Police in the Haute-Savoie and Savoie regions that include many of the major ski resorts in the French Alps have issued warnings against ski touring and any other on-mountain activity. It’s banned and violators face action.

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In the latest  incident two snowshoers called on the services of the already stretched emergency services.

The high mountain police, the PGHM, had to search for two snowshoers near Bozel.

They were found after a helicopter search and are to be fined for non-compliance with the coronavirus containment measures.

Hiking in the mountains is currently prohibited and does not fall within the framework of the derogatory measure of: “short trips, near the home related to the practice of a physical activity”.

This is described in Article 1 of the decree of March 16, 2020 regulating travel as part of the fight against the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

“In this period of epidemic crisis, when our personnel are mobilized to enforce government measures and when the medical personnel are engaged to save lives, we appeal to your civic sense not to mobilize our energy or, worse, a bed hospital that we might miss tomorrow,” said a statement from the PGHM.

The mountain police in Chamonix in the Haute-Savoie have been forced to set up patrols to stop people going ski touring and accessing the closed ski area.

The police in Savoie – which includes Tignes, Val d’Isere, Les Arcs, Les3Vallees and other major resorts – are doing the same.

France is under lockdown and there are severe restrictions on people’s movements.

Every time they leave their home, they have to take a signed authorisation with them, explaining where they are going and why.

Some of those still in resort had been hoping to keep fit and active by skinning, snow shoeing or hiking.

Despite some earlier confusion, it now seems clear all such activity is prohibited.

4 members of the PGHM (Peloton de la Gendarmerie de Haute Montagne) in Chamonix will be assigned to stopping people accessing the mountains.

PGHM in Chamonix, France

PGHM in Chamonix, France. Image © PlanetSKI.

Already in France a ski tourer has died in Les Contamines after slipping and falling over a cliff.

We understand another ski tourer and a snowboarder have been injured in the French Alps and have required medical treatment.

The authorities say it is a distraction from the national task of fighting coronavirus.

Many sports are prohibited in order not to overload hospital services that are already under enormous pressure.

The new rules allow people to practice sport  “for brief trips, near the home, for an individual physical activity.”

This does not include ski touring or any other high alpine activity.


Elsewhere in the French Alps the PGHM of Isère Alps is telling people not to go to the mountains.

If they do, then sanctions will be taken.

“Notice to all practitioners of outdoor activities:

“Even today, cross-country skiers have not respected the obligation to stay at home.

“It is formally reminded that travel to sites for hiking, paragliding, climbing … is prohibited.

“Only short-term individual activities in the immediate vicinity of the home are tolerated, subject to holding the ad hoc certificate, de facto excluding the use of a vehicle to go to the practice sites.

“Refuges, parts of which remain open to the public, cannot be considered as places of containment.”

Earlier this week there was some debate on the PlanetSKI Facebook page as to whether ski touring was banned or similar not advised in Tignes.

The resort posted this message on its website, which seemed clear:


We draw everyone’s attention to the total ban on access to the ski area (which includes ski touring, pedestrian hikes, toboggan, picnics etc.) for safety reasons (this is an unsecured area).

However, we were told by people in resort that the local radio station was sending out a different message.

“Radio Tignes keeps repeating that Tignes hasn’t banned ski touring,” Marcia Nash said on Tuesday.

“They even had someone from the “Regie des pistes” on saying it was allowed but at your own risk, be careful, no pisteurs and don’t have an accident. It’s very confusing.”

Ski touring in Tignes March 2020 - photo Marcia Nash

Ski touring in Tignes before the resort closed – photo Marcia Nash

On Wednesday Marcia added:

“This morning a couple of tourer neighbours asked a pisteur in the presence of gendarmes (in the bakery where the gendarmes were drinking coffee) if touring was OK.

“The pisteur said yes, just keep to safe areas and be careful, don’t ski fast.

“The tourers commented that it seemed safer to skin up an empty piste than walk or run around the lake along with dozens of others.

“The pisteur agreed it was best to go somewhere quieter and that running was probably more risky than skinning.”

However a mountain guide and rescuer, Robert Mason, commented:

“We are not meant to be more than a few minutes from home and only briefly.

“I am not meant to take my children on a bike ride more than a few, hundred meters from our home. You should not be touring.”

Late on Wednesday, however, the Gendarmerie de la Savoie posted this notice on social media making it crystal clear that all mountain sports in all their forms were not permitted:

“The PGHM of Savoie carried out this day, March 18, 2020, mountain patrols and was able to note the presence of a few hikers on foot, with snowshoes and on skis.

“The day after the implementation of containment measures, it is recalled that the practice of mountain sports is prohibited in all its forms. Some mayors have also issued municipal decrees to this effect. Mountain huts are closed.

“Mountain sports are relatively accident-prone activities. 100% of the victims of mountain accidents have engaged in their activities without intending to injure themselves ….

“The authorisation for travel linked to individual physical activity is limited to the place of domicile (neighborhood tour).

“In order not to overload the emergency services and the nursing staff, you are asked to show the greatest civic spirit by respecting these confinement measures.

“In the coming days the PGHM will continue the mountain controls.”

The police say non-compliance will result in offenders being fined 135 Euros in the first instance, rising to a possible 375 Euros.

The Valais Cantonal Police in Switzerland have, meanwhile, issued a plea to skiers and others to limit their activity in the mountains.

The Valais resorts include Verbier, Zermatt, Crans-Montana and Saas-Fee, among others.

“The cantonal police join forces with rescue professionals as well as with the Valais Hospital in order to appeal to the responsibility as well as to the civic duty of participants in mountain sports.

“Given the evolution of the coronavirus pandemic, it is essential not to overload hospital emergencies.

“Therefore we call on the people to join together to limit as much as possible certain sporting activities like ski touring, mountaineering, climbing, canyoning, etc … and to practice other sports with caution.

“Rescue teams must be able to concentrate on the Covid-19 fight without having to be engaged in mountain rescue exposing doctors and rescuers to additional risks at the expense of other patients.

“We appreciate your help and understanding.