Anyone who hasn’t hibernated can’t have failed to notice the veritable avalanche of competitions cancelled in France this winter: Critérium de la Première Neige, Ski Cross World Cup, The Foulee Blance, TS Millet, Marathon International de Bessans, La Vercors Quest, Color me rad winter session, Croix de Chamrousse to name just the major events.
The Foulee Blanche held in the Vercors is something of a canary in the snow mine. It has previously been cancelled in 1988, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1996, 1998 and 2007, all bad snow years. The lack of snow has impacted ski resorts with 13% fewer skiers on the slopes according to Domaines skiables de France compared to same point last season. Viewed over four years the loss is 7% but this figure is skewed by two years when Christmas fell on a weekend. This typically results in fewer skiers on the slopes. France already lost its first place to the USA last season and now Austria is snapping at its heels.
Snow cover is good above 2000 meters altitude and this is reflected in the detail. Lift pass sales are down 40% in the Vosges, 31% in the Massif Central, 26% in the Jura and even 17% in the Pyrenees which had a relatively good start to the season.
The Alps have limited the losses: -14% in the Southern Alps, again with some of the best early season conditions, -13% in the Savoie, -12% in the Drome and Isere and -10% in the Haute-Savoie. The smaller resorts have faired worse, -27% compared to the big areas with -8%. Many areas have had to reduce the price of their lift passes due to the lack of open ski runs. This has left some ski stations in a precarious financial situation.
Even the mighty Compagnie des Alpes has been hit hard with an 8% drop in skier days and 11% drop in turnover: -9 % at Val d’Isère, -19 at les Ménuires, -9 % at les Arcs/la Plagne and -15 % at Flaine. It is not all doom and gloom. Skier days are up 3 % at Serre Chevalier, 20 % at Val Thorens and 9 % at les Deux Alpes. Didier Bobillier, the resort director at les Deux Alpes says "we can offer skiing down to 1500 meters thanks to good preparation when it first snowed and despite a lack of snow in December". The stations of the Haute-Maurienne, Avoriaz and les Saisies have also done well as has Isola 2000 near Nice.