More French Resorts Protest about Plans to Close the Ski Lifts
30th November 2020
Last modified on December 2nd, 2020
Several more demonstrations have been held today in the French Alps. Resorts are urging the government to change its mind. The authorities say the closure is about stopping hospitals becoming overwhelmed and saving lives. UPDATED
The latest protest was held at Bourg d’Oisans in the southern French Alps, where an estimated 1,500 people attended according to the organisers.
The resorts of Alpe d’Huez, les 2 Alpes, La Grave, Vaujany, Villard-Reculas, Oz-en-Oisans and Auris-en-Oisans were represented.
The resorts employ around 500 seasonal workers between them in the winter months.
They were demanding that the ski resorts are allowed to open on December 19th ahead of Xmas and New Year.
They called the closure of ski lifts “an injustice”.
“Employees are not puppets, they are in urgent need of being able to work, to live!, “ said the mayor of Les2Alpes, Christophe Aubert.
“We are aware that the virus is still active, drastic and often very expensive measures have been put in place in order to be able to continue to practice our professional activity”.
There was also a demonstration in Bourg St Maurice on Wednesday in the northern French Alps.
It was being organised by the elected officials of the Haute Tarentaise region.
People from local resorts including Val d’Isere, Tignes, La Plagne, Les Arcs and those in Les3Vallees joined the protest.
The resort authorities in Tignes encouraged locals to join the demonstration calling on the French government to allow the country’s ski resorts to open fully in time for Christmas.
A statement from the Tignes town hall says it wants to “influence the decision taken by the executive to ban the opening of ski areas”.
“We ask that the possibility of opening our domains for the Christmas holidays be reconsidered, failing which a clear and definitive date for the opening of our stations, and concrete commitments of aid for our companies, our resident and seasonal workers,” the statement from Tignes adds.
“Together, let us bring the voice of the mountain to the public authorities!”
On Monday the Prime Minister, Jean Castex, had further discussions with representatives of the French mountain communities and they will meet again on December 11th to “discuss the situation and decide when resorts can reopen”.
There is no doubt that the virus has been spreading at an alarming rate in the Alps.
Last Monday, the day before President Macron made his announcement, the Haute-Savoie département in the French Alps had the highest number of virus infections per 100,000 people in France.
It is home to many major ski resorts
In second place was neighbouring Savoie, where many others are situated.
Hospitals are already stretched in the Alps, with coronavirus spreading.
There is little question that lockdowns and restrictions have an impact on the spread of the virus and cases have tumbled in France.
The resorts, though, are stepping up their opposition to the move.
Another protest comes from the mayor of Chatel in France who has decked out the town hall with Swiss flags.
“A lack of listening and consultation, a rash decision – France has decided to close its ski areas when its neighbour has taken a different position. Symbolically, the town hall of Châtel is decked out in the colours of Switzerland,” tweeted the mayor, Nicolas Rubin.
“We won’t give up,” says the resort of Les2Alpes in the Isere region.
A demonstration was organised on Monday in the resort and 300 people turned out.
Les2Alpes wants to convince the government to change its decision and allow ski resorts to open.
Les2Alpes, like many other ski resorts, has worked hard to put measures in place to keep the resort Covid safe.
The resort opened for the summer from 6th June to 30th August and then from 17th to 29th October.
The resort claims these openings allowed it to test its Covid measures and confirmed that they work as there were no clusters.
The Isère region in the southern French Alps is home to the major resorts of Les2Alpes and Alpe d’Huez, plus a host of smaller, less well-known ones.
It is stepping up its opposition and lobbying central government.
“It is possible to open the ski areas in compliance with the health rules in force. We are ready and will continue our actions for an early opening,” said Chantal Carlioz, the President of Isere Attractive.
The area points out to the government that, like other resorts in France, it has taken all the necessary anti-coronavirus measures.
It says that the mountains account for 60% of the tourist economy in Isère.
In total France has more than 300 ski resorts and employs 120,000 people, with around 40,000 seasonal workers.
The resorts generate an estimated €10 billion each year.
“The Department and Isère Attractiveness are working with State authorities and services to remind that the sanitary conditions for the opening of ski areas are met.
“Let’s continue to work and mobilise for the opening of ski areas,” she adds.
“We will keep fighting so we can welcome you this holiday season,” said Les2Alpes.
On Tuesday there was a demonstration in Albertville and on Thursday one in the ski resort of Puy St Vincent.
People in the resort are urged to bring puppets and hang them from a chairlift to “symbolize the economic misery of this type of decision”.
French ski areas say they will be open for business in December even if the lifts have to stay shut.
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Some French resorts are reluctantly accepting the situation.
“It would be wonderful to announce the lift openings, but it seems we now have to be patient until January,” said Chamonix in a statement released to PlanetSKI.
“President Macron’s announcement last Tuesday 24th November came as a bombshell and is contested by mountain professionals and regional governments, but it is unlikely the executive will go back on this decision,” the resort added.
Morzine in the Portes du Soleil is working on what it can do and what it can offer its guests over the holiday period.
“Everyone here is concentrating on what we can do for the clients that still want to come at Christmas. Hoping to be able to announce this week what will be open and on for them,” said the resort to PlanetSKI.
Other resorts remain angry.
“We are not an amusement park. La Clusaz is a mountain village that lives all year round and not just a ski station opening or closing on request, like a shopping center,” said the resort after the Prime Minister, Jean Castex, announced resorts could open but would not be able to run their lifts.
“Courchevel is mobilizing for the opening of the ski stations,” said the resort in Les3Vallees.
There is also pressure being put on the government behind the scenes in Paris.
We understand one organisation, Savoie Mont Blanc Tourisme, is lobbying hard.
The issue needs to be seen within the context of France, Germany and Italy wanting a coordinated opening of ski resorts across the Alps.
Discussions are taking place at the highest level this week and the government in Paris will likely take its decision this week on French resorts within the international situation.
Here at PlanetSKI we will be following developments closely.