Skiing in France during COVID-19: the latest rules as UK travel ban is lifted

Nicola Williams and her daughter, Kaya, hit the slopes in France © Nicola Williams

France’s ban on non-essential travel from the UK, in place since December 18, has been lifted today. The news has led to a surge in ski holiday bookings as it means that fully vaccinated travelers arriving in France from Britain can once again fly down its world-class ski slopes, dip into cheese fondue piste-side and lap up the French Alps’ legendary après-ski vibe. 

If you have a skiing trip booked or are considering one, here’s what you need to know about the latest rules in France. 

orderly-lift-queue2-LesGets.jpg
Orderly queues in France © Nicola Williams

What are France's entry rules for UK travelers?

Since January 14 fully vaccinated skiers (from 12 years) from the UK only need to show a negative COVID-19 test (PCR or lateral flow, called ‘antigen’ in France) taken within 24hr of departure to enter France. NHS home tests are not valid—it must be a test processed in a lab to produce an official certificate with QR code.  

Fully vaccinated skiers from most other non-EU countries need proof of full vaccination and negative test (PCR or lateral flow) less than 24hr or 48hr old to enter France depending on their country of origin. Check here for the latest entry rules.  

All arrivals to France must also complete a sworn statement (‘Attestation de Déplacement de Voyage’ or ‘Certificate of International Travel’ available online) declaring absence of COVID-19 symptoms and no contact with confirmed COVID-19 cases in the previous 14 days.

What rules apply for UK travelers entering France from Switzerland?

Fully vaccinated skiers (from 16 years) flying into Geneva airport and then transferring to a ski resort in France by bus, rental car or car-sharing service, need a lateral-flow (taken within 24hr) or PCR test (taken within 72hr) to enter Switzerland. Prior to take off, all arrivals—including those continuing straight to France—must fill in the electronic Swiss entry form 48hrs before departure. 

Testing rules don’t apply for travel between border regions, meaning you don’t need any further test to drive across the Swiss-French land border into France. For your return journey, you likewise don’t need any test or entry form to cross back into Switzerland.  

If you require a test to get back into your home country (no longer applicable to those returning to the UK), make sure you have tested in-resort, within the required time frame.  

Have the right pass 

This winter, to access ski lifts in French resorts, anyone over the age of 12 and two months needs a special pass – a pass sanitaire (to become a pass vaccinal for anyone 18 and over sometime in January).

Passes can be printed or stored as a QR code in the efficient TousAntiCovid. The pass sanitaire shows adults are fully vaccinated (double-jabbed, plus a booster within 7 months of your second shot or recovering from COVID-19 in the last six months). From 15 February, rules to qualify for a pass will tighten to ‘booster within 4 months of second jab’.

The pass sanitaire is accessible to children and teens aged 12 to 17 who are vaccinated with two doses, recovered from COVID-19 in the last six months or have tested negative (lateral flow/antigen or PCR) within the last 24 hours. 

Most resorts won’t even sell you a lift pass without proof of a health pass; others rely on local gendarme to spot-check. Either way, don’t expect a refund on your ski pass if you’re caught riding lifts without it.

Passes are compatible with EU digital COVID-19 certificates and NHS vaccination QR codes from the UK. Pharmacies in ski resorts  can convert US vaccination certificates into a French health pass—bring your ID, CDC card and €36.   

For families visiting from the UK, single-jabbed children aged 12 to 17 are not considered fully vaccinated in France, meaning daily testing to use ski lifts. The notable exception is single-vaccinated teenagers who have recovered from COVID-19 in the last six months—once in resort, take teen ID, proof of first jab and positive COVID-19 test (hard copies only) to a pharmacy to get a pass sanitaire (€36).  

Top tip: Keep a paper print-out of your health pass QR code in your ski jacket pocket—vital backup should you forget your mobile device, lose it, or suddenly find high-altitude cold has killed your phone battery.  

Book tests in advance  

Pharmacies in ski resorts are ramping up COVID-19 testing facilities this season to ensure skiers don’t waste a second of premium ski time—and if you plan it right, you shouldn’t need to queue.  

Pharmacies administer lateral-flow tests (in French, un test antigénique or simply ‘antigen’) to walk-ins all day. Tests cost €25 (€30 on Sunday) and results usually take 15 to 30 minutes. If your children or teens need to test daily to secure a 24-hour pass sanitaire, book a block of same-time test appointments in advance. The Grande Pharmacie de Morzine in the Brit-loved resort of Morzine and many others take bookings online via the Doctolib platform.   

Self-test home kits sold at pharmacies and supermarkets (€5 to €6) don’t generate a QR code and are not valid for children’s health passes. PCR tests (€45 to €50, results within 48 hours) require an advance appointment at the resort medical center.  

Prepare to mask up  

Even with faces shrouded in mask, ski goggles and helmet, the euphoria radiating from the oddly silent (and orderly—none of the usual pushing to the front in a pack) line of skiers queueing for the Chavannes bubble in Les Gets last weekend was electrifying. The resort’s celebratory motto this season is #CetHiverJeSki (#ThiswinterIski) and clearly mask-wearing—recommended for six to 11 year olds and obligatory for anyone older—is a small price to pay for skiers.  

Face masks are this winter’s essential on ski lifts, in lift queues and at the start of ski-school lessons. Masks are obligatory outside on streets in resort centers, at outdoor markets and ice rinks, on public transport, and in all public indoor spaces, including ski-rental outlets, spas, shops, hotels, cinemas, and restaurants and bars until seated. Only disposal surgical masks (sold at resort pharmacies) and Category 1 fabric masks (AFNOR SPEC S76-001) or certified-equivalent neck buffs and snoods are allowed—although checks were nonexistent last weekend.  

Top tip: When skiing or boarding, ditch helmet-unfriendly face mask with ear straps for certified snood—dramatically easier to whip up and down quickly. Buy in resort at ski schools, tourist offices and sports shops.  

A sign indicates that masks must be worn in public.
Prepare to mask up while skiing in France © Nicola Williams

Skinning is still in 

While chairlifts gathered dust last winter (or rather celestial icicles sculpted by the elements into breathtaking art), ski touring enjoyed a massive rebirth. Many resorts marked out dedicated ski-touring itineraries for skiers to enjoy at a slow, serene and scenic pace (skin up the snowy slopes of Mont Chéry in Les Gets at sunrise and you’ll immediately understand the magic). Several itineraries have been maintained this season—no health pass required. Ski shops rent all the gear and ski schools now offer guided ski-touring expeditions.   

A skier carves their way through a beautiful winter scene.
Enjoy the scenery in France this year © Nicola Williams

Après-ski: ditch dancing for forest bathing after dark

The decision by the French government to close nightclubs and ban dancing in bars and restaurants for four weeks (from December 11 until at least January 24 included) might have temporarily killed off any wild après-ski jigging on tables or dancing until dawn. But after two disastrous winter seasons, French ski resorts are pulling out every creative stop. Restaurants, cafes and bars are functioning as normal—albeit with pass sanitaire to enter and face masks when not seated—and après-ski is embracing the great outdoors with Génépi shots around campfires, torch-lit snowshoeing soirées, wigwam fondues and forest bathing after dark.  

For more information on COVID-19 and travel, check out Lonely Planet's Health Hub.

This article was first published on December 10, 2021 and updated on January 14, 2022

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