CORONAVIRUS EXODUS FROM FRENCH SKI RESORTS CAUSES SOME CHAOS
15th March 2020
Last modified on March 25th, 2020
The decision of France to shut has caused huge problems with a mass exit underway. Many major resorts in the USA and Canada have announced temporary closures. Sunday is another day of developments as we report the rolling news.
Things have been moving so fast that we have a special rolling report of all the latest developments on the PlanetSKI Facebook page.
It is the place to go for the latest news as it happens.
We reproduce much of it here with additional information, pictures and analysis.
We understand Verbier is closing all non-essential shops and businesses.
“Due to the evolution of the situation linked to coronavirus and in order to protect customers staff and those they meet the municipal authorities strongly recommend the immediate closure of all public establishments and shops in Verbier with the exception of pharmacies, food stores, banks petrol stations and kiosks”.
More to follow….
LATEST STATISTICS ON CORONAVIRUS
We’ve been looking at the latest statistics on cases of coronavirus tonight, with interest in the countries that have areas in the Alps, and they make some grim reading.
There has been a sharp rise in cases today.
5,400 cases have been reported around the country, nearly 1,000 more than Saturday.
The number of virus-related deaths has also risen from 91 to 120 during the last 24 hours.
The French government believes about half of the French population will be infected by the virus.
“From the start, the strategy has not been to prevent the virus from passing – we know that it will probably pass through more than half of us – but it is to make sure that it is spread as much as possible over time,” a minister said.
Italy has reported 368 more coronavirus deaths, a new one-day record.
The worst affected region of Lombardy accounted for 252 of the total.
Nationwide the total death toll is more than 1,800
There are now 2,200 cases, a rise of 800 in just 24 hours.
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel warned earlier this week that up to 70% of the country’s population – some 58 million people – could contract the virus.
The British government has previously said up to a fifth of the workforce may be off sick during the peak of the epidemic in the UK.
Up to 80% of Britons could catch coronavirus in a worst-case scenario of a major outbreak.
TRAVEL PROBLEMS EASING
The main road out of the Tarentaise, the N90, is clear we’re told by readers.
Geneva airport is also running smoothly and readers in Les2Alpes say the roads are pretty much the same as normal.
Sharon Mallinson – Empty motorways in France – we did la Tania to eurotunnel in 9 hours – now on the other side – just a note that the flexi eurotunnel lounge is shut but they are doing a drive up window and giving out bags of sandwiches and water.
Alistair Spark – Same for me leaving Oz en Oisans / Alpes d’Huez.
Regular coach into Grenoble and train station running as normal.
No traffic jams. Coffee / sandwich place in the station open as takeaway-only, no sitting.
Train with no onboard service but all good, self-service machines in the saltation did the trick.
In Paris shortly. Hopefully Eurostar goes smoothly
LOCAL SKI BUSINESSES UNDER THREAT
Spare a thought for the small businesses affected.
In fact spare a bit of money if you can.
George’s Wine bar(a favourite watering hole of ours) in Les Arcs needs your help. Big or small.
Here is his story…
France has been put on ‘lock-down’ because of the CORONAVIRUS and my little bar has been forced to cease trading 6 weeks before the end of the season…
Unfortunately the banks, tax office and utility companies will still be trading and demanding their payments as normal… as of now I have ZERO income because I have been told that I CANNOT open my bar… but I still have to pay my bills!!?
I have received so many wonderful messages of support from my friends but on a practical level I need to try and find the money I would have had to earn, in the remainder of the season, to pay my bills.
I hate that I have to resort to asking for money for nothing but we are in desperate times…
So, if you would like to have George’s Bar open next year for chats with good friends, sing songs and banter please donate the price of a bottle or two…
… if possible print out your donation receipt and I’ll swap it for the actual bottle(s) when you come back to the bar!
Cheers everyone and I hope to see you in my bar soon.
George’s wine barGERMANY CLOSES BORDERS
Goods will be allowed to flow freely but new restrictions have been put in place for people.
