Sasha and I were forced, like so many, to cut our season prematurely short last winter by the global pandemic. Summer has passed with both good and bad news about Covid-19. Always optimists, we travelled back to France from the UK in October to have some business meetings before the next season started in Val d’Isere. With the hospital numbers not looking good, we were thrown into another Lockdown (or ‘Confinement’) and instead of moving into our apartment in the station at the beginning of November, we find ourselves still at Sasha’s family’s house near Annecy. It’s so beautiful here and we are very lucky in many ways, but the Winter Season ahead is looking pretty uncertain and that is weighing on our minds.
President Macron has announced that the Confinement will last until at least the beginning of December but, even when it’s over, there’s likely to be very tight restrictions on the Tourism and Restaurant/Bar sectors. Many are looking to Disneyland as an example of what to expect for the Winter 2020/21 Season as they are state owned, therefore are likely to be informed of decisions early. In October it was announced that Disneyland Paris would be open for a few weeks over the Christmas Holidays- obviously with strict Covid-safe measures. This has led to many making the assumption that restrictions will be loosened for everyone during the festive period.
Screenshot from 16/11/2020
The problem for businesses in Ski Resorts is that it’s extremely expensive to staff and stock for the winter. If businesses were to open for a few weeks before being forced to close down again, losses could be too great to come back from- not to mention the danger in seasonal staff getting stuck a long way from home if there was another Confinement.
This morning we were informed by a source that hospital numbers must reduce by around 30% in the Haute Savoie region before Resorts will be given the green light to open. We aren’t able to confirm at this time if this information is legit or just rumours, but it makes a lot of sense. The hospitals are already very full, so they need to ensure that they are able to respond to and support the increased volume of people should Ski Tourism happen and the unfortunate situation occur that the virus spreads. That could mean that Resorts like Val d’Isere could open around February- ideally before and possibly after.
Article in French about the Covid situation in Haute-Savoie
Approximate translation: Haute-Savoie this week became the most affected department in France by the Covid, posting a positivity rate of 32.8% on Tuesday, November 10 (proportion of positive people compared to the total number of people tested), going back to front Savoy (25.7%). For the sliding week of November 4 to 10, the incidence rate in Haute-Savoie was 933.4 (number of positive tests per 100,000 inhabitants) against 913.7 in Savoie. Friday, November 13, there were 665 Covid patients hospitalized in Haute-Savoie. Occupancy rates in hospitals in Haute-Savoie are 74% in intensive care (68 beds occupied, including 54 for Covid out of 92 beds) and 80% in Covid medicine (532 beds occupied out of 661). “The situation is extremely serious, the nursing staff are at the end of their rope. I call for collective and individual responsibility. There are dozens of deaths every day in Haute-Savoie. The population must take the measure of the numbers, ”urged Martial Saddier.
Some resorts in Switzerland have already been open for a few weeks and while their websites boast that they are following strict sanitation measures, what we’ve seen online, on Social Media and been informed of by friends is that there are little signs of Covid-safe practices. Lift queues have been crowded with users not respecting Social Distancing guidelines. This was really frustrating to see and hear as, undoubtedly, the results of the Resorts being open in their neighbouring country will be analysed by the French authorities. Everyone has to take responsibility for their actions until the virus is eradicated in order to protect each other as well as the industries that we enjoy and need.
There are obviously other questions to bear in mind for those travelling from the UK such as Travel Insurance, 14 day Quarantines and Brexit. It’s a pretty big mess. We remain optimistic though and will be more grateful than ever when we finally have snowboards under our feet again and see the Resorts thriving. It’s really just a ‘wait and see’ situation for now. Sasha is adamant that Resorts will open and everything will be fine, whereas I’m a little more reserved in my confidence in the situation. That’s not to say that I don’t want the Winter Season to happen- of course I do! I just know that it’s going to be a very difficult call to make as there are lives, businesses and a hell of a lot of money on the line. The tax money collected in the Alps is second only to Paris in all of the French Regions therefore hugely important to the economy and the majority of that money is made in the Winter.
We’ll be writing updates with our plans based on the News as and when we get it. For now, we’re staying in Isolation just a few hours away from our beloved Val d’Isere- so close, yet so far!
Fingers crossed for the winter season and stay safe everyone!