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French Ski Resorts React With Dismay as Slopes Likely Shut Until January

President Macron has indicated they will close but a final decision will be taken next week. It will come at a huge economic price, but some resorts say they will be open, and though the lifts may be closed there is much else to do. UPDATED

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President Macron made the announcement on Tuesday night in a television address to the nation.

He said that the continuing risk from coronavirus made it “impossible” to allow winter sports to resume quickly.

It was preferable, Macron said, to plan for a re-opening of the resorts in January “under favourable conditions”.

A final decision is expected next week, Ski Resorts in France Set To Remain Closed in December

The Haute-Savoie département in the French Alps on Monday had the highest number of virus infections per 100,000 people in France.

It is followed by neighbouring Savoie.

Health authorities have warned that some hospitals could be overwhelmed if crowds of skiers from France and abroad arrive.

France has more 300 ski resorts and provides work for 120,000 people, of which around 40,000 are seasonal.

It generates an estimated €10 billion each year.

The ski resorts have reacted.

Some hope they will be open, but admit they will be unable to run their ski lifts.

Morzine is working hard to welcome you in the best possible conditions this winter,” said the resort.

“We currently await confirmation on the date we can open the lifts for skiing.

“However, Morzine has lots of offer as well as lift assisted skiing.

“Plenty of activities in the fresh open air are available, a wide range of boutiques, and our restaurants have already adapted to offer takeaway meals.

“We will have more information for you in a few days’ time, and thank you for your patience, and above all your support.”

It does though remain to be seen if people will travel to ski resorts when skiing is off the menu and it is takeaways only.

Morzine, France

Morzine, France

“COURCHEVEL IS MOBILIZING FOR THE OPENING OF SKI STATIONS” stated the resort on its Facebook page.

“On Monday, the Prime Minister gave mountain stakeholders 10 days to demonstrate their ability to organize a reception of tourists in exemplary sanitary conditions.

“Following the President’s announcements last night, the town remains more mobilized than ever to defend the opening of the resorts in December and avoid an economic disaster for those involved in winter tourism.

“This morning, a video conference was organized by the ANMSM – National Association of Mayors of Mountain Stations of which Jean-Yves Pachod, mayor of Courchevel is vice-president.

“The objective: to organize mobilization in the region and in Paris to advocate for the opening of stations.

“The opportunity to stress that, while the current health situation is worrying, access to the mountains and to the great outdoors is a matter of public health.

“All of Courchevel’s stakeholders are ready to welcome holidaymakers in the best possible conditions of reception and safety.”

Courchevel's message

Courchevel’s message

“Yesterday at 8 p.m., we were like you in front of our television, filled with hope. At 8:10 p.m., a sentence made us shudder: “Impossible to open the ski resorts for the holidays”? The dreaded scenario was becoming a reality,” said Tignes on Twitter.

Tignes, France

Tignes, France

“Well, it wasn’t good news. We haven’t skied since March… so that’s 9 months without skiing, but in the end we have all waited that long in our lives,” said Val Thorens.

“So when will we open?

“We’d love to be able to see into the future to answer that question. As soon as we have more information, you can be sure of it that you will be the first informed

“One thing is sure, the French mountains…. are ready to welcome you as soon possible, while respecting the sanitary conditions.”

Val Thorens, France

Val Thorens, France

Val d’Isere has issued the following statement:

“Faced with the health situation in France, and following the speech of the President of the Republic, the forecasts for the opening of Val d’Isère will be specified in the coming days.

“We will inform you as the situation evolves.”

Val d'Isere, France

Val d’Isere, France

This from Les2Alpes in the Isere region.

“The President of the Republic has announced that if the final decision would be made in early December, he would not imagine opening mountain stations for the holidays,” said the resort.

“We will keep fighting so we can welcome you this holiday season,” it added.

Les2Alpes, France

Les2Alpes, France

And this from Isere itself:

“As vice-president of Isère in charge of tourism, mountains and resorts, and president of Isère Attractiveness, I am in shock at the presidential announcement,” said Chantal Carlioz in statement released to PlanetSKI.

“The situation is serious. I feel its gravity and perceive the tragedies to come in the words of Danièle Chavant president of the UMIH of Isère, whose voice broke at the end of her speech during the demonstration of the bars , hotels and restaurants organized yesterday in front of the prefecture.

“I welcome the announcement of the opening of shops, however I regret and do not associate myself with the President of the Republic’s remarks about ski resorts.

