The main ski season in France is getting underway despite a growing list of requirements skiers need to meet to get on to the slopes.
Ski resorts have reported 20-60cm of fresh snowfall in the past week and as a result, great early season conditions, particularly up high.
Tignes was the first to open, back in October, and half a dozen more centres opened at the end of last month. This weekend will see more than 20 opening, some for ‘preview weekends’ earlier than their expected opening dates, thanks to the snowfall.
Rising pandemic levels in France, in common with most of Europe, means a covid pass is now required to get on the lifts, and that high quality masks must be worn on all lifts, not just enclosed ones. In addition Brits, even those fully vaccinated, will need to take a coronavirus test and get a negative result within 48 hours of arriving in France. This applies because the UK is no longer in the EU and comes under ‘third country’ restrictions.
But despite these mostly minor inconveniences, most skiers and boarders are excited to be able to get back on the slopes after last winter was a write-off in France.
“We are open, the snow is here and our guests are already enjoying clipping into their binding for the first time in 18 months. Some of the paperwork and testing is a little tedious but frankly the fear is in the unknown and we help everyone through the process. It’s easy once you know how. The admin quickly fades to a small detail once you feel the biting cold air on your face, the achingly clean air in your nostrils and the surreal joy of floating down the mountain again,” said Andy Sturt, Managing Director of VIP SKI, who added,
“Wearing a mask in a lift queue is no hardship when its -10 outside. Our fires are lit, our tables are laid and our sofas are plumped and ready, never have the mountains seemed a better tonic to relieve the day to day chaos of modern life.”
Xavier Schouller, boss of French-specialist operator Peak Retreats agrees,
“Our clients are absolutely desperate to get back to the slopes especially when they see those amazing snow conditions in the French Alps at the moment and they have told us that although extras restrictions are not welcome they are not being put off by having to do extra Covid tests before and after the holiday.”
The world’s largest ski area Les 3 Vallées is among the areas opening and celebrating by offering from 50% off on their Adult Solo Pass for the special opening day on 4th December.
Several ski areas in another of France’s huge ski areas, The Portes du Soleil, are also opening.
“Les Gets (pictured above and below this week) was due to officially fully open on December 18, but because of the exceptional conditions, combined with the desire to get back onto the slopes following the lift closure of last winter, the resort decided to open now,” a spokesperson for the centre said.
A number of ski lifts will be operating, including: Chavannes gondola, La Croix chairlift, Nauchets chairlift, Mouille au Roy ski lift, Ball de Gomme ski lift and the beginner’s carpet at Chavannes.
On Saturday December 4, there will be a torchlight descent by local Les Gets ESF instructors, taking place at 5.30pm on the Boule de Gomme slope and day lift passes will cost €15 (flat rate for child/adult).
Avoriaz (which was one of the few areas to open several slopes very briefly at the start of its summer season as restrictions eased after the second wave) and Morzine are also opening.
Other resorts opening this weekend include la rosiere, pictured top, and la Clusaz, then daily from next weekend. The Balme gondola, Col de Balme and Bergerie chairlifts and Torchère drag lifts will be operating with as discounted lift pass.