Sledding and skiing in Prague: What is allowed and where can you go?

Record snowfall has led to a flurry of outdoor fun across Prague's public parks; learn the rules for safely participating in winter activties during COVID.

Tom Lane

Written by Tom Lane Published on 10.02.2021 13:37:00 (updated on 07.12.2021) Reading time: 5 minutes

The recent record snowfall in Prague has brought about a flurry of outdoor activity with inhabitants of the Czech capital spotted sledding down landmark hills and gliding across the Charles Bridge on cross-country skis.

But while all this winter weather makes for a great photo opp and good fun to boot, Tuesday saw police expel snowy-weather thrill-seekers from off-limit areas in Prague. With schoolchildren gearing up for a break and parents longing for a distraction, what's the final word on outdoor winter activities in the Czech Republic during COVID?

Sledding, snowboarding, and downhill skiing in urban spaces

Following an incident where police stopped kids from sledding on Prague's Petřín hill yesterday, it was widely reported that the slope is one of many places where tobogganing or skiing are prohibited by a city ordinance, not COVID restrictions.

Prague City Hall took to Facebook Tuesday to confirm that certain areas are indeed off-limits, writing "Snowy Prague encourages winter fun with your children. Just be advised that the municipal decree prohibits skiing or sledding at certain places in our city, for example in some parts of Petrin, Kampa, Vojan orchards, or the Franciscan gardens."

Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib told ČTK Tuesday that the management of Prague intends to change the city ordinance which prohibits sledding and cross-country skiing in parks and gardens. In the meantime, Prague City Hall issued a statement clarifying that it is possible to do winter sports in the Czech capital and explaining how people can do so without breaking any rules.

"Based on one accidental and unfortunate incident on Petřín, an erroneous debate has erupted that tobogganing and bobsledding are forbidden in Prague. Of course, tobogganing in Prague is possible and … thanks to its rugged terrain, Prague offers ideal conditions for winter fun, not only tobogganing and bobsledding but also cross-country skiing,” said Petr Hlubuček, Deputy Mayor for Safety and the Environment.

He added that, "In the historically valuable city parks such as on Petřín, in Stromovka and in Letenské sady, due to the protection of greenery, a special place is reserved for sledding and bobsledding," but suggested Divoká Šárka, Hostivař Forest Park, Kunratice Forest, and other localities outside the city as ideal for winter sports.

Downhill skiing and snowboarding, however, are not allowed due to the decree on the protection of public greenery. Tobogganing and bobsledding sites in central city parks are clearly marked with pictograms and a map outline. An overview can be found on the website of the park and forest department. It goes without saying that following hygiene restrictions, such as social distancing, wearing a mask when necessary, and frequent handwashing is a must.

TIP: The CAMP blog of the Institute for Urban Planning in Prague has also released some tips for where to go sledding in the Czech capital (safely and legally).

Here's the lowdown on some other popular winter activities and how they fit into both the current COVID restrictions and public parks rules:

Ice skating rinks

The current advice from the COVID Portal website says that all indoor and outdoor sports venues, including skating rinks, should now be closed. An exception remains for professional athletes who are preparing for future events and can train in indoor and outdoor sports fields. It is still possible to skate on natural surfaces (ponds, lakes, etc.). During such skating activities, take care to observe hygiene rules, such as washing hands, wearing a mask, and social distancing.

Hiking and cross-country skiing

The pandemic has seen a surge of interest in cross-country skiing both in Prague and beyond due to the closure of mountain resorts. Hiking and cross-country skiing on Czech trails is still allowed but of course, all hygiene rules must be observed (during sports such as skiing there is an exception for wearing masks, but keeping a distance of at least two meters from others is essential).

Outdoor parks and play areas

Visiting a park or play area is allowed and getting fresh air during lockdown is recommended. But according to the govt. directive, people should go to the park in groups of two maximum. More than that is prohibited. Exceptions are people living in the same household (so a family of four can visit a playground). Contact with other people should be avoided and a 2-meter distance maintained. Wearing a mask during your visit to the park or playground is recommended as is washing hands thoroughly when you return home. Officials also remind people that it is forbidden to visit the parks and other public spaces after the curfew time of 9 p.m.

Traveling to national parks and mountain resorts

Earlier this month in a press release the Health Ministry said that the risk of coronavirus infection is higher in the mountains than in other areas of the Czech Republic. There are a higher relative numbers of the newly infected in the border areas, especially those with mountain resorts, the ministry said.

The Czech Association of Mountain Resorts said it is misleading to label the border mountain areas as high-risk for the spread of the epidemic because of tourism. So what's the final verdict on heading to the Czech mountains over break?

Ski lifts and cableways in the mountains remained closed to skiers and also to hikers based on the government COVID restrictions. Restaurants and hotels must be closed for the public and can only accommodate those who work there, being on business trips, for example (during the last round of government restrictions, a crackdown on travel agencies allowing "business trips" for families was announced).

Following the last round of restrictions, it was also announced that cable cars and ski lifts can no long transport hikers and pedestrians. As holiday seekers continue to stream into Czech mountain destinations, many without observing hygiene precautions, the health ministry continues to recommend avoiding regional travel.

TIP: The website also has specific information about how to enjoy winter sports and other leisure time activities in the Czech Republic during COVID. The Czech police have put together a checklist for enjoying winter sports safely during the break.

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