As virus soars, France allows ski resorts to open… but not ski lifts

French winter sport resorts are free to open for the Christmas holiday season, Prime Minister Jean Castex says, but ski lifts will have to remain shut.

President Emmanuel Macron warned Tuesday that coronavirus risks made it “impossible” to allow winter sports to resume quickly, adding he hoped that restrictions could be lifted in January.

France’s 350 ski resorts have been up in arms over the decision, saying the weeks around Christmas and New Year are crucial for their survival as they account for up to a quarter of their annual revenues.

Castex says mountain holidays were still on the cards but downhill skiing — by far the most popular pastime for crowds of French and foreign skiers in Alpine and Pyrenees resorts — is effectively ruled out.

In this file photo taken on October 17, 2020 people ski on the opening day of the Les 2 Alpes French resort. (JEFF PACHOUD / AFP)

“Naturally, everybody is free to travel to resorts to enjoy the clean air of our beautiful mountains, and the shops which will be open, although bars and restaurants won’t be,” Castex tells a news conference.

“But all ski lifts and collective infrastructures will be closed to the public,” he says.

Cross-country skiing, sledding and snowshoe hikes are among snow activities that do not usually require mechanical lifts.