WINTER IN THE ALPS
For most of you, your introduction to living in the Alps will start with winter sports. The huge amount of winter sports on offer attract a large number of tourists who all come to stay for a few days onwards, however, a week’s winter holiday is not the same as spending a season here or moving here indefinitely.
Insurance & Health for short term
Winter sports insurance is a ‘must’. Most policies taken out in the UK will be very general and it’s worth checking that they cover you for whatever sport you may be planning on trying. If you’re thinking of trying ski touring or just general off-piste skiing check with your insurer their definitions of ‘off-piste’ and how you are insured. They may only insure you if you are with a locally based qualified mountain guide. Getting fresh tracks at the side of the piste may not be covered and some insurers won’t cover you for any kind of park action or aerials on skis. Check that you are covered for any other sports that you may wish to try, eg. Parapenting or ice climbing.
Each winter the annual rates for mountain rescue services are posted on the mountain and in the town.
Mountain rescue rates for winter 2011/2012 are as follows:
Small injuries at the bottom of the valley: 52€
Incidents requiring treatment in zone 1, ie. Ski slopes at the bottom of the valley: 237€
Incidents at altitude:
Easily accessible accidents, ie. On the piste: 373€
For zones further from the piste and those requiring additional means of access: 586€
Private helicopter 676€
Incidents requiring exceptional means of access or notably, hospitalization, between: 840€ and 16.000€ this rate does not include transport by helicopter from the accident site to the place of treatment or ambulance bills
Incidents on the ski de fond tracks: 205€
With rates like this and having to pay the bill in full before reclaiming, having the right insurance is a must.
Your EHIC will allow you access to the same state-provided healthcare as a resident of the country you are visiting. In France this equates to ‘up to’ 70% of the total cost of your treatment. A French citizen is expected to pay for the treatment themselves and seek reimbursement at a later date and even with an EHIC, you might be expected to do the same. You may be able to seek reimbursement for this cost when you are back in the UK if you are not able to do so in France.
The EHIC is NOT an alternative to travel insurance. It will not cover any private medical healthcare or the cost of things such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, repatriation to the UK or lost or stolen property.
Always be aware that your EHIC might not cover everything that would be free on the NHS.For example, most ambulance services are privately operated, meaning you would be liable to pay for your ambulance journey.
Various insurance policies are available which will cover your needs for the winter, and the summer too if you’re still here!
Insurance policies are available from all the insurance companies with offices in Chamonix, including AXA and Allianz as well as buying a Carte Neige or Carré Neige, both available in town or online. Policies are also available from specialist sports shops such as ‘Le Vieux Campeur’ who offer their own very good winter sports insurance. For those who want to try everything out there, try the Centre Alpin Français (CAF) who offer possibly the most comprehensive cover available for all types of sports.
As with any insurance, check that it will cover you for everything you require. Is the policy you are buying just for mountain rescue and not for medical treatment? Is the policy you are buying just for medical treatment and not mountain rescue?
See the page on Insurance to find out in more detail the differences between the policies.
If in doubt, give me a call and let me help you out. I can help you with the paperwork, call the different companies for quotes and check that you have got what you think you’ve bought.
Driving in the snow
One thing which will be completely alien to you coming to the Alps for the winter, is driving in snow. Forget the snow in the UK! This is something else entirely and at times you will require all your concentration just getting to the slopes! As the snow lasts for many months here are a few rules of road which are good to know:
Many roads in the valley are forbidden to cars which are not equipped with snow tyres/chains and the gendarmes are often seen enforcing this rule. If you are here for the winter, snow tyres are highly recommended. Snow chains are fine, but highly impractical and are sometimes only required for a very short stretch of road. You can end up spending longer putting them on and off than driving. In extreme cases, you may require both, but this is very rare.
It is against the law to overtake a snow plough.
Snow ploughs and salting trucks have right of way.
You are allowed to use your rear fog lights in case of snow.
Do not park on a snow plough route! Although this sounds pretty self explanatory, please watch out. If you get into trouble with your car in the snow, try and leave it anywhere other than a road which is frequently cleared. These roads are well marked. The snow plough will simply push your car to the side, with the snow (as happened to a friend of ours). Not for any petty reason, simply the fact that they might not be able to see it!
Don’t forget that certain items must be carried with you at all times. See the Driving in France factsheet for more information.
Lift Passes (rates applicable for 2011/12 season)
Lift passes go on sale in the autumn. A reduced rate lift pass is available to those wanting to buy a buying before the end of November, which is always good value, giving up to 40% off the general rate.
There are various different options available for seasonnaires:
Chamonix Le Pass 935€ winter season / 1166€ annual
Covers you for Brevent, Flégère, Grand Montets and Le Tour ski areas. It also covers you for the beginner slopes at the bottom of the valley: Les Chosalets- Argentière, Le Savoy & Les Planards - Chamonix, La Vormaine - Le Tour. You also receive a small booklet giving you 3 free days skiing in other resorts nearby
DOES NOT include: Montenvers train (although you do get 50% discount off the ticket price during the validity of your pass) and Aiguille de Midi cable car. These two lifts are generally used by those wanting to sightsee or ski the Vallée Blanche. It also doesn’t include the very top cable car at Grand Montets, although it’s worth noting that the two ski runs from the top of this lift are for expert skiers only. Normally there are huge queues for this lift and the lift itself is generally free of charge the last week of the ski season when all the other lifts are closed. You can buy tickets for this lift on the day for about 10€ a trip.
