Tour operators and ski resorts are assuring British skiers that the upcoming planned strike among ski lift operators is likely to be a “non-event,” saying that the first strike, which took place last week, caused so little disruption that skiers didn’t even notice it was on.
Next month’s strikes have been called by the two main French unions that represent ski lift operators and seasonal workers — Force Ouvrière (FO) and the CGT — in protest at the controversial pension reforms and the modification of unemployment insurance schemes for seasonal workers. With British and French school holidays taking place during the month of February, the unions hope to cause maximum disruption.
But ski resorts and tour operators, who have been hit hard in the past few years by the Covid pandemic and then poor snow at the start of this season, claim that if they do materialise, the industrial action will cause little to no disruption.
Although it has been widely reported that “unlimited” strike notices have been filed for the month of February and over the Ski World Cup in Méribel and Courchevel (February 6-19), so far only one further day of action is planned, for next Tuesday (January 31), and few lift operators are expected to take part.
Last week’s strike, on January 19, caused no disruption with three lift operators in Courchevel and four in Les Menuires, taking part, said Olivier Desaulty, director of Les 3 Vallées, the country’s biggest ski area.
“The strike was little followed and had no impact on holidaymakers,” he said, adding: “We respect this right to strike while maintaining quality social dialogue every day, which allows us to be optimistic for the February holidays and the World Championship.”
It’s the same situation in Les Arcs, where VIP founder Andy Sturt this morning had a meeting with the head of École de Ski Français and told the Daily Telegraph: “No one seems to have any appetite for action, only a few lifties didn’t come to work last week”.
Xavier Schouller of French mountain specialist Peak Retreats, went even further, describing the reported strikes as “a total non-event”.
“Nothing will actually happen, and there won’t be the slightest disruption in 95 per cent of French resorts,” says Schouller. “It’s the French system of national ‘préavis, which 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 halved, [to the point that] we can no longer recruit.”
Softening on previous statements of an intention to cause maximum disruption, Becker added: “The lifts will operate normally from the next day (February 1), we do not want to further weaken companies already in difficulty.”
Pierre Scholl, national representative of the CGT for ski lifts, added: “You can’t imagine [pisteurs] transporting injured people at the age of 64. Today, seniors are no longer hired on construction sites and women have trouble finding work in the off-season, often finding themselves without anything — that’s a lot of families.”
Last week’s strike also went unnoticed in Val d’Isere where Molly Peters, 23, is working a season for VIP Ski.
She said: “I’ve not even heard of a strike, let alone heard of it affecting anyone.”
Two of the UK’s biggest ski tour operators, Inghams and Crystal Ski Holidays, told the Telegraph that they were keeping tabs on the situation and liaising with guests staying in affected areas.
Melvin Westlake, head of Inghams Winter Product comments said: "We are waiting for more information at this stage with details of the suggested strikes going ahead and how this may affect our French ski resorts. Our understanding is that it may only be for one day and that it may not affect all French resorts or all lifts. We will do our best to let our guests know if there will be disruption on this day and obviously it only affects our guests staying in our French resorts. "
A spokesman for Crystal Ski Holidays said: “We’re aware of potential ski lift operator strike action during February. We’re working with our partners in our resorts to understand the impact so we can help mitigate disruption where possible. We will be liaising with customers who are travelling to France during this time directly to keep them updated.”
When are the strikes in French ski resorts taking place?
Strikes will start next Tuesday (January 31). Although it has been widely reported that “unlimited” strike notices have been filed for the month of February, including over the half term holidays, so far January 31 is the only day of action planned – and few lift operators are expected to take part.
“In a nutshell there won’t be any disruption to skiers except maybe the odd lift in January 31,” says Schouller.
Which resorts will be impacted?
It is not yet known which resorts or lifts will be involved in strike action – conversations are ongoing and operators will be in touch with any travellers who might be impacted.
Will my ski holiday be cancelled?
Operators and resorts are eager to assure holidaymakers that the reported strike action will not impact ski holidays.
“At Peak Retreats we have been reassured buy all our major partners that there won’t be any disruption to skiers,” says Schouller.
However, in the unlikely circumstance of things developing and more walkouts materialising, resulting in visitors being unable to ski or complete their holiday as sold, as per standard terms and conditions, if your trip is part of a package your operator will likely move you to a resort where you can ski, or offer a refund. If you have booked independently you should consult individual providers and airlines, and consult your travel insurance, however few policies are likely to cover strike action.