Ever since the first German-built piste-machine carved crude corduroy into the slopes above Flaine in 1969, British skiers have divided naturally into two distinctive groups.
There are those of us who prefer to stay safely on groomed terrain – and then there are the rest of us who gaze dreamily beyond the ropes for our enjoyment. Let’s face it, we’re only truly happy when off-piste…ideally in 50cm of fluffy light powder.
Two groups? Not any more. In the summer of 2016, some 47 years on down the 8,000-year march of ski history, a whole new segregation has asserted itself: Remains and Brexits.
So which side are you on? Safety or adventure? How, as a skier, will a Brexit vote affect you?
The answer, of course, is terribly simple. We don’t know. It seems likely that none of the key figures from either camp in the run-up to the referendum has given skiing a single thought.
Andy Perrin, CEO of Inghams, Ski Total and Esprit Ski, has been in the ski industry for 38 years. He’s a man not known for being shy of voicing his opinion. But he went uncharacteristically quiet (albeit, not for long) when asked what Brexit will mean for his businesses.
Will there be, as the more pessimistic chalet operators predict, a £50 to £100 hike on the basic cost of a holiday?
“A vote for Brexit is a vote for two years of chaos, while we try to work out what it all means,” says Andy.
“Uncertainty is the enemy of economic strength. We have no idea whether the pound will head towards parity with the euro, or whether it will be at 1.50 by the end of the year. However, I can see the possibility that the damage to the pound could be offset by the damage to the euro. If Greece potentially exiting the euro was disastrous for the euro, what on earth would be the effect of the United Kingdom leaving the EU?
“But for next winter the price of a winter package holiday is already set, so they’ll be nothing extra to pay on top at the moment. There’s a negative swing for the DIY brigade, but not for tour operators. In fact, our bookings are up on this time last year, which is pretty remarkable considering the uncertainty.
He added: “In recent years we’ve seen a tightening of regulations for tour operators in the Alps. Whether regulations are going to get more severe in the event of Brexit that’s very hard to say.”
Uncertainties are thick on the ground. Some say that an end to the reciprocal EU VAT agreement after Brexit would push prices up by 20%.
Seasonnaires planning on skiing away the winter of 2017/18 while working for chalet operators may well have to think again.
Brexit must mean the end to the blanket right to seek employment in member states. For a start, you’ll need a work permit and your employer in France or elsewhere may be forced – as in Switzerland from last season – to pay full wages, rather than the traditional chalet staff remuneration in kind.
Will work permits be easily available? Will there even be UK chalet operators? When Switzerland introduced its new law and minimum wage most – but not all – chalet companies bolted for the frontier.
It could end the reciprocal agreement between the NHS and European hospitals – in the form of the free-of-charge EHIC card. This will mean paying up-front for any emergency hospital visit and not being covered for pre-existing medical conditions whilst on holiday. We don’t know whether this will carry on or not.
Back in 1973 when Britain joined Europe, Bernhard Russi had won downhill gold for Switzerland in the previous year at the Sapporo Olympics.
Austria was still by far the most popular ski destination, but the number of British skiers was limited – not least by the £50 per year (£700 equivalent today) overseas travel allowance. Inghams and Erna Low, then as now, were two of the leading tour operators. Most likely, you’ve never heard of the others.
Boris Johnson was eight, Nigel Farage was nine, David Cameron was six and Jeremy Corbyn was 24. All which makes Corbyn the only one of them in a position to remember what skiing was like in pre-EU days…except, of course, he’s not a skier.
Whether you’re a Remain skier or a Brexit skier, give us your opinion in the comments box below on what the result of the referendum will mean to you…
We’ve had a comment on Twitter from Henry Schneewind of Henry’s Avalanche Talk who says: “The implication on travel is less ABTA protection, higher mobile charges, borders harder to cross/manage, and healthcare harder to get”. Scroll down for a lot more comments.