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TOURISM

Will France have a normal ski season this year?

After a disastrous two years, the French ski industry has picked itself up and is preparing for the 2021/22 season. Here's how things will look this year.

Ski lifts have reopened in France
Ski lifts have reopened in France. Photo: Raymond Roig/AFP

The 2019/20 ski season, already disrupted by strikes, was abruptly curtailed in March 2020 when the entire country went into lockdown. And for ski industry workers things went from bad to worse the following year, with the 2020/21 season rendered a virtual write-off with the closure throughout the season of bars, restaurants and ski lifts.

But as France reopens it faces the same challenge as its Alpine neighbours of Switzerland, Austria and Italy – how to get the ski industry back on its feet without unleashing another wave of Covid cases.

The tourism minister Jean-Bpatiste Lemoyne, who has been working with the ski industry on a more detailed plan for the season, said: “We can see by talking with industry representatives that they expect a good season, even a very good season, since we have unfortunately been deprived of snow sports since March 2020.”

Here’s what we know so far about the measures in place for the 2021/22 season, with the obvious caveat that circumstances can change.

Travel

If you’re wanting to head to the Alps or the Pyrenees from outside France, you will need to know about travel rules. France has since the summer been operating a traffic light system that differentiates between vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers.

You can find full details of how the system works HERE, but if you’re fully vaccinated you are likely to be able to enter France with minimal paperwork.

Unvaccinated travellers from orange countries, which includes the UK, can only enter France for essential reasons and ski holidays do not count as essential.

Travel rules can change rapidly, so keep an eye on our Travelling to France section for the latest.

Health passport

Once in France a health passport is currently required to access a range of activities such as bars, restaurants, leisure centres and long-distance train travel – the passport requires either proof of vaccination, regular Covid testing or recent recovery from Covid. Full details on how it works HERE.

Bear in mind that the health passport is required for all over-12s, which may be a problem for visitors from countries where vaccination of children is not yet widespread.

The long-term future of the health passport is however, a little unclear.

The current legislation runs until November 15th, but the government can extend it if parliament agrees.

Signals from the government on this have been a little confusing, but it seems that their plan is to extend the legislation that allows the use of the health passport if necessary right through to summer 2022, while at the same time gradually phasing out the pass as case numbers continue to fall.

It’s unclear at this stage whether it will be phased out area by area, or on a sector basis so that – for example – bars no longer require the pass for outdoor terrace spaces.

The phasing is out is dependant on case numbers staying low, and it could be reintroduced if cases rise again or be reintroduced in certain areas if there are clusters of cases.

READ ALSO How and when France’s health passport could be scrapped

Masks

France currently requires masks in all indoor public spaces that are not covered by a health pass (eg shops) as well as all public transport. Unlike in some countries there are no medical exemptions to mask rules and failure to wear a mask (covering your nose and mouth) in a designated space can net you a €135 fine.

The mask rules are slowly being relaxed as case numbers fall, but the steps here are very gradual – primary school children in areas with low Covid cases are now exempt from wearing a mask in class.

For everyone else, the rule remains in place at present and is likely to remain so for crowded areas such as ski lifts. 

Other precautions

The above rules all relate to government-mandated policies, but private businesses are of course allowed to put in their own rules and requirements for guests.

Many business owners, desperate to avoid another outbreak and subsequent closures, are putting in extra rules around cleaning, hand sanitiser and ventilation to keep themselves and their guests safe.

Après ski

As well as hitting the slopes, post-ski socialising is a big part of winter sports holidays for many – but après ski venues were a major source of Covid outbreaks at the beginning of the pandemic, especially in the now-notorious Austrian resort of Ischgl.

Health authorities will obviously be watching case rates in ski resorts closely, but France’s bars, cafés and restaurants have been fully open since August and the combination of vaccination rates and the health passport appears – at present – to be keeping case rates low while allowing socialising.

Brexit

The 2021/22 season will also mark the first full season since the end of the Brexit transition period, which may affect Brits wanting to ski.

For those just coming on a short holiday there will be very little difference (apart from some travel-related rules to bear in mind) but those who want to stay in France for longer than 90 days in every 180 will face having to get a visa.

For those wanting to come and work the ski season, their status as no longer EU citizens mean that they enter the world of visas and work permits, something that bosses have already said is making any recruitment from the UK very difficult indeed.

