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TRAVELLING TO FRANCE

What are the rules in French ski resorts for the February holidays?

During the February school holidays many will be considering a ski holiday in France.

Skiers in France no longer need to wear masks to use lifts.
Skiers in France no longer need to wear masks. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP)

Travel

If you’re coming from outside France, you first need to know if the border is open to you.

France operates a traffic light system of travel.

If you are coming from a green country you can travel for any reason. Fully vaccinated people need only proof of vaccination at the border, while unvaccinated people also need a negative Covid test. Green countries include all EU and Schengen zone countries and New Zealand.

If you’re coming from an orange or red country, you can only travel for a ski holiday (which is classed as non-essential for travel purposes, no matter how much you have missed whizzing down the slopes) if you are vaccinated. This covers the UK, Canada, Australia and the USA. Negative Covid tests are no longer required for fully-vaccinated travellers.

Find the full explanation on travel rules here.

Resort rules

Masks – the government has decreed that masks are no longer compulsory in the queues for ski lifts, on the lifts themselves or during your descent down the slopes.

Some local authorities may have their own rules in place, so it is worth enquiring with your resort. 

Queuing 

Resorts will likely make more space available for queuing to try to maintain social distancing measures between those waiting in line.

Vaccine pass – the vaccine pass is required to access ski lifts, as well as many other venues.

Ski resort chiefs say that in general, people will be asked to show the pass at the moment they buy the ski pass for the resort. Random checks will also be carried out at lifts and cable cars.

Children

If your children are aged between 12 years and two months and 15 years, then they will need a health pass to access venues like bars, cafés and ski lifts.

Slightly different to the vaccine pass, the health pass requires one of three things; proof of full Covid vaccination, proof of recent recovery from Covid or a negative Covid test taken within the previous 24 hours.

‘Full vaccination’ here means two doses of either Pfizer, AstraZeneca or Moderna or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson. A single dose of Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca is not accepted as full vaccination and kids who have only had one dose will have to follow the rules for unvaccinated people. The child must be at least seven days after their second dose.

If the child is not fully vaccinated by French standards, they face taking a Covid test every 24 hours in order to maintain the pass – at a cost of up to €22 a time for antigen tests – or avoiding using ski lifts while on holiday.

Children aged 16 to 18 require a vaccine pass, with no option for testing for those who are not fully vaccinated.

Under 12s do not require any type of pass.

Full details HERE for children.

National rules

Ski resorts are of course also covered by the nationwide French health rules, as well as those specific to skiing.

Masks – masks are required in all indoor public spaces and on all public transport until February 28th, after which they will no longer be required in vaccine pass venues (bars, cafés etc) but will still be compulsory on public transport and in shops. There are no exemptions to the mask rules in France and failure to wear one correctly can net you a €135 fine.

Bars and restaurants – Unlike last winter bars and restaurants are open in France and there are no capacity limits placed on them. Nightclubs reopened on February 16th and bars are also now permitted to offer standing space, as opposed to table service only. Dancing in bars is again allowed.

Vaccine pass – the vaccine pass is required to enter a wide range of venues including cafés, bars, restaurants, leisure centres and long-distance train travel – full details here

Visitors from the UK and EU can use the QR code on their vaccination certificate to access the health pass via the TousAntiCovid app, but other non-EU visitors need to acquire a European code – find out how here.

Booster shots

Depending on when you had your vaccine, you may also need a booster in order to be considered ‘fully vaccinated’ – full details here.

Other restrictions – ski businesses have been very hard hit by first the early end of the 2019/20 season and then the cancellation of most of the 2020/21 season, so are desperate to remain open throughout this season.

Some have therefore imposed their own extra restrictions in the hope of keeping case numbers down, from limitations on group size to extra cleaning protocols, so make sure you check in advance the conditions of stay in accommodation. 

Member comments

  1. I am in a French ski resort at the moment and the use and enforcement of use of masks and the checking of health passes has been very erratic. We are based a Orelle in the Maurienne Valley and whilst we mainly ski the Trois Vallees we have away days at other resorts. The staff at the gondola have checked our passes each day (a good mixture of various forms, including the NHS travel one) and about half the restaurants have done so. Mask usage is spasmodic. However, nobody checked anything in Valmorel and Val Cenis only spot checked at some of the base stations, catching out a number of people who had got into the system without showing a pass (the gendames were being threatened when two ladies were saying they must be allowed on because their car was at the other end of the resort).

