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Life In A Ski Resort When The Lifts Are Closed

As ski lifts in France remain closed into February and perhaps for the rest of the season we ask what’s it like to be in a ski resort in the French Alps in mid-winter when all the lifts are closed.   We hear from Alexandra Beuchert and Simon Perry, who have French residency and travelled from the UK to their home in Tignes in late December.

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Simon

We usually come out to Tignes early in December for the season but we delayed it a bit this winter, first of all because there wasn’t much snow and second, because France was in a much stricter lockdown than the UK.

We didn’t want to come out and just sit in our apartment.

The lifts not being open is not that much of an issue for me.  I love being in the mountains and I love ski touring.

It just means I’m skiing outside resort more.

There’s also the odd advantage.

I have friends that I like to ski with – for example some are ski instructors – who I usually don’t get the chance to go out with more than twice a season but they’re not working so I can go touring with them.

It’s been really cold here so it’s not like nice spring ski touring conditions.

In recent days it’s been down to minus 20 Celsius overnight.

On the way up – photo Simon Twigge

Simon Perry ski touring with friends, Jan 2021 – photo Simon Twigge

And it’s pretty dangerous off-piste at the moment.

We’ve been really careful about slope aspect and angle and following ridges on the approach to stay off the steeper aspects.

Not everyone is staying off the steeper stuff, though.

They have been blasting for avalanche control but only to protect the pistes that they have opened.

Alexandra

Being in the UK for months, we weren’t really socialising with anyone so it didn’t matter to us that if we came out here our friends who would usually be here would not be around.

One trade-off has been that in Leicester the delivery and take-out food options are pretty fantastic for vegans and vegetarians whereas here they’re not.

It’s no problem getting food as the supermarkets are open but if we want a ‘date night’ in without having to cook it’s not so good.

I’m still subscribing to a personal trainer and my gym in Leicester for online classes as well as doing Zoom classes with Emma Carrick-Anderson.

I am doing them six days a week which I wouldn’t be if I was out skiing every day.

I’ve been out touring a few times just on the pistes either with Simon, on my own or with friends – socially distanced.

Alexandra on a socially distanced skin with a friend

One advantage of the lifts being shut

It’s really good that Tignes has groomed a bunch of runs because grooming definitely makes a big difference.

It’s a whole lot easier and faster going up a groomed run than off piste on touring skis.

On a nice weather day there are quite a lot of adults out and about going up the pistes from people in their 20s up to those their 70s.

They had more pistes officially open for touring, split boarding and snow shoeing over the New Year week but once the holidays were over they reduced the availability.

Groomed piste in Tignes

The free shuttle buses going around resort also ended.

Now if we are going from Lavachet to Val Claret we either have to drive or ski tour across the lake.

There are also some cross country skiers out.

The track by the lake opposite the golf course at Les Chartreux is open.

Simon

There are quite a few pistes open.

There’s a standard loop that goes up from Le Lac to the top of the Merles lift, comes back down then up the top of the Paquis lift and down again.

Palafour and Chaudannes also have runs open.

You see a lot of people on snow shoes, which you never usually see in Tignes.  Some are walking up carrying their skis.

Looking up to one of the open runs

Alexandra

We were here when the mass exodus happened in March and stayed through to the end of August so we’re quite used to it being empty and quiet.

It’s obviously terrible for those people whose livelihoods depend on people skiing, the mountain workers, whatever service they provide, and I certainly hope that the government is looking after them monetarily at least, if not also with their mental health and well-being.

It’s out of my control but I quite like it being quiet.

Alexandra walking friends’ dogs in the empty streets of Tignes

I feel like I did last spring: we might as well enjoy it and take whatever benefits we can, and that may be a closer connection to nature with the lifts not running.

In March we weren’t even allowed to go up the mountain so at least this time we’re able to get some proper mountain exercise and be in touch with nature.

Getting in touch with nature in Tignes

Simon

I would say Tignes looks pretty much the same, it’s just quiet.

And the parking’s free!

In the resort the ski shops are open and anywhere that sells food can do takeaways but the cafes, restaurants and bars are all closed.

I don’t really go out much.  It’s not my thing so it doesn’t matter.

I like skiing so I don’t want to be out drinking all night.

Ski shop in Tignes

Open for takeaway only in Tignes Jan 2021

Alexandra

There is some socialising.

A couple of friends had a socially-distanced takeaway coffee outside the Sherpa supermarket after they’d skinned up the piste the other day.

Simon

Yeah, but not everyone is respecting the socially distancing regulations.

Alexandra

It’s been a bone of contention for a couple of friends of mine that there’s really no enforcement and very little adherence to the wearing of masks in indoor communal areas, which is a concern in some apartment blocks with only one entrance and very little ventilation.

What’s different?

A really unusual sight is the incredible number of snow shoe and ski touring tracks whereas you’d usually be seeing only tracks that are obviously downhill turns.

I think the birds in Lavachet are really hungry.

They’re used to being fed so well, but they’ve been on our balcony all day long looking for food.

We’ve now procured some bird seed and the alpine choughs and sparrows are coming to visit.

We’ve even had a blackbird or two visiting which are rare up here in my experience.

Another sight you don’t usually see is the dogs running around happily on the pistes.

Dogs on piste in Tignes

Normally they stay low and can only venture out on the pistes after darkness but they’re out having a lot of fun.

I haven’t seen any pulling up their owners on skis yet, though.

Dogs on piste in Tignes

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