French ski resorts forced to close due to lack of snow

Unusually warm temperatures over Christmas and New Year have led to melting snow - and French ski resorts in the Alps, Pyrenees and Jura mountains are being forced to close because of the lack of snow.

French ski resorts forced to close due to lack of snow
A stopped chairlift at Le Semnoz ski resort, near Annecy, as the resort had to close temporarily due to the lack of snow. (Photo by JEFF PACHOUD / AFP)

Many of France’s lower-altitude resorts were only able to keep their doors open for a few weeks before temperatures rose too high for snow to remain deep enough for winter sports. 

The period immediately after Christmas was the warmest since 1997 in France and much of the country experienced “exceptionally high” temperatures, averaging at least 7 to 8C above seasonal norms.

The Pyrenees

In the French Pyrenees, ten of the resorts 30 resorts have had to close their ski areas in recent days, and as of December 27th only a quarter of ski runs were open for skiing.

One such resort is Ax 3 Domaines, located in Ariège, which closed on Saturday after only being operational for three weeks this winter. It typically employs about 80 people.

Some skiers who had visited Ax 3 Domaines hit stones and rocks during their descents down the mountain, damaging their equipment, as a result of the lack of sufficient snow cover. 

According to Jean-Claude Lorenzon, who owns a ski rental shop at the station, Ax 3 Domaines will not be able to open again until more snow falls.

Two other resorts closed their ski areas just before Christmas – Mourtis, located in Haute-Garonne, which closed on December 22nd, and La Pierre Saint-Martin, located in the Pyrenees-Atlantiques, which closed on December 23rd.

As of January 2nd, forecasters expected temperatures to remain mild during the beginning of January, indicating that the closures could continue at least until the middle of the month.

The Vosges and Jura Mountains

Other skiable parts of France – like the Vosges and the Jura Mountains, have also been heavily impacted by warm temperatures, with less than a quarter of runs open for skiing.

In some places, like the Schlucht resort in the Vosges mountains, ski resort operators have been forced to adapt by opening the chairlift to hikers. “Usually, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is the strongest of the season,” Laurent Vaxelaire, the manager of the resort told France Bleu

While some resorts have been able to keep certain runs open with artificial snow, the technique is costly and energy intensive, and temperatures have to be near freezing for the machines to work.

The Alps

The Alps have also been affected by rising temperatures, particularly those in the northern part of the range and sections below 2,000 metres. In Haute-Savoie, rain fell instead of snow, forcing the ski resort of Semnoz to close its doors completely during the Christmas holidays.

Another ski resort, Praz de Lyz Sommand experienced flooding after heavy rains just ahead of Christmas.

And at the resort Les Gets, part of the famous Portes de Soleil ski area, only had two runs open on January 2nd. 

According to projections Météo France, by 2050, the availability of snow cover in mid-mountain areas will be reduced to 10 to 40 percent current thickness due to the climate crisis.

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Reader Question: Does a passport renewal restart the 90 day clock for visiting France?

If you were hoping that your renewed passport might offer a way to avoid the 90-day rule when visiting France, here is what you should know.

Reader Question: Does a passport renewal restart the 90 day clock for visiting France?

Question – I’m British and a frequent visitor to France and since Brexit my passport is stamped when I enter and leave the country, in order to keep track of my 90-day allowance. However I’ve recently renewed my passport and of course the new one has no stamps – does this mean that I get a new 90-day allowance?

While it may seem like passport renewal could be a loophole for getting around the 90 day rule when visiting France, you should not attempt to spend more than 90 days out of every 180 in the Schengen zone without a visa or residency permit. 

Non-EU nationals including Americans, Canadians, Australians and – since Brexit – Brits are limited to spending only 90 days out of every 180 within the EU. Anyone who wants to spend longer than this needs to apply for either a passport or a residency card. These rules apply whether you want to move to an EU country such as France to live, or simply want to make frequent or long visits here.

The 90-day ‘clock’ covers all EU and Schengen zone countries – if you need help calculating your time spent in the Schengen zone, you can do so using this online calculator HERE.

Passports are stamped on entry and exit to the EU/Schengen zone, with dates of entry and exit.

However, getting a new passport does not reset the clock – some have suggested that a new passport could be a work-around, as it would not show previous entry/exit stamps which are used to calculate the amount of time a non-EU national person has spent in the Schengen zone. 

The primary reason is that passports are in most cases automatically scanned when you enter and leave the Bloc, which makes it easy to spot over-stayers and for border forces to enforce the 90-day rule. This means that border forces do not only rely on the physical stamps in your passport.

The EU’s new EES – Entry and Exit System – will tighten up the scanning process, but its entry has been delayed.

READ MORE: How does the 90-day rule work in France?

While in previous years France may have earned itself a reputation among non-EU travellers as being not too fussy about the exact exit date of people who aren’t working or claiming benefits, the reality is that you do not want to risk the possible consequences that can come with overstaying in the EU. 

If you are caught over-staying your allocated 90 days you can end up with an ‘over-stay’ flag on your passport which can make it difficult to enter any other country, not just France, and is likely to make any future attempts at getting visas or residency a lot more difficult.

The consequences for staying over can also include being fined – since Brexit, British visitors have reported being stopped and fined at the border upon exit if they are found to have spent more than 90 days in the Schengen zone.

Keep in mind that the 90-day rule does not apply to all non-EU countries – some states, such as India, are required to have a visa for even short stays. You can access the European Union’s map that outlines which countries require visas for short stays to check to see if you are eligible.

To learn more about the 90-day rule, and alternative options for how to stay in France longer than just 90 days out of every 180, click here for The Local’s guide