Confirmed: French ski lifts will stay closed into February

Opening later in the month is also unlikely and the whole winter season may be cancelled the government said yesterday

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Ski lifts in France are to remain closed from February 1, the government confirmed yesterday (January 20), with reopening later in the month also unlikely.

The announcement came hours after a meeting of the defence council yesterday, dedicated to “measures to slow down” the Covid-19 pandemic in France.

Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, secretary of state at the ministry for Europe and foreign affairs, told press by video call yesterday: “Reopening in mid or late February seems highly unlikely. We are leaning towards cancelling the whole season.”

Ski stations already suffering

Ski lifts have been closed for months in France, meaning ski stations have already missed out on the lucrative end of year period. Mr Lemoyne said that occupancy in ski stations had fallen to 20-30% capacity during the 2020 festive season, compared with 95% normally seen over Christmas.

The month of February is also significant for the industry as stations are normally busy during the school holidays.

Prime Minister Jean Castex will meet with representatives from the ski sector in coming days to finalise economic support measures. The ski industry in France accounts for between 250,000–400,000 jobs.

Mr Lemoyne said: “The snow cannons will not be operating, but the compensation cannons will be at the meeting.”

Ski sector sad and angry over announcement

Leaders in the ski sector have reacted with disappointment to the announcement, even though many already feared the entire winter season would be cancelled.

Alexandre Maulin, president of Domaines skiables de France, greeted the government decision with “absolute sadness”. He told AFP the decision was a “hammer blow” to the ski industry.

“We had placed our last hopes on opening in February”, he said.

Referring to promises of financial aid from President Macron, he added: “Now we will have to believe in the words of the President – ‘whatever it costs’ – and save all the employees in the sector.”

Fabrice Boutet, director of the Sata Group, which runs the Deux Alpes and l’Alpe d’Huez ski stations, told AFP he was “angry”.

He said, for seasonal ski workers, “there is a whole generation that cannot work, that are losing direction, and the value of work”.

Fears for future ski seasons

Dominique Marcel, president of le Compagnie des Alpes added: “The consequences will have catastrophic effects on the whole ski ecosystem, which represents more than €10 billion in turnover.

“It will have immediate effects on jobs and income for operators, hospitality, shop owners – and it will last beyond the winter season because in summer we normally do building work and reinvest, which we won’t be able to.”

He said: “In the coming years, if we invest less and renovate less, there could be an impact on the quality of what we can offer. This is a tsunami that has taken this season and will weaken those to come.”

In Augergne-Rhône-Alpes, President of the region Laurent Wauquiez added: “The government must offer our ski stations a massive plan to save jobs, urgently. We will be vigilant. The region will put in place a specific support plan. A lot of people need us – and we will save them.”

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