On Monday its borders with Austria, France and Switzerland will largely be closed.
The return of German citizens should remain possible.
For people driving back from ski resorts in Austria through Germany there could be some problems.
German airports, including Munich are used by skiers and we are seeking clarification on people crossing the country or entering it to leave for another country.
Jackson Hole in Wyoming USA will remain closed for today, Sunday, March 15th due to the coronavirus.
“We will keep you informed regarding further updates to our operations,” said the resort.
“We apologise for any inconvenience and appreciate your understanding.”
We understand Austria is to ban gatherings of more than five people from Monday.
It will also be restricting the entry of UK citizens.
More to follow…
UPDATE – SKI AREA CLOSURES -2PM, 15 MARCH 2020
Circumstances across ski resorts in our programme have been rapidly changing, as authorities continue to take precautionary measures against the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
In France, as in other countries during the last week, we have acted as fast as we can with the most up to date information available.
This is an unprecedented situation and the safety and welfare of our guests and staff is our highest priority.
Customers currently affected in resorts can rest assured we are working round the clock to get them home with as little inconvenience as possible.
Customers who arrived in our French resorts on Saturday will be flown back to the UK on 4 rescue flights on Monday 16 March.
We will be in contact to confirm arrangements as soon as we can.
If you have any questions, your Ski Total Representative can provide support and can be contacted via the number in your Welcome Pack.
Following the decisions made in the last week by the governments of our featured winter destinations (Austria, France and Italy), we have had to cease our winter operations for the remainder of the 2019/20 season.
It goes without saying how disappointed we are that this has happened.
More than anything, we’re really sorry so many people’s holidays have ended this way.
If you are due to travel on a ski holiday with us in the next few weeks we will contact you in due course with further information regarding your holiday.
We will contact those due to depart soonest first and we kindly ask for your patience and to only contact us if urgent.
If you have booked via a travel agent, they will be your point of contact.
All ski lifts in Switzerland are now at a standstill.
The financial losses are huge.
In the canton of Valais, the president of the Bergbahnen estimates it at up to CHF 80 million (£69m).
The mountain railways said on Saturday afternoon that all employees – including seasonal workers – are now registering for short-time work.
TRAVEL IN FRANCE – FROM THE BBC
“France will progressively reduce long-distance train, bus and plane travel on its territory over the coming days to limit the spread of the virus, the ecology minister has said.”
FRANCE – HELP NEEDED: from Montagne Verte, the Morzine based charity
“We understand the severity of yesterday’s announcements will still be rippling through our community; the coronavirus epidemic is unprecedented.
“With chalets and restaurants closing, we are keen to support the immediate redistribution of food that might otherwise go wasted. We realise staff and family will take priority, but anything that can be spared or was destined for the bin we will accept.
“Montagne Verte has established some local drop off points, we’ll be setting up tables and signposting today, they can be found:
We have been covering the story as coronavirus affects ski resorts and the ski industry, but we should also remember what this is about.
Skiing is a very small part of a much bigger picture.
Here is the latest from the BBC:
The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK has reached 1,140, while 37,746 people have been tested.
Only patients in hospital are currently being tested for the virus.
Every Briton over the age of 70 will be told “within the coming weeks” to stay at home for an extended period to shield them from coronavirus, Health Secretary Matt Hancock says.
He told the BBC the advice will not come into force just yet but when it does it will last “a very long time”.
The government has faced pressure to do more to tackle the epidemic after the UK death toll rose to 21 on Saturday.
All deaths so far have been of people over 60 or with underlying conditions.
Over-70s – and younger people with certain health conditions – will be told they must remain at home and have groceries and vital medication delivered.
The health secretary said people without symptoms would be able to visit older relatives and friends as long as they stayed two metres – or six feet – apart from them.
He said the NHS did not have enough ventilator machines to treat the numbers of people likely to become critically ill with the virus and said the government was urging a wartime-like response from manufacturers to produce them.
Car manufacturers, weapon makers and army suppliers will be asked to change their production lines to make ventilators.
