Organisers have announced that all ticketed events will be cancelled for the remainder of the Palatinalps trip to the Val Thorens ski resort in the French Alps due to growing concern about the new Omicron Covid-19 variant.
Some 2000 Durham students are thought to be currently on the annual ski trip, which was organised in collaboration with Wasteland Ski, a winter sports events organiser for university groups.
Palatinalps announced the cancellations at short notice on social media on 14th December, calling off events that were meant to be held that evening. The group has confirmed that all ticket holders will be fully refunded.
Palatinalps executive committee told Palatinate, “We are gutted that the events we’d worked so hard on over the last year have not been able to go ahead. This was far from a light decision, but we have had to be very reactive to the situation and will always continue to put the health of all related to Palatinalps first.”
General pandemic restrictions are yet to be tightened at the Val Thorens resort. The committee stressed that bars, restaurants, aprés ski locations and slopes remain open, meaning skiers “can continue to make the most of it while being safe”.
The decision comes as the French government considers tightening restrictions on travellers from the UK. Current French travel guidance requires those travelling from the UK into France to present various documents detailing their reason for travel and Covid-19 vaccination records, in addition to proof of a negative Covid-19 test result (PCR or antigen) from up to 48 hours before travel, but additional testing requirements may be brought in.
One anonymous student on the Palatinalps trip explained to Palatinate that their overall experience had not been greatly affected, because “the lack of enforcement of Covid restrictions means that we are still technically clubbing”.
They told Palatinate, “I don’t really care about the cancellation because the events that are still going on are really great, but if you looked at us right now you would not know Covid was going on.”
They stated that Palatinalps had called off the “big clubbing” events, while the aprés events that take place in the afternoon are continuing as planned, as these activities are not exclusive to Palatinalps participants.
Student skiers have been required to show ‘Covid passes’ and vaccination records to enter ticketed events and bars. However, one student complained that these regulations were “counterintuitive because once you get in the arena there are no restrictions.”
There have also been reports of student participants breaking coronavirus rules at the resort, which necessitate mask-wearing indoors, and being fined as a result.
In a text sent to all those on the trip this morning, Wasteland Ski said: “We have had several reports from accommodation staff/reps & overnight security that some people are choosing to ignore [the law] and are even being abusive to staff.”
Several students have also expressed disappointment about the trip’s organisation. One student explained that after their flight was cancelled they were only informed two to three days before they were due to leave that Wasteland Ski did not have space on the replacement bus service to Val Thorens from Durham.
Journey delays, including lengthy waits at Dover, reportedly meant that students were unable to collect their skis on the first day and had to wait until the following morning, when they faced queues of up to three hours. Several students missed pre-paid lessons as a result.
Another Durham student told Palatinate that only one event, the Opening Night Party, had gone ahead as planned, but they were unable to enter despite having pre-bought tickets because the venue’s maximum capacity had been reached, “which everyone found ridiculous so we had to go somewhere else which wasn’t as good.”
One student described Wasteland Ski as “very badly organised”, explaining that they and others they know “would not go on Palatinalps again” as a result. “Everyone I know is leaving a bad review”, they told Palatinate.
Palatinate has reached out to Wasteland Ski for comment.
Image: Honor Douglas