Thousands of people have signed a petition calling for the total reopening of all ski stations in France over Christmas, after the government ordered them to remain closed until January.
The call, named Cet hiver, je skie ("This winter, I am skiing/will ski"), is also supported by president of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, Laurent Wauquiez.
The petition was launched by 70 ministers and mountain industry professionals, and published on Saturday November 28 alongside an open letter in newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche.
At the time of writing, it has gathered more than 21,500 signatures.
It was also notably supported by Jean-Luc Boch, president of of French mountain association France Montagne and ANMSM; Alexandre Maulin, president of the Domaines Skiables de France (DSF); Éric Brèche, president of ski instructors’ union Syndicat National des Moniteurs du Ski Français (SNMSF); and many local MPs.
It calls on President Emmanuel Macron to “rethink” his decision and allow the “mountain to be open”.
The open letter said: “Mr President of the Republic, do not kill the French mountains! The decisions taken may purely and simply condemn them. We have worked to safely welcome people who love the mountains.
“We have made proposals to the government and commitments were made by your ministers. Our only ask is that we are listened to.”
The letter continued that Christmas represents “between 20-25% of a business that only takes place for barely four months of the year” and that “Christmas is major for the mountain”.
France has around 350 ski stations, which employ around 120,000 seasonal workers per year - with around 12-25% of business takings usually coming in over the Christmas period. The industry is worth €11 billion per year.
In his televised speech on deconfinement plans on Tuesday November 24, President Macron said it was "very hard to see how [ski stations] could open for the holiday period", and on Thursday November 26, Prime Minister Jean Castex confirmed this.
Rather than an increased risk of Covid-19 spreading between skiers - although this is a risk - the main concern is that extra tourists and possible skiing accidents might pile pressure onto already overloaded local hospitals.
Mr Macron and Mr Castex have said it is more likely that stations will be able to reopen “in January”.
More calls to open stations
The petition is not the only call in recent days asking for ski stations to open.
President of small and medium business federation Medef, Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux, has also criticised the government’s decision.
In an interview with Europe1/Les Échos/CNEWS, he said: “Solutions cannot simply [come] from the head of state. [This question] must be a real discussion between professionals, doctors, and scientists, and the government can find a solution.”
Similarly, mayor of Nice Christian Estrosi has called for two local downhill ski stations - as well as a neighbouring cross-country ski field - to reopen, but only for Alpes-Maritimes residents and second-home owners, in an attempt to “save their opening” over the important Christmas period.
Mr Boch also said that Macron's words had been a “cold shower” to the industry, and said that France needed to open because Switzerland and Austria are so far planning to open, in contrast to Germany and Italy.
He said: “Our main competitors in Europe are Austria and Switzerland, not Germany or Italy.”