  2. Just back from 12 days in the Alps (resort name withheld on purpose). One check on lift in 10 days of skiing and probably only 40% of restaurants! 13 year old grandson from the UK ever refused entry anywhere and we didn’t do 24 hour tests! It’s all very laid back to say the least. The resorts need the revenue, not the hassle!

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For members

TOURISM

Reader question: Are there private beaches in France?

Amid accusations of racism at fancy seaside resorts and legal controversies surrounding US statesmen, we take a look at the law surrounding private beaches in France.

Reader question: Are there private beaches in France?

Question: I read that all beaches in France are public property, but down here on the Riviera there are a lot of ‘private beaches’ – how do the rules actually work?

In France, everyone has the right to a dip in the ocean, though it might not seem that way when walking through certain areas.

There are 1,500 of these “private beaches” in France – the vast majority of them located on the Côte d’Azur.

They have become a source of controversy recently, after two private beaches in Juan-les-Pins were accused of racism and discrimination following an investigation and video circulated by French media Loopsider. The video (below) shows how a white couples receive different treatment than North African or Black couples.

So what are these ‘private beaches’ and are they even legal in France?

In reality, none of these beachfront hotels, resorts or beach operators actually own that land, as the sea and the beach are considered ‘public maritime’ and are therefore the domain of the French state.

This means that technically there are no private beaches in France, as no one is supposed to be allowed to own the beach, though there are some caveats to that rule.

Since 1986, the State has been able to grant ‘concessions’ to allow for parts of the beach to be temporarily rented. Thus, hotels, resorts or beach operators can request a temporary rental of the beach for a specific period of time – the maximum duration being twelve years, which is renewable. If the local town hall agrees, then the renter will pay a fee (typically between €15,000 and €100,000 per year). 

This might seem like a de facto way of allowing beaches to be privatised, but the few who manage to ‘rent the beach’ are still subject to some constraints. For instance, they are only allowed to occupy the beach for six months of the year (sometimes this can be extended up to eight months with the permission of the town hall, or twelve months in less common circumstances).

At the end of the season, they are required to dismantle their installations, so permanent private structures on the beach are therefore not allowed.

So you might see a waterfront resort, but they do not technically have ownership over the beach.

What about private deckchairs or sun beds next to the water? 

This is another rule that is not always perfectly respected. Legally, any organisation that rents a part of the beach is required to leave a strip of “significant width” along the sea.

This is usually about three to five metres from the high tide mark, where members or the public can walk along the water or bring down their own towels or deck chairs down to the beach.

If a ‘private beach’ has deck chairs or sun-loungers right up against the water, there is a good chance the renting organisation is not following the rules.

Beachfront property

As the public has the right to be able to access the beach, homeowners are not allowed to block passage and can even incur fines for doing so. 

The public must be able to pass through land to get to the beach, and cannot be blocked from the beach in front of a property.

Public access to the beach came into the spotlight due to a controversy surrounding a property of former American presidential candidate and statesman, John Kerry.

Kerry’s family owns a villa in Saint-Briac-sur-Mer in Brittany, and has fought a three-decade legal battle to be able to block the coastal trail on the property, which by French law, should be accessible to the public. 

Despite the family siting potential ‘security threats’ should the beach front path be open to the public, local authorities backed plans to continue allowing public access in 2019.

What about building a waterfront property?

First, keep in mind that building in general in France is a heavily regulated process that requires planning permission.

You will not be able to build within 100 metres of the shoreline. If you buy a pre-existing coastal property, you will need to remember the three-metre rule discussed above and, as the Kerry family discovered, you are not allowed to block public access to the beach. 

For ‘coastal zones’ specifically, there are more strict regulations and most plots of land by the sea are listed as protected natural areas, and therefore are not allowed to be built on.

Can access to the beach ever be forbidden?

Yes, as per the Coastal Law of 1986, local authorities can forbid access to the beach for “security, national defence or environmental protection.” During the Covid lockdowns several local authorities banned access to beaches to avoid illicit partying.

There are also several rules about what you are allowed to do – and not to do – while visiting French beaches, and some of them might surprise you. 

READ MORE: The little-known French beach rule that could net you a €1,500 fine

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