“I am thinking in the first place of the tens of thousands of seasonal workers, employees and socio-professionals in the mountains who have been working to open the resorts for many weeks and risk being deprived of income.

“I am also thinking of the nursing staff who have struggled for many months to preserve the health of our fellow citizens. Thank you for that.

“In this dramatic period, I know that we are not negotiating with the health crisis … But we were in discussion, we were preparing with all the mountain stakeholders for the opening of the stations, we were waiting for the validation of the current health opening protocol. ”

The Prime Minister, yesterday during his discussions with the mountain community, announced a decision on December 5.

“Also, it is amazement and dismay in our ranks at this inconsistency.

“As the stations of some European countries will probably be open, how can the French stations not open in such a context? Are there any prospects for opening up?

“The department remains mobilized and committed to the mountain world and the resorts to which we provide our unwavering support.”

Isere, France

Isere, France

However others we have spoken to in the French snowsport industry have said “this is good news to have a delay as the worst that could have happened is to open early and then to have to close again at say the end of January”.

Some have expressed their sadness, but point out that it is to save lives and limit the spread of the virus.

The mayor of La Plagne and President of the National Association of Mayors of Mountain Stations (ANMSM), Jean-Luc Boch, says he is “stunned”.

“We are dismayed, everyone had worked for an opening for Christmas. This calls into question an entire economic model.

“After that, if this is the price that we must preserve an opening for the February holidays.

“Obviously we really want a reopening, but not at the cost of endangering public health.”

Senior figures from the French snowsports industry are holding discussions about how to react and their path of action.

There will likely be significant opposition and intense lobbying for financial support from central government.

Here at PlanetSKI we understand they were led to believe by the government that the ski areas could open on 19th December ahead of Xmas the following weekend.

One senior politician, Vincent Rolland who is the Depute of the Savoie region, has posted the following reaction.

“President Macron’s announcement that we will most likely not open our ski resorts for the Christmas holidays when we have been working with state services to develop a health protocol for weeks has left us with a bitter taste.

“Yesterday the Prime Minister told us that a decision would be taken in ten days in consultation with socio-professionals and elected officials from the mountains.

“Very disappointed to have been concerted so that this incomprehensible and above-mentioned decision is stopped by the President.

“It will plunge tens of thousands of professionals into immense difficulty. Of course I am thinking of them.

“I will support our Savoie and its economic players so that they are supported by the State with regard to individual situations.

More than ever, we must remain mobilized and combative because the opening of ski resorts must be done in view of the current health situation and not according to neighboring countries like Italy which has its own reasons for not opening its areas.

“Discussions must resume. We cannot stop here …”

Manchet Valley, Val d'Isere 16 March 2020 - photo Alex Beuchert
Last week we wrote an article about what next winter may, or may not, look like.

Events have moved on, but it remains worth a read.

Is there going to be a season for UK skiers this winter?

“We at Peak Retreats believe it would be a wise decision to delay opening until the very end of the year or early January,” said Xavier Schoullier from Peak Retreats to PlanetSKI.

The company specialises  in holidays to France.

“We believe this will guarantee that the season is not interrupted half way through and that once the resorts are open the season will then continue until its scheduled end at the end of April.

“Whatever is decided the resorts have proved that they are more than ready to open even at very short notice, especially since they had a chance to practice all the new measures last summer.”

Erna Low is another UK company that specialises in ski holidays to France.

“As soon as we get the news from the French government regarding the definitive opening dates for the French ski resorts we are ready for lots of late bookings,” said the Managing Director, Jane Bolton.

“Self-drive, self-catering holidays will be the safest way to enjoy the mountains this season and this has been our core product for many years.

“We are also happy to book up to 3 different dates for clients with just one deposit and free cancellation options.

“We know that flexibility is key so that our clients can be confident in booking.”

Both President Macron and the Prime Minister, Jean Castex, have said final decision will be made next week after 10-days have passed.

“The consultation is continuing and a decision has to be taken within 10 days. Let’s put them to good use,” said the head of Intersport Rental in France, Arnaud Coppel.

France closed all its ski resorts on Saturday March 14th 2020 at 7pm after tens of thousands of people had travelled to the ski resort on the busy transfer day.

Amid some chaotic scenes they were all ordered out and asked to leave on Sunday which undoubtedly helped spread the virus around Europe.

We will be updating this article with further reaction so do check back…

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