How the strikes in France will affect your skiing holiday – everything you need to know

Strikes Are Called In Protest Against Controversial Pension Reforms And Unemployment Insurance Changes - Andrei Pungovschi/Bloomberg

Strikes Are Called In Protest Against Controversial Pension Reforms And Unemployment Insurance Changes – Andrei Pungovschi/Bloomberg

Tour operators and ski resorts are reassuring British skiers that an upcoming planned strike among ski lift operators is unlikely to be an “happening”, saying the first strike last week caused so little disruption that skiers don’t even notice that it was turned on.

Next month, strikes were called by the two main French unions representing ski lift operators and seasonal workers – Force Ouvrière (FO) and CGT – in protest against controversial pension reforms and changes to unemployment insurance schemes for seasonal workers. With UK and French school holidays taking place in February, unions are hoping to cause maximum disruption.

But ski resorts and tour operators, who have been hit hard by the Covid pandemic over the past few years, followed by light snow earlier this season, say if it materializes, the industrial action will cause little to no disruption.

Although it has been widely reported that an “unlimited” number of strikes were declared in February and in connection with the Ski World Cup in Méribel and Courchevel (February 6-19), only one day of action is planned so far, for the next one on Tuesday (January 31) and expected there is the participation of several lift operators.

Some resorts and operators said industrial action will cause little or no disruption - Andrei Pungovschi/Bloomberg

Some resorts and operators said industrial action will cause little or no disruption – Andrei Pungovschi/Bloomberg

Last week’s strike on January 19 caused no disruption. Three lift operators in Courchevel and four in Les Menuires participated, said Olivier Desaulty, director of Les 3 Vallées, the largest ski resort in the country.

“The strike was little respected and had no impact on holidaymakers,” he said, adding: “We respect this right to strike by maintaining the quality of social dialogue on a daily basis, which allows us to look optimistically at the February holidays and the World Cup.”

The situation is the same at Les Arcs, where VIP founder Andy Sturt met the head of the École de Ski Français this morning and told the Daily Telegraph: come to work last week.”

Xavier Schouller of French mountain specialist Peak Retreats went even further, describing the reported attacks as “no event at all”.

“Nothing will actually happen and there will be no disruption in 95 percent of French resorts,” says Schouller. “It’s the French system of national préavis that has happened many times before.”

FO general secretary Eric Becker described the strike as “the only way to be heard by the government”, explaining: “This reform has penalized seasonal workers whose unemployment benefits are sometimes cut in half, [to the point that] we can no longer recruit.”

Mitigating previous statements of intent to cause maximum disruption, Becker added: “Lifts will operate as normal from the next day (February 1), we don’t want to further undermine already distressed companies.”

Pierre Scholl, CGT’s national ski lift representative, added: “You can’t imagine it [pisteurs] transport of the wounded at the age of 64. Today, seniors are no longer employed on construction sites, and women have a hard time finding work in the off-season, often left with nothing – many families are like that.”

Last week’s strike also went unnoticed in Val d’Isere, where 23-year-old Molly Peters works for the VIP Ski season.

She said: “I haven’t even heard of the strike, let alone that it affected anyone.”

Last week's strikes caused no disruption involving three lift operators in Courchevel and four in Les Menuires - Andrei Pungovschi/Bloomberg

Last week’s strikes caused no disruption involving three lift operators in Courchevel and four in Les Menuires – Andrei Pungovschi/Bloomberg

Two of the UK’s biggest ski tour operators, Inghams and Crystal Ski Holidays, told the Telegraph they were monitoring the situation and contacting visitors staying in the affected areas.

Melvin Westlake, head of Inghams Winter Product, commented: “At this stage, we are awaiting more information with details of the suggested strikes and their impact on our French ski resorts. We understand that this may only take one day and that this may not apply to all French resorts or all lifts. We will do our best to inform our guests if there will be any disruption on this date and of course this only applies to our guests staying at our French resorts.”

A spokesperson for Crystal Ski Holidays said: “We are aware of a potential strike by ski lift operators in February. We are working with our partners at our centers to understand the impact so we can help mitigate disruption where possible. We will be in direct contact with customers who are traveling to France during this time to keep them updated.”

Frequently asked questions

When will strikes take place in French ski resorts?

The strikes will start next Tuesday (January 31). While it has been widely reported that “unlimited” strike notices were filed in February, including over the holiday period, so far January 31 is the only planned day of action – and few elevator operators are expected to attend.

“In short, there will be no difficulties for skiers, except maybe the odd pitch on January 31,” says Schouller.

Which centers will be affected?

It is not yet known which resorts or lifts will be involved in the strike action – talks are ongoing and operators will be in contact with all travelers who may be affected.

Will my skiing holiday be cancelled?

Operators and resorts are happy to assure holidaymakers that the reported strike action will not affect ski holidays.

“At Peak Retreats, we have been assured by all our major partners that there will be no disruption to skiers,” says Schouller.

However, in the unlikely event of developments and more strikes resulting in visitors not being able to ski or completing their holiday under standard conditions, if your tour is part of a package, your operator will likely transfer you to a ski resort skiing or offer a refund. If you booked yourself you should check with individual suppliers and airlines and check your travel insurance, however few policies are likely to cover a strike.

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