When the ban does lift Britons can rest assured that conditions on the slopes are more than inviting, with resorts reporting some of the best early-season snow in decades. In a call to arms, Olivier Desauly, director of Les 3 Vallees, the world’s largest ski area in the heart of the French Alps, said: “We just need the British to be able to come to save our winter season!”
What rules are in place in ski resorts?
With resorts still open to other nationalities it is easier to stipulate what rules British skiers and snowboarders can expect to have to follow on a French ski holiday this winter.
“French resorts have put everything in place to make it safe for British, French and international skiers. The resorts are open, all health and safety protocols are in place, ski lifts are running and skiers are on the slopes,” said a spokesperson from Atout France.
Ruling the roost is the pass sanitaire – the French health pass which mandates proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test every 24 hours in order to access services and venues across the country. For the over 65s, the third booster dose is mandatory to activate the pass and from January 15 this will be compulsory for all adults. Children over the age of 12 require proof of full vaccination, recovery or a negative test taken every 24 hours to activate their pass. Tests are available in resorts, costing roughly €22 (£18) for an antigen test or €44 (£37) for a PCR – it’s advisable to book these in advance to avoid shortages.
In ski resorts an active pass is currently required to access ski lifts, restaurants and bars – nightclubs remain closed. Passes, which are accessed via the French Tout Anti-Covid app, are checked by waiters or door staff – on ski lifts they’ll be checked at the point you purchase your lift pass or by the ski school. Spot checks are also carried out in lift queues.
Masks are mandatory throughout resorts, including on gondolas, in restaurants when not seated, in communal hotel areas and in shops – they must be medically approved models not just neck buffs. Cafés and bars are operating table-service only and indoor events are limited to 2,000 people and outdoor public gatherings will be restricted to 5,000 people.
There are fears the pass sanitaire may evolve – the French government has voted to turn it into a vaccine passport. Similar to Austria and Italy, a negative Covid-19 test result would no longer suffice – this is yet to be passed as law however.
Is it safe to book a ski holiday to France?
It would be wise to wait until an official announcement is made – but hopes are high this could be soon and many skiers are tentatively booking for later in the season. It is completely safe to do so if you book with a bonded operator or agent – this will entitle you to a refund or to rearrange your trip if your holiday cannot go ahead because of a travel ban, or if the company was to cease trading.
Many operators are offering flexible booking terms too, which allow holidaymakers the chance to change their plans up until the very last minute, with advisers on hand to keep customers up to speed as and when things change – Crystal’s Holiday Promise and Ingham’s In Safe Hands policy are leading examples.
Is there still availability?
“Half term is tight, but there are still some excellent holidays still available and there is likely to be very last-minute cancellations if skiers test positive before departure,” said Kinloch, who is preparing to pull out all the stops to get skiers back on the French slopes.
“We will be working closely with our partners to ensure these places are sold, within hours of departure if that is what it takes.”
But Britons should be prepared for prices to surge once the borders reopen. “Book now, France is going to open up, when it does, demand will push up prices… if the snow holds out, this could be a great winter and one to remember,” advises Kinloch.