Tignes Val Claret, France, feeling the effects of coronavirus

Switzerland and Austria are set to defy Angelica Merkel’s plea for European nations to keep resorts closed until mid-January as Austrian minister claims ““We will not tell France when to reopen the Louvre”

The global skiing industry has already suffered a huge financial hit after resorts were forced to shut four weeks early back in March due to the coronavirus. The US industry alone is estimated to have lost over $2billion last winter after visits fell 14% according to the National Ski Areas Association and the problem could be about to become far worse in Europe.

“A catastrophe”

– Emmanuel Macron

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for an EU-wide ban on skiing until January 10 to stem the spread of Covid-19. However, Austria is strongly opposed to restrictions on its crucial winter sports industry which contributes 4 per cent to the Alpine republic’s gross domestic product each year.

Switzerland, who are not members of the EU, have sided with Austria to keep their resorts open over the busy Christmas period which brings in around a third of the season’s total revenue. This decision, along with France’s decision to abide by Merkel’s proposals has angered many in France’s tourism industry who now face further financial loss as a result.

The mayor of Châtel, a French village that forms the base of the Portes du Soleil ski area and lies on the border with Switzerland, has taken to draping the village hall in Swiss flags to protest the decision.

The Mayor of Chatel, France in front of the village hall (source BBC)

The situation has been described as a ‘catastrophe’ by French President Emmanuel Macron, who has vowed to do everything in his power to “avoid creating an unbalanced situation with resorts in France, Italy and Germany likely to close while others open”. One such measure is imposing random car checks to stop eager French skiers from crossing the border into Switzerland. Any who do so will be made to quarantine on their return.

Many tourists have been forced to cancel or change plans due to the announcement, and there is a real concern that the slopes that remain open may become Covid hotspots. One tourist who has decided to travel to Switzerland over Christmas despite the risks, is Ciaran O’Callaghan who can be heard below.

 

The closure of slopes until after the Christmas period is sure to cause an increase to ski passes and hotel costs. This puts skiing at risk of returning to being a sport only for Kings and the elite, something that nobody wants to see.

There will be many more discussions ahead for the leaders of Europe’s alpine nations about how best to save an already struggling industry. The impact of coronavirus has only added to the difficulties the industry already faced due to Brexit and global warming, the latter of which has already led to many popular slopes and resorts having to close from lack of snow.

The closure of more slopes this Christmas could spell the end for many family favorite resorts which are enjoyed by the over forty million Europeans who descend on the slopes each year.