“On the front the Swiss domain will be open and on the back it will be closed” French side, annoyed this Monday on franceinfo the mayor of Châtel Nicolas Rubin, a town of Haute-Savoie which hosts part of the Portes du Soleil ski area, on horseback with Switzerland. “We have made proposals for a draconian health protocol to welcome the population, but we are not very understood”, denounces the mayor who has decided to adorn his town hall in the colors of Switzerland to denounce the ban on skiing in France in this month of December, because of the epidemic of the coronavirus covid-19.
franceinfo: Swiss flags adorn your town hall. Are you requesting a change of nationality for your municipality?
Nicolas Rubin: Not quite, it is rather a pacifist demonstration against the government and the Head of State to recall the situation of the ski areas and the mountain tourist destination which employs 120,000 people throughout the season and which is an important economic activity, and provides both mental and social well-being. We are located on the Portes du Soleil area: on the front, the Swiss area will be open and on the back, it will be closed with the constraints that this will cause. One may wonder how it is that on one side and the other, a few meters from a virtual border, we can have two different positions, so that we obviously support the opening of ski areas with all associated mountain professionals.
Today, would you rather be Swiss than French?
There was a reflection on the Swiss territories, in particular in the canton of Valais which associated the elected officials and the professionals of the mountain and with the professionals of health, they defined that the opening could be possible. So everything can obviously evolve in terms of public health. But they gave a signal to our customers, whether foreign or French. We know that today, the French government is based on calculations and analyzes of a normal season. However, this season will not be normal. We announce between minus 30 and minus 50% of attendance of our foreign customers. The French may not be there as much as usual either. So, when we base ourselves on figures and foundations that are unstable, we obviously come to a decision that is poorly understood by mountain territories. And we all agree that we have to get people back to the table, which took place this morning. But apparently there wasn’t much that came out of it.
Concretely the skiers will be able to spot which side they are on? They don’t risk ending up in France without knowing it?
We will have to block the mountain on the summits to prevent customers who ski in Switzerland from tipping over in France. We are going to have very, very difficult constraints to implement. We will perhaps have an aspiration of customers located on French territory towards Switzerland, on an area reduced by two thirds, by increasing, I would say, the movement of people. There are quite a few things that are illogical about this decision.
You also point to security issues on the French side …
Opening the mountain destination without opening the ski lifts is a problem. You know that the resorts are responsible for the safety of their ski area, set up emergency solutions with ski patrollers, with private helicopters which intervene in a domain to provide assistance to the public. There, the mountain will be open without obviously the possibility of skiing, but we will not prevent people from going for a walk in the mountains and the public services will also have to manage rescue services which will not be supervised. So there are all these little elements that are ‘backstage’, behind the curtain that we do not include in the decision. In any case, we, as mayors of mountain resorts and municipalities supporting resorts, we know what the organization of a resort is like on a daily basis. We have made proposals for a draconian health protocol so that we can welcome the population, but we are not very heard. We are protesting against decisions that lack consultation.