French mountain resorts are starting to open for the first time since Covid made last season a write-off, with winter sports enthusiasts and sector professionals hoping that no fresh virus wave will spoil the fun.

Europe’s highest winter sports resort Val Thorens at 2,300 metres (7,500 feet) and hugely popular with Britons, was the first of France’s Alpine resorts allowing skiers back on the lifts and slopes.

Local Media reported that some 10,000 people descended on the station with the snow in good shape and favourable weather.

France’s resorts are the world’s third-most-popular skiing spots in the world, after those in the United States and in Austria, and an economic lifeline for many regions.

An In charge of ski lifts in Val d’Isere, which is to open next Saturday, Olivier Simonin said that this year will be important for us, crucial even. Our future is at stake and we can’t imagine not having a winter season, so we did everything possible to make sure we’d have one.

Last winter, Alpine skiing was almost impossible in France as ski lifts were shut to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.

Hotels were allowed to open and other winter activities such as snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing were authorised, but the lack of downhill skiing caused a collapse in income.

But the government has already warned that it could tighten the rules, notably by introducing a health pass obligation, if Covid cases rise strongly.

The health pass, required in French restaurants, cafes and many cultural venues, certifies that a person is fully vaccinated, has recently recovered from Covid, or has tested negative for the virus.

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