British skiers heading to the French Alps this winter have been assured that their holidays will go ahead, complete with the joys of après-ski, despite a Covid resurgence on the Continent.
With concerns of a fifth wave rising in France and the rest of Europe and relations between France and the UK at a low, there have been concerns that the French ski season could be once again compromised for Britons.
However, French tourism minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne told the Telegraph: “Thanks to vaccinations and the health pass, closing is not an option. The season is shaping up to be exceptional and we are ready and raring to go.”
Asked whether British skiers would be welcome, he said: “We look forward to welcoming them back to our 350 resorts.
“We can see from talking to the professionals that they are expecting a very good season, since we have unfortunately been deprived of snow sports since March 2020. Bookings are coming in thick and fast.”
After months of tough talk from Boris Johnson and President Emmanuel Macron over everything from Brexit to submarines, Mr Lemoyne was at pains to strike a welcoming note.
“Brexit and the pandemic have undoubtedly had an impact, but we also have good news. For example, direct rail links between London and the French Alps have started up again, and the friendship between the French and the British remains intact.”
Mask wearing will remain mandatory when queueing for or riding ski lifts
Credit: Jeff Pachoud/AFP
Skiers and snowboarders should nevertheless be prepared for some changes to their holiday experience.
Mask wearing will remain mandatory when queueing for or riding lifts – though not when out enjoying the slopes. Visitors may also be asked to wear them in restaurants unless seated and when moving around communal areas in hotels.
The other key Covid measure is France’s digital health pass, providing proof of full vaccination, past infection or a recent negative test, taken every 72 hours.
Over winter it will continue to be a key feature in ski resorts. Visitors will need one to enter restaurants, cafés and bars – even to sit outside on terraces – but “you will not need it to do your shopping or to rent your ski equipment,” said Mr Lemoyne.
Matters are a little more complicated for Britons over 65, or who have teenage children.
Children aged 12 and over must abide by the pass sanitaire rules, which means teenagers will need to be double-jabbed – something of a problem when the UK is only offering youngsters a single dose.
If they are not double jabbed, they must show proof of recent infection, or obtain a negative PCR test every 72 hours. Tests are available in France, but at a cost to the holidaymaker.
For French over-65s, a third booster dose will be mandatory to activate the pass from December 15, but whether it will apply to foreign visitors remains a grey area.
Mr Lemoyne said: “We are currently working on how it will be implemented. Solutions will be in place by December 15.”
As for après-ski, Mr Lemoyne said here too, the situation was “as back to normal as is possible, given the situation”.
He added: “This winter, it will be hot chocolate and mulled wine, plus social distancing.”