France snowfall brings joy to ski lovers, chaos elsewhere

France snowfall brings joy to ski lovers, chaos elsewhere

PARIS - More than 10 French ski resorts will briefly open several weeks earlier than planned, taking advantage of abundant snowfall that has thrilled ski lovers but thrown other parts of the country into chaos.

At least nine ski stations in the Alps including the upmarket Courchevel - a favourite of Russian billionaires - have announced they will open up some of their slopes this weekend, most of them charging little or nothing at all.

And in the Pyrenees mountain range in France's southwest, at least two resorts are due to open their ski lifts to the public ahead of time.

Many of these ski stations had initially only planned to open in December.

The early openings are not very profitable but have a significant marketing impact, according to resort officials, as France strives to keep its position as the world's top ski destination this season ahead of the United States and Austria.

"Opening a little in advance allows us to be completely prepared for the season," said Jerome Meunier, director of the Angles resort, which he said would also profit from the publicity generated by the early opening.

Laurent Reynaud of the Domaines Skiables de France, an organisation that represents more than 200 resorts in the country, said it was also a "signal" for potential customers that winter had finally arrived.

"The arrival of snow gives a boost to bookings for winter holidays," he said.

In other parts of the country, however, the abundant snowfall has caused sometimes deadly chaos.

In the eastern Haut-Rhin department, a 20-year-old driver died after she lost control of her car due to the snow and crashed into a tree.

In the nearby department of Haute-Marne, a Moroccan woman was killed in a bus accident caused by the snowfall, and two others were seriously injured.

And on Wednesday evening, an employee at ERDF, the company that operates most of the country's electricity network, electrocuted himself when he was fixing a low-voltage network after a black-out caused by snow.

Some 90,000 households are still without electricity due to the weather, which has affected the east and centre of the country, ERDF said Thursday.

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