The health service is to stop non-urgent surgery and implement a huge training programme to retrain medics from other specialisms to treat those who become seriously ill with the Covid-19 disease.
Hotels could be requisitioned to increase hospital bed space with retired doctors and nursing staff asked to go back to work.
“We will stop at nothing to fight this virus and I think people have got the impression otherwise,” Mr Hancock said.
See here for full coverage on the BBC News Website
Now back to snowsports and firstly France.
The ski resorts are closed.
The resorts all announced their news after the government said on Saturday evening that all non-essential businesses and services needed to close.
SUNDAY AM UPDATE:
CHAOTIC EXODUS UNDERWAY
France has closed all its ski resorts and told everyone to leave with immediately.
Thousands upon thousands of people arrived on Saturday only to be told they had to leave.
Roads are clogged, flights sold out, tour operators unable to get their guests out, not to mention the fact that all this probably helping to spread the virus.
There is currently a 17-mile standing traffic queue leaving Bourg St Maurice heading towards Moutiers on Route Nationale N90.
We expect it to get longer and soon.
If you are in the queue please keep fellow readers updated on conditions.
Meanwhile it is not all chaos (yet)
This from one of our readers, Sue James:
“Arrived yesterday in Arc 1950, and waiting to hear from Inghams about how we get home. People here seem in good spirits, sitting and strolling in the sun, with kids and toboggans.
“The bakery and supermarket are open, and some restaurants (otherwise closed) are offering takeaway food. Frankly, so far, things could much worse. The journey home, however..?”
This update from a PlanetSKI reader who is driving back:
“We took the decision to leave La Tania at 5am this morning. Thankfully have missed the chaos – roads were clear.
“On a positive the service stations are all open and the service shops are well stocked and open until 10pm tonight . Starbucks/restaurants are closed though.”
Much of the travel chaos on Sunday could have been avoided if bold and brave decisions had been taken earlier by the ski resort authorities.
It was obvious this would happen and yet still it was allowed to go ahead.
Here are just some observations this morning from our readers this morning:
Anon – “And just like that, with only 4 hours notice, France joined the list of countries who have ended their ski season early. Now begins the sorry task of repatriating thousands more British skiers and resort workers. I’ve been in this industry a long time and we’ve dealt with our fair share of knocks, but this is on a whole new scale and the financial cost will be crippling. To all my friends in this industry, my thoughts are with you all “
Yves Nys – Why they let us come then… they knew that there was a change during the weekend… they could have taken the decision a few days before the weekend like they did in Austria… very disappointed!!
Chris Rawles – Makes no sense to me. Let loads of holidaymakers travel through airports, train stations etc only to arrive to the news they are going back home. How is that stopping any spread of the virus?
Mark Henderson – French resorts (and the UK ski operators who serve them) have handled this appallingly. It has been obvious for days that skiing this season is now unsustainable. Totally irresponsible to fly so many people out today under threat of no refunds.
Adrian – The French go from no action at all to providing 4hrs notice to shut the resorts. Bizarre! Why did they not shut before Sat turnover. It is bloomin awful for those stuck there. God knows what will happen to the Ski Club. They lost over £1m with cancellations last year because of Brexit.
However it should be pointed out that there are not chaotic scenes everywhere.
This from another reader:
Charlie Laine – Although Tignes has closed its lifts the resort has certainly not demanded that everyone has to leave immediately, in fact they have tried to encourage people to delay their departure in order to try and reduce the impact on the roads.
A truly devastating situation for all involved, but trying to offer a little accuracy from our neck of the woods.
MAISON SPORT REFUNDS
Dear Maison Sport customer,
It’s with great regret that we are writing to you to confirm that the French Government has now closed all the ski resorts in France, we all hoped it wouldn’t come to this, but hopefully this will help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
As the resorts are now closed and are not due to re-open this winter, you will receive a full refund from the instructor, including the Maison Sport fees.
