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Paris gets first snowfall as snowboarders hit Montmartre’s slopes

JOEL SAGET / AFP| This photo shows snow on a hill below the Sacre-Coeur Basilica in Montmartre, Paris, on February 8, 2018.

Paris got its first snowfall of the season Tuesday, prompting travel alerts for commuters but giving snowboard enthusiasts a chance to hit impromptu urban slopes, such as in the Sacre-Coeur church in Montmartre.

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The Eiffel Tower was closed as both tourists and locals made their way carefully along slushy sidewalks.

Visitors to the Sacre-Coeur church in Montmartre watched snowboarders tackle the steep lawns running alongside the stairs leading up to the basilica.

At least one major road to the southwest of the French capital was closed to traffic for a few hours after flurries brought several centimetres of heavy snow. Last year, nearly 1,000 vehicles were stranded on the stretch of the RN118 highway, forcing almost 2,000 people to spend the night in their cars.

Officials were determined to avoid a repeat, and city workers had already begun salting intersections around the capital Monday.

The RN118 reopened in the afternoon but speed restrictions were in effect, and the road was due to be closed to truck traffic again from 9:00 pm (2000 GMT) as a new storm front approaches.

Zakaria ABDELKAFI / AFP | A man rides snowboard on the Butte Montmartre in Paris, on January 22, 2019, during heavy snow falls over the French capital.

Train operator SNCF had issued a "pre-alert" of possible delays for high-speed TGV trains in the region, and Paris commuters were also warned of service disruptions on some metro lines and dozens of bus routes.

The storm was spreading west from the Atlantic coast, with 24 departments across the north and east on high alert. "It's limited for now, there are a few centimetres, up to two or three maximum," said Francois Gourand of national forecaster Meteo France.

More snow is expected later Tuesday, with temperatures hovering around zero Celsius (32 Fahrenheit).

Gourand described a "classic winter episode" for the Paris region, but noted that the storm was a boon for ski resorts in the southern Pyrenees Mountains, which had gotten scant snowfalls so far this year.

"All of a sudden we're going to have one or even one and a half metres on average," he said, warning of avalanche risks starting Wednesday.

Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP | Tourists take pictures at the Louvre Pyramid as snow falls over Paris on January 22, 2019.

(AFP)

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