READ ALSO Five things to know about the ‘direct train’ from the UK to French ski resorts

Strikes

This is France so strikes can never be ruled out, but there is currently no major industrial action planned over the winter.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Weekend travel warning on French roads as summer getaway continues

The roads will be packed over the weekend France's roads watchdog has warned as tens of thousands of holidaymakers escape the cities and head for coast or countryside. 

Weekend travel warning on French roads as summer getaway continues

The Bison Futé service has classed traffic levels across most of France on Saturday as red – its second highest level, meaning travel on roads out of all major French cities will be “very difficult” – with those in the eastern Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region classed as  “extremely difficult”, the highest level.

But the problems begin earlier, with traffic levels on France’s major arterial routes rising from lunchtime on Friday, as some holidaymakers set off early to avoid the rush.

Image: Bison Futé

Bison Futé advises road users heading away from major cities in France to:

  • leave or cross the Île-de-France before 12noon;
  • avoid the A13 between Paris and Rouen from 5pm to 9pm, and between Rouen and Caen from 3pm to 9pm;
  • avoid the A10 between Orleans and Tours from 4pm to 7pm;
  • avoid the A63 between Bordeaux and Bayonne from 3pm to 7pm;
  • avoid the A7 between Lyon and Orange from 4pm to 10pm, and between Salon-de-Provence and Marseille from 3pm to 8pm;
  • avoid the A8 between Aix-en-Provence and Nice from 12pm to 8pm;
  • avoid the A9 between Montpellier and Narbonne from 4pm to 7pm;
  • avoid the A62 between Bordeaux and Toulouse from 4pm to 8pm;
  • avoid the Mont-Blanc tunnel in the direction of Italy from 1pm to 7pm (waiting time greater than 1 hour).

Meanwhile, those heading back to the cities from popular French holiday resorts should:

  • avoid the A13 between Rouen and Paris from 5pm to 8pm;
  • avoid the A10 between Bordeaux and Poitiers from 1pm to 8pm;
  • avoid the A7 between Orange and Lyon from 3pm to 6pm;
  • avoid the A8 near Aix-en-Provence from 4pm to 9pm;
  • avoid the A62 between Toulouse and Agen from 3pm to 8pm.

On Saturday, the busiest day of the weekend on France’s roads, Bison Fute says motorists heading away from major cities should:

Image: Bison Futé
  • leave or cross Ile-de-France after 4pm;
  • avoid the A13 between Rouen and Caen from 1pm to 3pm;
  • avoid the A11 between Paris and Le Mans from 11am to 1pm;
  • avoid the A10 at the Saint-Arnoult-en-Yvelines toll area from 8am to 12pm, and between Orléans and Bordeaux from 10am to 6pm;
  • avoid the A63 between Bordeaux and Bayonne from 1pm to 5pm, 
  • go through the Fleury toll area on the A6 after 12pm;
  • avoid the A7 between Lyon and Orange from 10am to 3pm and between Salon-de-Provence and Marseille from 1pm to 6pm;
  • avoid the A9 between Orange and Montpellier from 8am to 10am;
  • avoid the A75 between Clermont-Ferrand and Montpellier from 11am to 1pm;
  • avoid the A62 between Agen and Toulouse from 11am to 5pm;
  • avoid the Mont-Blanc tunnel in the direction of Italy from 10am to 1pm (waiting time greater than 1 hour);

Those heading the other way on Saturday should:

  • return to or cross Ile-de-France before 2pm;
  • avoid the A10 motorway, between Bordeaux and Poitiers, from 1pm to 3pm;
  • avoid the A7 motorway, between Marseille and Salon-de-Provence, from 9am to 3pm and between Orange and Lyon, from 12pm to 3pm;
  • avoid the A8 motorway, between Nice and Aix-en-Provence, from 10am to 2pm;
  • avoid the A9 motorway, between Montpellier and Orange, from 11am to 1pm.
  • Travel becomes much easy on French roads on Sunday, Bison Fute said.
Image: Bison Futé

But it has still issued the following advice for those travelling to holiday destinations

  • avoid the A10 between Poitiers and Bordeaux from 3pm to 5pm;
  • avoid the A63 between Bordeaux and Bayonne from 5pm to 8pm;
  • avoid the A7 between Lyon and Orange from 12pm to 4pm.

Transport Minister Clément Beaune reminded holidaymakers that motorway operators were offering 10 percent reductions in the price of tolls holders of holiday vouchers for the whole of the summer holiday period.

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