostly this change involves a recommendation for older adults and those with chronic medical conditions to consider postponing nonessential travel. Our contingent would be well above the fitness and health levels the CDC is most concerned about. But a few of you may want to have a talk with your medical professionals this week to determine your best course of action. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/alert/coronavirus-italy
--> Although today there were increases in confirmed cases of virus in the quarantined areas and some more deaths of people with the virus -- the overall situation remained relatively calm. Italian authorities generally were subdued today in issuing new controls. It would appear they are letting the situation play out with controls already in place.
--> Because this is a virus and the phrase "going viral" literally is based on how viruses tend to spread, it would be unrealistic to expect zero word of new confirmed cases in the coming days or weeks. This is true both in Italy, greater Europe, and also in North America. Global experts are being quoted daily as noting this virus will continue to spread worldwide for the time being. The real key seems to be limiting the spread and isolating cases quickly so that there isn't a need for massive reaction by authorities, businesses, population groups that then has a huge knock-on impact on daily life. Somewhere in the mix of daily life would be travel to/from and enjoying the MWC2020.
--> Careful readers of media reports will have noted that 100% of the fatalities in Italy thus far have involved people with significant pre-existing health conditions and all were "elderly". I do realize that for some of you, the "elderly" demographic might feel too close to home. But anyone signing up for the MWC2020 is typically not the most vulnerable demographic not only for coronavirus but also influenza. You all are much healthier and tougher than a "normal" person in your same shoes :-). It is also notable that the expansion of confirmed cases listed by media reports does not differentiate between mild or even asymptomatic cases and series cases were medical attention is required. As with influenza and other winter viruses circulating this very minute in your home town, there's a massive difference between a "confirmed case" where someone barely knows that they even have a particular bug and someone else that really comes down with it hard.
--> Hysteria backed off a few notches in media reports and reactions from surrounding nations. Austria is watching trains for anyone with cold/flu symptoms. France has stated they have no intention to close the border as it would not likely not help. Switzerland continues to watch and wait. One notable item is that the Engadin Ski Marathon is now issuing exactly the same type of wait and see notices as that which the World Masters Association is doing. Engadin is almost the exact same distance from the quarantine areas as Cogne. ESM2020 events are slated for all next week so that event will be a litmus test for the MWC in literally all respects.
--> For our part, World Masters Association (WMA) and the local Organizing Committee (OC) have put into place a task force plan of daily communication and discussion on both best and worst case scenarios. We are all taking this situation very seriously and we are monitoring every possible source of reliable information to guide all actions, decisions, plans, you name it. The OC reports they are in constant contact with local health authorities and civil protection. There are no cases of infected people in the region. There are no government restrictions on travel in the region.
--> A few Canadian skiers arrived today into Turin airport and other than being screened for fever, reported zero problems or complications. These skiers also reported snow conditions are great in Cogne with more snow forecasted for later in the week.
--> AXCS has consulted with long-time travel agent Diana Lynn Rau who has, in turn, been in contact with travel insurance companies as to "what if" the virus and government reactions expand in coming days/weeks to cause havoc with the MWC2020. An advisory notice from AIG can be found by scrolling to the bottom of this page. The shorter version I can parse out of this notice is as follows:
a. If any skier elects not to travel and there has not been an official cancellation of the MWC due to government-mandated restrictions -- it may prove challenging to get travel insurance to cover your losses. The one exception would be if you can establish a personal medical hardship that overrules the risk of travel (still tricky, but possible).
b. By comparison, if the situation worsened and there were government-mandated restrictions that ultimately did lead to the MWC being abandoned -- a case could potentially be made that your reason for travel was eliminated if the event was cancelled. The sequence of steps leading to that situation not being relevant. So in that case anyone with travel insurance may have success with claims on any value we couldn't recover for things like hotels and entry fees. AXCS doesn't guarantee you would be home free, but it's reasonable to think there's a way to make a claim stick.
c. With or without travel insurance Diana agrees that the only way the airlines are going to refund money is if the situation around Milan worsened to the point that flights were cancelled by either the airlines or government authorities. Flights cancelled would typically be subject to refunds or credits so that would be a big relief. By comparison, if the situation isn't getting bad enough that flights are impacted (rumors yesterday about the Milan airport were totally overblown), airlines are almost certain not going to refund tickets and travel insurance will be a tough nut to crack as per above notes.
