British skiers are finally allowed back on the slopes in France after the French government lifted a near month-long ban on travel from the UK last Friday.
You can now enter France from the UK quarantine-free as long as you’re fully vaccinated and you produce a negative COVID test taken within the previous 24 hours.
The test can be PCR or antigen, but it must be supervised – although we understand that home-testing kits which are verified by uploading a photo to a website are acceptable as an alternative to the more expensive in-clinic tests. Children under 12 are exempt.
You must also fill out a rather quaint French travel certificate swearing that you’re free of COVID symptoms. Many skiers enter France via Geneva airport, or Turin, so they’ll have to fill out entry forms for Switzerland and Italy respectively, and comply with Swiss and Italian testing requirements too.
Once in France, there are other rules to follow. Everyone from the age of 12 and two months must prove they’re fully vaccinated or provide a negative COVID test taken within the previous 24 hours to use ski lifts as well as to enter bars, restaurants, hotels and other public venues. You’re advised to download the French health pass – found on the TousAntiCovid app – and link this to your NHS COVID Pass to show proof of your vaccination and/or test results.
Since January 14, adults must have a booster within seven months of their second COVID jab to qualify as fully vaccinated. Under 18s only need to have two doses. Otherwise, you must prove you’ve recovered from COVID within the previous six months or take a COVID test every 24 hours.
Also, those over five years old are supposed to wear a mask on chair lifts and cable lifts and when standing in lift queues and on entering public buildings.
All this sounds like a lot of hassle and could potentially squeeze some of the joy out of skiing, but how is it working in practice?
Travel Gossip’s Co-editor Linsey McNeill arrived in France on Saturday and reports here on how the new rules are being implemented.
“I travelled to the French Alps via Geneva Airport. I’m fully vaccinated and took an antigen test to comply with both Swiss and French entry rules. The UK Foreign Office states that if travelling from the UK to France via Geneva you need a PCR, but this is incorrect according to the Swiss Health Ministry, an antigen test is fine.
In the end, no-one asked to see my test result or proof of my vaccinations. I was only asked to show my passport at Swiss immigration and there were no checks at the French border. Obviously, you must comply with the rules, take a test and fill out the required forms, but don’t worry about being given the third-degree at the border.
I’m staying in the Evasion ski area, which covers several resorts including Megeve, Saint Gervais les Bains and Les Contamines. Here, very little has changed since pre-COVID. Sure, there are lots of signs telling you to mask-up and show proof of your COVID status, but so far I haven’t seen any evidence of the rules being enforced and certainly skiers aren’t being constantly hassled.
I haven’t been asked to show my French health pass when entering restaurants and bars and I wasn’t asked to show proof of my vaccinations when I bought my ski pass, although I gather that in some resorts you do have to show your pass to buy a ticket while in others local police are reportedly carrying out spot checks.
I was told when I bought my ski pass that I would be asked to show my health pass on the lifts, but so far no-one has done any checks. It certainly doesn’t seem as if skiers are constantly being asked to show their health pass. If you’re concerned this might be an issue, one tip is to print out the QR code from the TousAntiCovid app, laminate it and stick it to your helmet.
As for mask-wearing, most skiers I’ve seen haven’t bothered. Some are wearing masks around their chins, presumably in case they’re told off by the lift operators, but the lift operators don’t seem to care. A small handful have popped a mask on when in a cable car or – more rarely – on the chair lifts, but the majority have gone mask-less.
In short, a ski holiday is just as much fun as it ever was once you arrive. The French are very welcoming, everyone I’ve met has been pleased to see us return, and in Meribel they were even organising a special Sunday evening torchlit ski descent to welcome Brits back. You just have to jump through a few hoops to get here!”