The French ski and snowboard school, Oxygene, that caters for British guests in 14 different resorts has set out its Covid-19 policies for the new winter season that started this last weekend in Val Thorens.
As the school and its instructors prepare for the first lessons since March 2020, it has provided some key information regarding Covid, highlighting what anyone visiting the French Alps this winter will expect – Oxygene wants to share this information with all skiers and snowboarders.
Ski Lifts Are Opening
Whilst technically ski resorts in France were open last winter, the ski lifts were not. This year, the French government has stated that ski resorts and lifts will operate as usual, but under certain restrictions, depending on case numbers. Wearing a face mask is mandatory inside all public places and on public transport, including closed lifts such as gondolas.
For countries on France’s Amber List (which currently includes the UK), only fully vaccinated travellers are allowed in, unless it’s for ‘essential’ reasons. Proof of vaccination must be shown along with a declaration that there are no symptoms of Covid being experienced.
The Pass Sanitaire is then required to access bars and restaurants (including outdoors), but not shops such as supermarkets, although a mask must be worn. The pass isn’t required for ski lifts, but this might change if case numbers rise above 200 per 100,000 people nationally.
Currently ski schools are not required to ask its pupils for the Pass Sanitaire, but Oxygene instructors will all be required to have one themselves.
The Pass Sanitaire (Health Pass) – What Is It?
The health pass currently means loading a QR code into the AntiCovid app; either vaccinated, recently recovered from Covid or a negative test (less than 72h for PCR or 48 hrs for a lateral flow).
Oxygene Ski School Answers Some Of The Key Questions
(this applies to France only)
1. Will all Oxygene ski instructors be vaccinated?
Most of the Oxygene team are fully vaccinated, but current French law does not allow Oxygene to make this mandatory.
2. Are masks or a face coverings mandatory?
Currently it is obligatory to wear face masks for anyone over 11 years old and recommended from 6 years of age on cable cars/gondolas and in lift queues (some chairlifts too). However, this situation is constantly evolving and it’s expected that face coverings will be obligatory on all ski lifts and at the ski school meeting point for everyone from 6 years old as we head further into the winter season.
Technical information on face masks: Skiers and snowboarders are required to wear a surgical mask or a category 1 fabric mask (AFNOR SPEC S76-001 certification). Concerning neck warmers, only those that are filtering and approved will be authorized as an alternative to masks.
3. Is a health pass necessary to attend lessons or take a ski lift?
No, a health pass is not currently required, but this will be required for ski lifts if the national incidence rate reaches 200 cases for 100,000 people. The general view currently is that this will be the case as we head into December.
4. Is a health pass required for mountain restaurants?
Yes, everyone over 12 years old needs to show proof of being fully vaccinated or a negative Covid test. Covid testing facilities to be accessible in resort.
5. If a teenager has only had one vaccine, can they get a health pass?
Yes, they will be able to take an approved PCR or lateral flow test to get a QR code for the health pass. Testing centres will be available in each resort.
6. Are there masks suitable for skiing?
Yes there are certified neck warmers that can be used, ideal for pulling above the nose while in a ski lift queue. Oxygene has its own version which can be purchased in resort for 15€.
7. Is the protocol likely to change?
Currently it seems unlikely to revert to a situation like last year. More than 87% of the French population is already vaccinated. However if France’s cases significantly increase, then the government is likely to take further action.
And for those over the age of 65:
From 15 December those who are 65 and over and who have been fully vaccinated for more than six months and five weeks will need to demonstrate they have received an approved Covid-19 booster injection in order to access the French health pass.
Oxygene – a ski school with its own measures
Emma Morison, General Manager of Oxygene Ski School, said:
“We, at Oxygene, are 100% committed to the safety and security of all our clients and team. During the ongoing pandemic we are following all French government rules and regulations, and we have included a number of our own additional measures too”.
- Regular disinfection of sales counters and points of contact in all our Oxygene shops and offices.
- Alcohol-based hand sanitiser available in all Oxygene shops and offices.
- Reminders to respect ‘social distancing’ space between each other.
- Encourage hands-free payment and try to limit payments in cash.
- All staff wear face masks and/or approved face coverings.
- When possible, Oxygene enforce the wearing of face masks or appropriate face coverings for all clients in busy or enclosed areas, even externally (ski school meeting points, gondolas, ski lift queues).
- Oxygene ask all clients and instructors to be on the lookout for Covid symptoms and if in doubt take a Covid test before coming to lessons.
- In the event of a positive Covid test, Oxygene will follow the French public health directives on contact tracing.