--> In terms of the AXCS Travel Package, there are three worst case scenario financial exposure points for our USA contingent for which AXCS will hopefully have contingency plans in place within 48 hours. As always -- this is following the principle of "hope for the best, but plan for the worst".
a. Payments for bus transfer rides -- this is the easiest situation to unwind should we have to. Because all of you are paying on-line with PayPal, if the worst case came about, AXCS would be able to directly refund back to your credit card unused bus ride payments. The only limitation we are under is that once we get within a certain time frame to March 4 or 14 (days of travel) -- we all become responsible for the cost of the bus. We would be bailed out if authorities mandated that the buses could not be used (similar to airline cancellations).
b. Race entries -- in the worst case, this probably can be resolved in skier favor. WMA and the OC need to complete our discussions about worst case scenarios to be sure. But contractually there is reason to believe we could get skiers mostly refunded if the MWC2020 was forced to be abandoned by government actions.
c. Hotel payments -- this is the trickiest financial exposure for our skiers. Again, a lot more will be determined out of WMA and the OC discussions about worst case scenarios. Speculation would not be helpful on this one so I'll limit comments now to "stay tuned".
Below I've updated or clarified a few things from yesterday.....
Most of the information that WMA and OC are aware as is the same as what you can find on various media reports. There is a significant cluster of coronavirus COVID-19 cases in about a dozen villages southeast of Milan and also apparently another cluster closer to Venice. The emergence of these clusters has happened quickly enough that the Italian government had their hands forced to act quickly. The villages southeast of Milan are "locked down" in a form of large scale quarantine. Best that I can determine, the nearest cluster is roughly 250km away from Cogne.
There are no cases anywhere in or really near the Aosta Valley and certainly nothing reported in Cogne.
As a preventative measure, Milan took action over the weekend to reduce large gatherings of people including cancellations of sporting events, fashion week events, and other gatherings. Schools from throughout the northern third of Italy are going to take the week off (this is first-hand knowledge gained Sunday from the WMA translator Claudine who teaches and has young children in the Aosta Valley).
Austria stopped one train from Italy due to worries over a couple passengers with cold/flu symptoms. Same situation with one bus going to France. Other than that, travel remains open and flowing.
WMA and the OC are in daily communication specific to this issue and other pre-Worlds items. Right now everyone in Cogne is hoping for the best and yet also aware they need plans for the worst. So this is really fresh and fluid at the moment.
OK, so what's the best case and worst case for the MWC?
Best case scenario is that the current lock down works in terms of limiting new confirmed cases to the quarantined areas and greater Milan and Turin and the entire northwest of Italy stays "relatively clean" of new cases all this week. If we get to next weekend with that situation holding, it is very unlikely that the Italian government would have any reason to expand lock down areas or expand event suspensions. Certainly no one in Italy wants airports or hotels or restaurants or anything else locked down a moment longer than necessary or expanded to more areas (especially tourism areas). So the best case scenario is "game on" -- we can fly in without issues -- we can get to Cogne without issues -- great skiing and fun is had by all.
Worst case scenario is that a number of new cases of the virus appear in Milan itself or into the northwest corner of Italy. If that happens, the Italian government is almost certain to expand quarantine zones, travel restrictions, and event suspensions. MWC2020 would then very quickly have to be suspended.
In case anyone wonders -- it would not do any good to postpone the MWC2020 because there's no way of knowing how long this virus could spread and we'd get into dicey snow situations.
Now in the worst case scenario, there are a lot of ways this can go. Research and discussions are on-going between WMA and the OC to answer the key "what if" questions. Please stay tuned.
The OC and WMA will continue daily planning for MWC2020 just like I am doing in the AXCS "office" until we have word we simply can't move forward. My trip priority remains getting bus transport 100% finalized. But this new wrinkle is going to take up a ton of additional time.
If I learn anything that points 100% to "yes the MWC is happening for sure" or "no the MWC is not going to happen for sure" then you'll know within the hour. A quick decision would be great either way. But it's more likely that we are going to have to ride this out with a level of uncertainty for at least a day or three.
I have done a fair bit of extra reading into the virus today and all that I have found from the most "non-hysterical" web sources confirms what I thought I knew before all this. Namely that this is a virus that statistically is not proven to be more deadly or disruptive to humans than annual influenza or other viruses that can blossom into nasty secondary infections which skiers around the world battle to avoid every single winter. This virus can spread fast in certain situations so that is a worry. This virus can become a real danger to certain people, but it also can be something you hardly even aware you have hosted. We don't know yet all that we should about COVID-19 and that uncertainty is for sure fueling a lot of the media and government attention. But in Italy right now I can guarantee all of you that there are tens of thousands of influenza cases (some very serious) versus perhaps a couple hundred cases of Corona virus. None of us would be freaking out about travel to a ski destination during known cold/flu season even though the risks from influenza and other viruses are substantial. So really the situation going forward depends more on government reaction and location of new cases than any cold, hard statistical realities of actual risk to us or others.