A Wham Christmas in Samoëns
Since October 30th France has been in a second lockdown, but this 'reconfinement' has been (or at least feels) less strict than the first one in May. There is much more traffic on the roads, schools are open and the so-called 'attestion' is still necessary, but often forgotten when we are leaving home. The biggest difference for me, is that as an 'educateur sportif' I have allowed to train, which enabled me to go into the mountains by foot or on my mountain bike. Since last weekend the shops are open again and everyone is allowed to undertake outdoor sports, within 3 hours and 20km's from home. The next step in the deconfinement will be on Dec 15th. From this date we will get rid of the attestation to freely move around during daytime. From 20:00-7:00h there will be a curfew though, which will be valid for locals as well as tourists.
A closed ski area
In recent weeks many locals have been speculating about what this winter would bring. At the end of November Macron surprised us all with the shocking news that ski areas have to stay closed until January, as well as restaurants. You can imagine that this is dramatic for many people working in ski villages; ski teachers, lifties, chalet owners, restaurateurs, taxi companies, ski shops and many others who are directly or indirectly related to the ski business. At the dinner table we asked our boys if they could name a classmate and think of the job their parents were doing. For half of the class, at least one of the parents works in (ski) tourism and sometimes even both parents.
What the start of the winter season looks like
- Alpine skiing won't be possible during the Christmas holidays. Locals and tourists are allowed to go ski touring, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, fatbiking, etc.
- From Dec 15th French citizens and tourists are allowed to freely travel around in France, taking in account of the curfew. Guides might be allowed to take their clients on mountain activities for a full day; ski touring, snowshoeing, etc.
- From Dec 19th the Grand Massif ski area should have opened, but will (probably) stay closed until the beginning of January.
- During the Christmas holidays there will still be a curfew from 21:00-7:00h, valid for locals and tourists. On Dec 24th and 31st there will be an exception to meet family (seeing friends might still not be recommended).
- Restaurants have to stay closed until January 20th. This means that hotels and catered chalets are not able to feed their clients in the usual way neither.
A Wham Christmas in Samoëns
Normally the Christmas holiday is a really busy period, but there is no doubt that the first weeks of the winter season will be quiet:
The Brits are still dealing with their quarantine rules, although they are limited to 5 days from Dec 15th. The costs of compulsory Covid tests, however, could make an already expensive holiday out of the question for many. Beside this, many British skiers prefer a catered ski holiday in a chalet or a hotel, which is not possible at the moment.
The Belgian government has designted all of France as a Covid red zone. Travel to France is therefore not recommended, but a Covid test and quarantine are not mandatory when returning to Belgium.
The Dutch government has marked (nearly) all European countries orange. Not because orange is their prefered colour, but to explain to citizens that they don't want them to travel there until mid-March! The governement can't prohibit you from travel to France, but it is highly discouraged. It's mostly to stop Dutch skiers to go for (après) ski holidays in the Alps and bring Covid back to the flatlands, like last winter.
So during the Christmas holiday it’s likely that Samoëns and la Vallée du Giffre will mainly welcome some French (and Genevian) families willing to enjoy a non-ski winter holiday. Luckily enough there is no better place to do this in the French Alps than Samoëns; the destination for the ultimate 'Wham Christmas holiday'!
How COVID will effect us
As a private chef, Jess’ main clientele is the British ski customer who likes to be well looked after, after a day on the slopes. There will be less British skiers this winter season, and the ones who come, can't enjoy the catered chalet concept nor any restaurant (during the first weeks). However, if they’d like to be looked after still, they could call Jess for a tasty meal delivered to their door. There might be a demand for lunches as well, dropped off or served in an outdoor location. Hopefully the local bakery will be creative and adaptive as they might get very busy this winter!
As an accompagnateur en montagnes (aka mountain leader), I am taking my guests out and about on snowshoes for a winter adventure off the beaten track and away from the crowds. This winter will be the winter to explore new or different winter activities, like ski touring, fatbiking and snowshoeing. This is definately an opportunity for me as long as the ski area is closed and a great opportunity to stay away from the crowds as soon as the busy (?) half term weeks will start.
The mountains are calling, but ...
During our years in France we have learnt to live more by the day, willing to be flexible and adaptive. These skills are very useful during this Covid year and make it less stressful for us.
At the moment we receive inquiries every day, to find out about possibilities for this winter. We really hope we will be able to take you out on multiple day adventures as well, spending the night in a mountain hut or a hand crafted igloo. But so far, we don't now and we are led by uncertainty. I am very happy and grateful that my old friend Claudius offered me his iddylic mountain hut, to use as a shelter for a night away on snowshoes, touring skis or splitboards. This amazing place will warmly welcome us on our Wild Alps winter journey and we are planning a splitboard trip as well. We’re also about to schedule a first backcountry basecamp adventure and we’ve nearly filled up a Mindful snowshoe trip, accommodated in a luxery chalet, deliciously catered by Jess.
With AlpAdventures we see the same thing happening as in the spring during the first wave. People get stir crazy after being locked down in homes and cities and look forward to escaping their daily lives for a mountain adventure.
During these surreal Covid times we seem to realize the urgency of breaking our daily routine to have fun, do sports, socialize with like minded people, get off the beaten track, find our wild, go back to basic, enjoy nature, unplug and reconnect...in short;
we have a need for AlpAdventures!