The snow-down: Skiing during COVID-19
Like us, after a frustrating year of limited travel and group gatherings, you might be craving some fresh air this winter, to hit the slopes hard and let loose a little.
But how exactly will skiing in the French Alps in 2020 and 2021 work with a current national lockdown and continued COVID restrictions?
If you were worried that your ski dreams were going to be crushed again this season after thousands being turned away from March onwards in 2020, you have reason to remain hopeful. Emmanuel Macron has imposed another national lockdown across France for the month of November and while it remains to be seen whether this lockdown will be extended, the timing of it is anything but random. As the world’s biggest tourist destination with between 60-80 million tourists visiting each year, the French Alps generate an impressive €50bn annual turnover – a sum France’s economy would welcome during these trying times. Imposing a lockdown now increases the chances of the ski season going ahead this winter, either as planned or with a delayed start.
A survey conducted in August showed that 96% of Brits are still keen to go skiing this year, meaning many are happy to make the trip despite a potential two-week quarantine period upon their return to the UK. And if the mere thought of escaping on holiday weren’t enough, October and November have already seen a healthy amount of snowfall, showing signs of a promising start to the season. Resorts in the French Alps are already gearing up to open their pistes to skiers and holidaymakers in December, but more than that, they’re doing everything they can to make sure they won’t be shut down… here’s how.
Will everything be open?
French resorts are preparing to open 100% of pistes and ski lifts in the 2020/21 season, giving skiers the same space and freedom as they’re used to. Shops, bars and restaurants will also be opening, however it is best to check online beforehand in case any businesses have closed in the meantime. Events and activities will go ahead but will be adapted to accommodate social distancing policies with a focus on large open spaces and small groups. For any events or activities that require booking, including at local spas and leisure centres, we suggest booking these early to avoid missing out.
Many resorts are offering a package refund on ski lift passes if the resort is forced to close – be sure to check the terms and conditions with your local resort before booking.
If you’re headed out to view chalets apartments for sale in the French Alps, Athena remains open and operative. The current buying market is buoyant and our on-site advisors are continuing to conduct viewings, even during the lockdown, and for those unable to make the trip we are conducting virtual viewings by video.
The masked skier
Your regular set up of goggles, gloves and neck warmer will already help protect you, but extra measures will be enforced to protect everyone. Rules regarding mask wearing in France are still applicable to life on the slopes. Masks must be worn indoors in shared spaces such as shops, buses, equipment hire stores, tourism offices, bars and restaurants and this also applies to communal spaces within your accommodation (eg. lifts in apartment blocks, hotel lobbies etc).
Masks will also be compulsory on ski lifts and in any ski lift queues. Those attending group ski school lessons will be required to cover their face when gathering at the beginning and end of class as well as any time while indoors (for anyone over the age of 11). Other than that you’re free to breathe in the fresh mountain air maskless while you tear up the slopes.
Health & sanitiser
Hand sanitising gel will be available at points around resorts, as depicted in a document released by Meribel‘s tourism office, including at bars and restaurants and ski hire shops, but it’s a good idea to bring a bottle with you before you set off in the morning. In resorts such as Courchevel, you will now be able to pay for ski passes contactless by using your mobile phones and in many resorts you can reuse old ski passes and simply top them up online to avoid ski hire equipment will be thoroughly cleaned before and after renting to clients and contact points at ski lifts will also be cleaned on a daily basis. Buses will also be fully disinfected at least once per day. To be extra safe, it’s a good idea to throw your gloves, scarves and other clothing in the washing machine at the end of the day and start with a clean getup the following morning.
What about après-ski?
It should come as no surprise that après-ski in the French Alps will look very different this year. Gone are the days of crowds slipping in ski boots on top of wooden tables at La Folie Douce… for now anyway. Instead it, like other bars and restaurants, will be imposing table service only as well as separating tables to ensure a minimum distance of 1 metre between them. Dance floors will be removed and nightclubs will remain closed for now.
Once the national lockdown is lifted and Macron announces the new regulations, we will have a clearer understanding of what will be possible, however, based on rules pre second lockdown, it’s possible a curfew will be imposed for restaurants and bars along with a police of maximum six persons per booking. One positive factor is that despite the curfew in October, live music was still allowed, so you’ll still be able to tap your ski boots along to the local talent.
What if I’m on the border between two countries?
Firstly, if you have access to two ski resorts… lucky you! Even better, nothing will change for skiers in terms of border crossing. You will be able to ski freely from France to Switzerland to Italy and back again, provided the ski resorts are connected by pistes and lifts.
Are refunds available?
As with most bookings, this will depend on your provider. Many travel and rental agencies are offering flexible bookings with a guaranteed cancellation policy in order to secure more bookings throughout the season. In resorts such as Avoriaz, you can book accommodation and ski pass packages that are fully refundable up to two weeks before arriving or if the resort has to close. Avoriaz is also offering free ski passes to anyone under the age of 11 – a deal previously unheard of in the French Alps.
Be sure to check with your provider or agency before booking. If you are looking to rent somewhere and need help, you can contact us for more information.