Ski resorts in the Isere department are complaining about a poor 2009/2010 season and are blaiming the poor weather. In the context of the global financial crash a drop of 1-2% on last season, which was a record breaking year for turnover, looks pretty positive.
Occupation was around 55% for the season as a whole, similar to last year with rates of around 75-90% during February. However looking at the detail Gites did well (up 35%) compared to luxury accomodation. This pattern was reflected in other sectors, skiers prioritized skiing against eating out and entertainment. Skier days may actually finish the season slightly up on last year but easter was poor with some resorts in the department closing early.
The SATA (which runs alpe d’Huez and the Alpe du Grande Serre) reports turnover down 1% compared to the excellent 2008/9 season. The resort suffered appauling weather at Christmas with just 27 days of sunny weather over the season according to the lift company, less than half of average. Across the valley at les Deux Alpes they saw the number of English visitors drop again this season. Down around 5% which a rough estimate from l’alpe d’Huez says the figure is more like 20%. (We’ve been told of drops of closer to 30% in the Tarentaise but that is for ski schools / guiding not lift passes). The bad weather particuarly affected day trippers.
The Vercors suffered from a Christmas without snow and a February of overcast skies. Lans en Vercors closed on the 28th March (a week early) and Villard on the 11 April despite excellent end of season conditions. Villard des Lans complained of frequent violent foehn winds during the winter which lead to lift closures. At Meaudre (note: we had some excellent skiing during the season) downhill skiing activities just managed to break even but with poor results for cross-country. The Vercors does more than 40% of its business during the summer and is hoping for good weather.
Resorts in the Chartreuse were dissapointed with the season. According to Laurent Reynaud from the ski resort lift operators associated (SNTF) Christmas suffered from rain and for low and mid altitude resorts a poor Christmas is hard to recover from. At the Col de Porte and St Hilaire they had trouble preparing the ski runs at the start of the season as the first snow had fallen on very warm ground (we measured a surface temperature of +4C at 2000m on the 20th December). St Pierre de Chartreuse saw occupandy drop from 55% to 50% for the season with a big drop at Christmas (no lifts were operating due to the lack of snow).
In the Belledonne the 7 Laux saw a drop of 6.5% in turnover. The resort complained that the first week of Christmas was too windy, the second too wet. For the holiday period turnover was down 30% compared to last season and the resort nearly had to lay off staff. The resort says they only had 4 sunny weekends this season, by easter “we got the impression that everyone was fed up to the back teeth with the poor weather.” The 7 Laux had a record 10,000 skiers on the 16th January with 80% occupancy of the ski lifts. A ski lift is normally profitably when it has 30% occupancy.
At Chamrousse the season was “difficult” with varying snow cover that “wasn’t as good as some people make out”. The resort had one day of good weather during the Christmas fornight and only two weekends when accomodation was fully occupied. The resort managed 9.3 million euros turnover, a slight drop on last year. At the Collet d’Allevard turnover was down 4% with a poor Christmas but the resort is “happy” with the figures.
It wasn’t just ski resorts that were effected by the conditions. Ski tourers suffered from an unstable snowpack with a big increase in the number of fatalities in both France and Switzerland. At the two big ski touring community websites there was a drop in the number of trip reports. Camp2Camp saw 9% less trips in its database and the drop was 6% at Skitour.