Demand for snowshoes increases as French government bans downhill skiing

Demand for snowshoes has skyrocketed since the French government effectively banned alpine skiing in an attempt to contain Covid-19, the world’s largest snowshoe maker reported Thursday.

TSL Sport Equipment, based in the alpine town of Annecy, said it was selling double the usual number of snowshoes this winter, with demand on certain days reaching 10 times the seasonal normal.

Snowshoes allow hikers to navigate snow-covered terrain much more easily than normal shoes, allowing ski resort vacationers to venture into mountainous terrain for long hikes.

The French government has ordered the ski lifts closed until January, fearing the queues of skiers will further the spread of the coronavirus, but has allowed the stations to open – but with restaurants and cafes closed like everywhere in France.

“We are seeing a similar phenomenon to shopping for toilet paper in stores,” said Philippe Gallay, owner of the company for 34 years, in reference to empty shelves in supermarkets during a spring lockdown when people were hoarding. toilet paper for fear of running out. .

He said daily orders had doubled to around 2,000 pairs of snowshoes, with orders peaking at 10,000 on some days since President Emmanuel Macron ordered ski lifts closed on November 24 as part of a series of anti-virus measures.

Gallay said snowshoe walking has already become the second most popular winter sport in France after alpine skiing, but has won the crown this season.

“People want to enjoy the mountains, but they can’t ski, so they go out on snowshoes,” said Gallay.

TSL has doubled its staff to 100 this season to keep up with demand, many of whom are seasonal workers and ski coaches who need work while waiting for the lifts to reopen.

Nonetheless, the order backlog is currently around 45,000 shoes, Gallay said.

In total, TSL expects to sell 200,000 rackets this year, which will translate into sales of approximately 10 million euros ($ 12 million).

When announcing the ban on ski lifts, Macron warned that the risks of coronavirus made it “impossible” to resume winter sports quickly, adding that he hoped the restrictions could be lifted in January.

France’s 350 ski resorts have protested against the move, saying the weeks around Christmas and New Years are crucial for their survival as they represent up to a quarter of their annual income.

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