Covid: French ski season in disarray as UK tourists bannedon December 19, 2021 at 12:29 am

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Snow on the slopes of Mont Blanc is the best Chamonix has seen in years – but few Brits will enjoy it.

A Christmas tree and properties in Chamonix, France

The early season snow on the pine-filled slopes of Mont Blanc is the best Chamonix has seen for years. There just aren’t the British skiers to enjoy it.

It had looked like being a bumper Christmas for France’s ski resorts, with flights and ferries from Britain fully booked.

But then came a warning from France’s government last Thursday of “a landslide” – not on its own mountains, but of the Omicron coronavirus variant careering through the UK.

All non-essential travel from Britain was to be banned. And suddenly cancellations replaced arrivals.

“I feel sad, disappointed and angry,” says Thomas Mathieu, the owner of Brasserie les Marmottons, who has already let three employees go, anticipating the drop in business.

“Everything is ready here: we put on masks, we have the [vaccination] passes, we have everything right by our government. It’s very confusing for us,” he adds.

One in four tourists in Chamonix before the pandemic was British. Britons are the largest foreign cohort of visitors to the French resorts.

But France’s Prime Minister Jean Castex has compared Omicron to “lightning” – and his government appears willing to take the hit, accelerating its booster programme in the meantime.

Ski lifts above the slopes in Chamonix

Some from the UK arrived just before the drawbridge came up on Friday night, counting their luck as businesses count their losses.

Hugh Kocheta had just skied down from 2,100 metres – the pistes wide open with so few Brits here. “We’re missing a few people from different families who were supposed to come over, but who are probably just not going to be able to come out now,” he says. “It’s obviously a bit gutting for certain people.”

Alison Hands and her family were driving down from Calais on Thursday as they heard the news. “Being here makes it feel like a normal Christmas again because I’ve come every year since I was born – apart from the last one,” says her eight-year-old son Moss.

And that is the fear here – that the ban on British tourists evokes a worrying déjà-vu of last Christmas when strict lockdowns followed. For those catering for the British market, the emptiness is devastating – and an ominous sign of what more could come.

Dave Searle of the British Ski Guide association in Chamonix

Dave Searle works with the British Ski Guide association in Chamonix, and cancellations have flooded in.

“If this continues this season, it’ll be a big loss of earnings… up to 50% of my annual earnings is through the winter. I guess I’m worried it’s just going to keep doing this every winter. And if I’m losing half my earnings every year, I need to find a new profession.”

Does he understand the French decision, I ask?

“It does make sense in some ways and it’s all about keeping people safe and hospitals empty,” he replies. “But perhaps it does also feel like a bit of a kneejerk reaction, singling out one country.”

France’s confirmed Omicron cases are a fraction of those in the UK, though French scientists do far less genetic sequencing of new variants than their British counterparts. And intensive care units are once again filling up fast here.

Beside the Christmas lights in the centre of beautiful Chamonix, festive cheer is fading. The hope is that this may be a short blip, not a lost season.

France is buying time with this measure – and paying a high price for its mountain resorts to sparkle again.

line

You may be interested to watch:

This video can not be played

To play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.

- Advertisement -

Discover

Sponsor

Latest

All-party groups: Calls for stronger anti-lobbying rules for MPson November 28, 2021 at 1:46 am

MPs face tighter rules on second jobs - but what about lobbying through all-party groups?

The people using YouTube to pay for their French chateauon January 13, 2022 at 12:11 am

How chateaux owners are using advertising revenues from social media posts to earn a living.

Mountain lion: US mother fights off animal attacking her sonon August 29, 2021 at 2:28 pm

She hit the animal with her bare hands as it attacked the five-year-old at their home in California.image sourceGetty ImagesA woman in California has...

Tesla tells furloughed workers to expect a week or more of unemployment

KEY POINTS On Friday, Tesla braced its furloughed U.S. employees for at least another week of unemployment, according to an email obtained by CNBC. ...

James Markham killing: Boy, 14, in court on Chingford murder chargeon August 17, 2021 at 10:18 am

A 14-year-old boy appears at the Old Bailey over the alleged murder of James Markham.image sourceMarkham familyA 14-year-old boy has appeared at the Old...