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The Telegraph

‘We are living on a knife edge’: French ski resorts devastated after reopening is postponed

The slopes are deathly silent bar the sporadic swoosh of fresh snow sliding off pine trees in the warm sun. I am out skinning in Les Gets and there’s no doubt about it: the soul-soothing serenity of go-slow snow sports – ski touring, snowshoeing, cross-country skating – has ensured a certain festive magic for adopted locals like myself and domestic tourists lucky enough to wind up in the French ski resort over the Christmas period. But with the holidays over and the scant few French tourists back home, ski resorts in France are frighteningly empty. This week’s return to lockdown in England killed off any bookings from British skiers, including for February half-term, in one fell swoop. Now French prime minister Jean Castex’s announcement last night that ski lifts won’t open this weekend as suggested back in December, is prompting struggling businesses in the Alps to question if they’ll get any season at all. “Covid has reduced us to having no staff and no business. We are open, but no one is coming. It is devastating.” Former intensive-care and hospital ward sister from Yorkshire, Jane Sayer, 62, and partner Robert Mewton, 67, have called Les Gets home for 27 years. Prior to the pandemic, their successful airport transfer business and fully-catered Chalet Bluebell employed 16 drivers and chalet staff. Today they are just two, with three of their original 14 minibuses on the road and no hope of recuperating this season’s lost revenue. “We are living on a knife edge, we can only plan hours ahead. I’ll burn €5,000 worth of fuel to heat the chalet on the proviso that I might get a booking. It is an absolute nightmare, an awful situation of which we have no control. “We now know for sure that we won’t get any British guests until March, probably all winter. We might get some French business in February, but this is nothing to what we would normally turn over. We are now planning on not having a season at all,” says Jane, whose 18-bed chalet is usually fully booked from Christmas to Easter. Britons account for 14% of the 17,500 guests Les Gets typically hosts each winter. This season’s alarming lack of visitors, coupled with strict sanitary measures, means just three of 18 hotels in Les Gets have managed to open so far. With Covid-19 infections in France currently three times the daily target of 5,000 cases, set back in December for ski resorts to operate as usual, the French government last night postponed its decision to reopen lifts until at least January 20. The prime minister suggested lifts might get a green light for early February, in time for the traditionally-busy, half-term school holiday.

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