No one loves the COVID-19 outbreak and the death it brought, but Philippe Gallay, head of one of the world’s largest manufacturers of snowshoes, admits that it was good for company. His company’s commodity profits have soared.
Officials trapped in virus clusters at ski resorts in France, where Gallay’s TSL company is located, and other nations, have closed chair lifts, button lifts and cable cars at ski resorts.
Skiers and snowboarders have turned to an old-school approach without any mechanical means to lift them up the slopes: the humble snow shoe.
Last month, Gallay’s Annecy factory in the French Alps put orders for 100,000 pairs of snowshoes, three times the amount that the pandemic will produce over the entire year.
“We are crumbling under the orders,” said Gallay. “But it’s a good stress…As far as COVID-19 is concerned, we are the lucky ones, we have to acknowledge that.”
Gallay has switched his factory to working 24 hours a day, and has recruited ski instructors and lift operators to raise the staff to 80 from the normal 20 workers – out of work due to the virus. Even, he’s not able to keep up with demand. He’s got a 40,000-order backlog.
But for those willing to climb them, the ski slopes are accessible.
Lucie Godineau, who lives in a village nearby, was trudging through the powder in her snowshoes above the resort. She will usually be on skis, but that is off the table with the ski lift out of service.
“I miss it,” she said of downhill skiing. But she had reconciled herself to reality, for this season at least. “It’s snowshoes, and nothing more.”
The equipment rental shop at the Semnoz ski resort, half an hour’s drive from Annecy, is stripped bare of snowshoes these days by about 9:30 each morning, said Gregoire Chavanel, director of the resort.
It’s the only thing to do this season,” he said, getting on snowshoes.”
Schools and non-essential shops are open and top-flight professional sports are permitted under France’s lockdown. Every night there is a curfew of 1800, with theatres, cinemas, gyms, shops, cafes and bars closed.