The impact of Coronavirus has now forced France to close its ski resorts and ban ski touring.
The official announcement was only made on Saturday night. Many holiday makers arrived on Saturday, to find their resort closed the next morning. Ski resorts have seen a mass exodus over the last few days as holidaymakers and workers make a hasty departure. It’s disastrous for everyone, especially local businesses.
Ironically, as the world goes into isolation because of the virus, weather conditions couldn’t be better. Spring-snow conditions look amazing, as do the deserted pistes. It would be so tempting to escape into the mountains for a bit of ski-touring, but…
French authorities strongly advise against this for very good reasons. Most importantly, should you get injured and need to call for rescue, you’d be taking up valuable resources of emergency rescue services who are already highly-stretched. If you need to be hospitalised you could be taking up a much-needed bed of a very sick person.
Very sadly, there were accidents in the mountains on Tuesday (the first day of isolation) where emergency services had to be called out. One ski tourer in Haute-Savoie was killed after a 100 m fall. Here’s a link to a report (in French): https://www.ouest-france.fr/sante/virus/coronavirus/confinement/alpes-un-mort-et-deux-blesses-en-montagne-au-premier-jour-du-confinement-6783941
The Chamoniarde mountain safety and advice team for Chamonix/Mont Blanc area has now stopped giving out information on mountain conditions, saying that now isn’t the time for taking part in mountain activities like touring or climbing. (They were being inundated with requests for info).
This translated warning from the PGHM (mountain rescue police) on Mon 16th March sums it up :
The sky is blue, the snow is here and the mountains are beautiful. Great is the temptation to take a walk. However, the present situation and above all to come is such that every resource, every minute that will be devoted by medical teams to mountain relief could be used to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic, and therefore , in fine, most likely at the expense of another patient. In other words, from now on, every rescue is potentially an extra relief for hospital services.
Although the rescue service at Chamonix Mont Blanc remains fully insured, we will send the message of our fellow mountain rescue doctors who specifically ask for: ‘considerate behaviour from everyone’. Pending the next official instructions, we call for awareness of mountain practitioners and recommend them to minimize, preferably to suspend, their activities during the crisis.
Since the above message, the ‘next official instructions’ have been an outright ban on mountain activities that is now being enforced (at least in Haute Savoie around Mt Blanc) by the police who have said that they will arrest and/or fine people who are not respecting these new temporary restrictions.
So it’s clearly the end of the ski season, and the ski-touring season is sadly over too. This will therefore be our last weekly report on off-piste conditions for this season.
We highly recommend Planet Ski website who have been doing a fantastic job keeping us updated : https://www.planetski.eu/ and InTheSnow too https://www.inthesnow.com/category/news/ We’ll also be publishing articles, updates and thoughts on our blog and Facebook page.
From all of us at HAT: thank you for your interest in what we have to say and do. We wish you the very best. Please look after yourselves in these weird and difficult times everyone. Let’s hope things get back to ‘skiing as usual’ soon.
Safety is Freedom!