"Don't catch your death!" Britons taking to the slopes of the French Alps this Christmas are being warned that mixing drink and skiing can be a deadly cocktail.

Some 700,000 Britons travel annually to France for winter sports but every year dozens return home on stretchers and a few in coffins after accidents on the slopes caused at least partly by alcohol.

So the Foreign Office in London this month launched a poster campaign in British, French and Swiss airports and in ski resorts with the blunt slogan "Don't catch your death."

It shows young drinkers, glass in hand, before an Alpine background and warns that "alcohol can affect you more quickly at high altitude and limit your awareness of danger and cold."

"Your reactions are slower, reckless behaviour can lead to crime, alcohol abuse can simply ruin your holiday," says the message that also appears on beermats in some Alpine pubs frequented by Britons.

The campaign comes after a British government report found that a third of British skiers and snowboarders under 25 years had been involved in accidents or mishaps after drinking on the slopes.

Many young Britons in the bars of Meribel, which lies in the heart of one of Europe's biggest ski ranges, approved of the hard-hitting slogan.

"It won't work if it's discreet. They need to be blunt and show you what could happen," said 25-year-old Kris Bevitt, as he nursed a drink in the British-owned La Taverne pub.

Philip James Dale, another young customer in the bar that offers cheap meals along with soccer and rugby matches on television, agreed that skiers needed to be alerted to the dangers.

"You get drunk quicker because of the altitude if you are out to ski, you use a lot of energy and you don't eat properly. I understand why they do it," said Dale, who is working in Meribel for the ski season.

But the campaign has not gone down too well with some of the officials who run Meribel resort.

They find it alarmist and argue that alcohol-related incidents are relatively rare and that when they do happen they do not necessarily involve Britons.

"It's grim and very aggressive," said Julie Pomagalski of the Meribel tourist office. Her views were shared by officials in the nearby airports of Grenoble and Chambery, who refused to display the posters.

But British officials are convinced they need to ram the message home.

Last year, 30 Britons died in accidents in the Alps. One high-profile incident involved a 20-year-old student who got lost after leaving a bar in the Val d'Isere area, fell into a stream and died of hypothermia.

"There have been some very sad cases," said Claire Bouteille, Britain's consul in the city of Lyon. "One accident is one accident too many. And one death is far beyond that."