Chamonix Unlimited1430€ winter season / 1760€ annual
This pass covers everything in the valley:
In addition to the small booklet giving you free access to 3 other resorts nearby, you also get unlimited free skiing in Courmayeur in Italy and the 4 Vallées in Switzerland, which cover Verbier, Nendaz, Versonnaz and Thyon.
With this pass you are entitled to cheaper tunnel tickets to enable
Brevent, Flégère, Grand Montets, Le Tour, Les Houches, Montenvers train, Aiguille de Midi cable car and the very top cable car at Grand Montets. . It also covers you for the beginner slopes at the bottom of the valley: Les Chosalets- Argentière, Le Savoy & Les Planards - Chamonix, La Vormaine - Le Tour.
you to go skiing in Courmayeur. 11.50€* each way (normal rate: 38.90€*), 23€* return (normal rate 48.60€*),
There are also other options available:
Chamonix Rapid Card
New for 2012. Ski when you want and where you want for the price of only 40€ per day in the winter and use the lifts in the summer for only 23€ per day.
You will be sent various promotions by email throughout the year.
The card costs 50€ from December 24th 2011.
Mont Blanc Multipass - available spring, summer and autumn 2012
375€ adult rate + 50% discount in Courmayeur
Work & Ride 400€ winter only (covers the same area of the ‘Chamonix Le Pass’)
This pass is only on sale from December 1st and is specifically made for those working a winter season. To qualify you must present a passport photo, your passport, and your work contract proving that you work for a company who is registered within the commune of Chamonix. Your contract must be for a minimum of 2 months, working a minimum of 90 hours per month.
This pass must be renewed at the desks of Montenvers from March 10th 2011, by presenting your February pay slip.
* rates as of January 1st 2012
**Lift pass information is valid for season 2011/12.
Avalanches kill! Avalanches are probably more frequent than in the past due to global warming and increased weather instability, but the main reason of the increase in the number of victims is the generalisation of off-piste skiing and snowshoeing. Individual behaviour involving more risk taking and pressure put on the mountain guides and skiing instructors to go beyond the limits have been identified as the cause of most accidents.
Before leaving to ski, take note of the weather, the weather forecast and the avalanche warning flags:
A plain yellow flag means that the risk of avalanche is low (levels 1-2)
A black and yellow chequered flag means that risk of avalanche is high (levels 3-4)
A plain black flag means that the risk of avalanche is very high (level 5)
If you are planning on going ski touring, think to leave details with the Office de Haute Montagne, opposite the church in the centre of Chamonix.
If you have an accident or are stuck, the PGHM : Peloton Gendarmerie de Haute Montagne should only be called as a last resort.
Here are some examples taken from the PGHM website, which justify a call for help:
If you have had an accident: you have broken something, are unable to move.
If you are unable to move, due to a fall or change in terrain ie. You are at the edge of a huge cliff!
You are lost and in difficulty and time is getting on. It is getting dark.
You are stuck due to bad weather, it is technically too difficult for you, avalanche danger
Remember: don’t panic, keep calm and analyse the situation. Don’t take unnecessary risks.
If there is an accident victim, protect them from the cold and from any other accident.
Perform basic first aid
Take stock of what has happened to the victim and the situation in order to relay it to the rescuers.
Give the alarm:
Either with a mobile phone, radio or if you don’t have any of these try and signal the alarm by other means.
Important numbers in the Chamonix valley:
PGHM Chamonix +33(0)126.96.36.199.89
or 112 emergency number
or 17 police-gendarmerie
or 18 pompiers,
or 15 SAMU
When calling them remember to give them :
The place you are stuck: what altitude, any distinguishing landmarks, what you are wearing etc.
The number of victims and if any of you have been hurt.
Your name and mobile number
If you are only staying in Chamonix for a season and don’t need one for work reasons, then I would advise you to keep your bank account in your home country.
Many of the banks in Chamonix will not allow you to open a bank account if you do not own property and/or work here.
If you need to open a bank account, please see the factsheet on banks in France.
Rules and regulations change constantly. Please get in touch if you want further information on any of the above subjects.
Back to top
Communiquer 74: Sarah Barnes Tel: 00 33 (0)188.8.131.52.95 Email: email@example.com
Disclaimer: The information contained in this website should be regarded as a guideline only. I try and update the information as often as possible but it is possible that certain information has been missed. I would love to be the font of all knowledge but unfortunately I am not! All situations are different and the information contained here may not be applicable to all cases. Please get in touch if you would like me to check any information in relation to your personal situation. My role is to be your voice, to ask the questions you would like asking and those that I know you should be asking. During the course of my work I have gained knowledge of lots of different aspects of French administration and can generally advise you on what is important and what isn't. Dealing with the French system on a daily basis means that I can help you do things far faster and can assist you through the minefield.
The factsheets may be printed for personal reference, but may not be published,copied or re-used for any other purpose without permission.