We will be assisting the instructors to ensure refunds are processed within the coming 24 hours, once processed it normally takes 3 to 5 working days for the funds to re-appear in your bank account.
If you had already cancelled your lessons that were due to take place between today and the end of the winter, you will also receive a full refund.
We will process these refunds as quickly as possible and will aim to have them processed by tomorrow or Tuesday.
If you have any queries in the meantime please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
We will hopefully see you back on the slopes next winter.
Here at PlanetSKI we think that is an excellent and timely response by Maison Sport and we urge you to book with them again next winter.
FRENCH SKI RESORT CLOSURES
Crystal Ski is bussing guests back from Flaine in France to the UK, according to one of our readers who arrived in resort on Saturday.
“Crystal Ski are taking us all the way home by bus! Apparently they couldn’t sort planes. Even though they would have had loads of planes doing Italy flights today… Our 3-year-old and 5 year old are going to be a nightmare.
See here for our special section on PlanetSKI that rounds up all the article we have posted on coronavirus:
And now the USA and Canada is following suit.
Both of the major conglomerates, Alterra and Vail Resorts, have announced they are closing their resorts with immediate affect.
Alterra Mountain Co statement
“After careful thought and deliberation of our duty in the face of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak, and in what I believe is in the best interest of our guests, employees and local communities, Alterra Mountain Company will suspend operations at our 15 North American ski resorts, starting the morning of Sunday, March 15, until further notice,” said Alterra’s CEO Rusty Gregory.
“All lift operations, food and beverage, retail and rental services will be closed until further notice……….. Each resort will work directly with guests in canceling their visit and will provide refunds to those who have hotel and other bookings during this closure period. We anticipate heavy call volume over the next several days and appreciate guests’ patience as we work hard to respond to all inquiries.
“I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this short notice will undoubtedly create. We look forward to welcoming you back to the mountains as circumstances improve.”
Alterra Mountain Company destinations are:
Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado; Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain and Big Bear Mountain Resort in California; Stratton and Sugarbush Resort in Vermont; Snowshoe in West Virginia; Tremblant in Quebec, Blue Mountain in Ontario; Crystal Mountain in Washington; Deer Valley Resort and Solitude Mountain Resort in Utah; and CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures in British Columbia. (CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures will continue to operate through Saturday, March 21 with no new guests arriving beginning Tuesday March 17)
Vail Resorts statement
“With 37 resorts spread across 15 states and three countries, we – like the rest of the world – have been closely tracking every new development related to coronavirus (COVID-19) and have been in constant contact with local health officials for guidance,” said a statement from Vail Resorts.
“Without question, our top priority has been the health and wellbeing of our guests and employees – and to no lesser extent the health and wellbeing of the communities where we operate. We know each decision we make has a broad impact far beyond our operations,” it added.
One resort in Canada however is continuing with snowsports:
“With the ongoing attention on the COVID-19 virus, we want to let you know that Revelstoke Mountain Resort remains open and is committed to delivering a world class ski/snowboard experience.
“We look forward to welcoming all guests to the mountain for Spring Break. In her March 13th statement, BC’s Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, encouraged British Columbians to “go outside and play with your family, go up to our ski hills”, and to “go out and experience what we have here in British Columbia right now.”
“The resort has introduced extra measure to battle the virus:
- Changing lift loading procedures to allow for social distancing and for guests to choose their own groupings
- Single lines will be removed from the Stoke, Ripper and Stellar Chair to prevent group mixing
- Gondola cabins are being disinfected twice daily
- More frequent cleanings of guest and staff bathrooms
- Installation of additional hand sanitizing units around the Resort
- Addition of signs in all bathrooms reminding guests to wash their hands and practice good cough and sneeze etiquette
- Regular deep cleaning and sanitization for all Resort and hotel facilities
“We have also reinforced with all of our employees the importance that we all work together to prevent the spread of illness in the workplace.
“We continue to monitor the situation and follow the advice of WorkSafeBC and the BC Centre for Disease Control.”
Updates to follow here on PlanetSKI…