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Meribel resort officials said Schumacher was conscious when first responders arrived, although agitated and in shock.
After the fall, Payen said Monday, Schumacher was not in a "normal state of consciousness." He did not respond to questions, and his limbs appeared to move involuntarily, the doctor said.
He was airlifted to a local hospital and then later brought to Grenoble. Doctors said that stopover was typical and did not affect his condition.
The French prosecutor in Albertville has opened an investigation into the accident, according to the Mountain Gendarmerie in Bourg-Saint-Maurice. The goal is to determine the circumstances and cause of the accident.
Formula One drivers and fans rushed to wish Schumacher a quick recovery.
"Like millions of Germans, the chancellor and members of the government were extremely dismayed when they heard about Michael Schumacher's serious skiing accident," German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said in Berlin.
Sebastian Vettel, the Formula One racer for whom Schumacher was a boyhood idol, told German news agency dpa: "I am shocked and hope that he will get better as soon as possible."
Ferrari, which Schumacher raced for, also expressed its concern. Company President Luca di Montezemolo and race team leader Stefano Domenicali were in contact with the family, the company said in a statement.
Former Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa, who himself recovered from life-threatening head injuries at the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2009, wrote on Instagram: "I am praying for you my brother!! I hope you have a quick recovery!! God bless you, Michael."
British former F1 champion Jenson Button posted that "Michael more than anyone has the strength to pull through this."
Some fans gathered outside the hospital Monday.
Nuravil Raimbekov, a student from Kyrgyzstan who is studying in Grenoble, said Schumacher has been an inspiration to him.
"I'm worried, of course ... But I still hope, and I will pray for him," he said.
During his career, Schumacher set an array of Formula One records. After initial success with the Benetton team, winning his first two championships in 1994 and 1995, Schumacher moved to Ferrari.
There, he helped turn the storied Italian team into the sport's dominant force. After initially retiring in 2006, he made a comeback in 2010 and raced for three years with Mercedes.