Winter 2015 has been a bit of a mixed bag for French lift operators. After some early snow in the second half of November it was a difficult start to the season with good snow cover only coming in the second half of January at lower altitudes. However conditions were good for the economically important February holiday period with snow, and sun.
A representative for the Domaines skiables de France (DSF), the French Ski Resorts Association commented "Snow cover was excellent during the four weeks of the 2015 French winter holiday period in February. There was snow in all mountain ranges and at all altitudes. Combined with sunshine the conditions were what had been hoped for since the start of winter".
The overall picture was 1% fewer skier days. It should be remembered that France had already lost its world no.1 status to the USA in 2014 but the Californian ski resorts have suffered terrible conditions this winter. The ski areas were not able to make up for the "lost" Christmas and New Year period except in the Massif Central, Jura and Vosges where the client base is traditionally ready to ski when the snow arrives. Small and medium size resorts saw an increase of +6% and +3% skier days whereas very big and big resorts saw a drop of -3% and -2%. This may reflect the poorer conditions in the Savoie this season where may of the very large ski areas are located as well as three difficult transfer days, one caused by rockfall in the Belleville valley which caused tailbacks across the Savoie and the other weekends due to snowfall and poor road clearance.
This is confirmed by the departmental figures, +2% for the Isère and Drôme (up 4% over the 4 year average), stable for the Haute-Savoie (+1% over 4 years) and down -2% for the Savoie (-2% over 4 years) and -2% for the Southern Alps (-4% over 4 years). The Pyrénées had a massive drop of -7% (-11% over 4 years) and the precarious financial situation of the areas resort has rung alarm bells with the French government auditors who have warned that the Pyrenean ski resorts are too small to invest. Once again resorts suffered from poor road access, frequently due to too much snow and avalanche risk.
The big winners were the Vosges (+22%), Jura (+21%) and Massif-Central (+10%) over last season but 2013/14 was a poor winter in those areas.