Abondance abandons skiing

The news has sent shockwaves through the Haute-Savoie. The local council at Abondance has voted to close the ski lifts. The ski resort has been loss making for the last 15 years. The local council tried desperately to find a buyer before the start of the season but was forced to run the lifts over the winter. This year’s poor snow was the final nail in the coffin. Requiring over half a million euros in investments the end has none the less brought strong reactions from the 1400 local residents and businesses.

Abondance is just one of twenty ski resorts in the Haute-Savoie that are apparently teetering on the abyss. The winter saw little snow below 2000 meters and temperatures 3 to 3.5C above average. A report by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) suggests that the number of ski resorts in the department will decrease from 37 to just 18 under such conditions.

The Haute-Savoie General Council has suggested that they convert from downhill skiing to other activities including ski touring, snowshoeing and even snow-mobiling. In the Savoie three snow mobile circuits have been established in the Bauges Natural Park although the minister of the Environment is contesting their legality. Often ski lifts are left to rust following the bankrupcy of a resort, in the case of Abondance the General Council is offering to part finance their removal.

In the Hautes-Alpes it also looks like the end for Céüze. The resort didn’t open at all last season despite some good days of snow cover. The franchise that runs the ski lifts was in dispute with the local council over snow making. Agreement had been reached to install snow canons this summer but worked has been suspended following a court case in the Marseille administrative court. The villages of Sigoyer and Pelleautier successfully claimed that snow making would affect their water supply. Jean Michel Garcin, who runs the lifts, was on holiday when the decision was taken to close Céüze and may not have had the final word.

The Isere department has been proactive in deciding the future of its ski resorts. In 2001 it asked Meylan based consultants Dianeige to study the future of the department’s ski areas. The report was a watershed. It suggested that 15 ski stations are not viable and should be given aid to convert to alternative activities. St Honore has already abandonned downhill skiing and looks set to be joined by other ski areas in the near future.

Further Information

French ski resorts saved by artificial snow
St Pierre de Chartreuse faces closure
Cheapest Apartments in the Alps
Winter 2007 Cancelled

Posted by davidof on Monday, 11 June, 2007 at 10:36 PM

I’ve just got a copy of local paper Le Dauphine Libere which covers the Abondance closure. Feelings are running very high. A defence association has already recruited 300 members out of the 1300 residents. Once person commented that “the closure is heartbreaking, we have skied here since 1964 but our kids won’t have that chance”. The local council has been accused of incompetence and being bad managers.

Faced with a barage of criticism the mayor, Serge Cettour-Meunier, replied “people have to understand that things change, apart from doubling council tax we couldn’t cover the debts”.

Bad snow last winter was the coup de grace. Running costs were 640,000 euros per year, half the annual budget for the village. An MOT test for the cable car will also cost 175,000 euros.

The department refused to subsidise “a money pit” however they have offered money to reorientate the tourist offer on a more modest scale with a learner ski area on the Plain d’Offaz. The ski resort of Chatel is then just 20 minutes by road.

The future seems to be cultural activities as well as snow shoeing and ski touring. The area is well known to backcountry enthusiasts. The 15th century church with its onion spire has frescos by Giacomo Jacquerio - artist for the court of the Savoy.

A dozen resorts in the Haute-Savoie face bankruptcy. M. Serge Cettour-Meunier predicts “We have made a first step but many will follow us. Or as the Daube puts it, it is like Danton’s last words to Robespierre on the Guillotine “I warn you Maximilien, it will be your turn soon”.

Posted by davidof on  Friday, 29 June, 2007  at 11:31 AM

My Goodle news alerts has been pulling in an Associated Press story on Abondance (looks to be largely ripped from this site) that has beern appearing in mainstream media around the world over the past fortnight.  It is very much “global warming closes French ski area.” This may or may not be the case but it’s a pity the way global media will focus on somewhere in the Alps and ignore the ski area in marginal locations on other continents that have also closed in recent years.  It’s written to make it look like this is a French problem and that skiing in France is under thrreat, whilst the rest of the worlds is fine, apparently.

Posted by Patrick Thorne on  Wednesday, 25 July, 2007  at 03:48 PM

You are not the only one to tell me about the AP story. The news about Abondance wasn’t exactly a secret although I’ve known for a couple of years that the commune would have to take a tough decision so was checking the council minutes for news. It may be that the AP people used PisteHors for background research (quite a lot of media outlets from the BBC onwards do this). The information about St Pierre de Chartreuse:


was less well known though. The AP article is wrong though. Abondance is not the first French alpine resort to have suffered from climate change. St Honore and Chambon des Neiges being one of a number of precedents



although there are a number of other abandonned resorts built in the euphoria of the 1970s.

Thanks for the comment.

Posted by davidof on  Thursday, 26 July, 2007  at 09:51 PM

The mayor of Abondance may have had some regrets over the closure of the Essert ski area (note that the Chapelle d’Abondance is still operating) this Christmas with the good conditions but he maintains that the problems which lead to the closure still exist.

However the area has found new life as a sledging center aimed at young kids. There is a carpet lift and center, called the Ludoffaz, offers sledging, tubing, airboards and snake’gliss.

Posted by davidof on  Tuesday, 08 January, 2008  at 09:24 AM

A sad moment for Abonance, last Thursday they finally signed a contract to convert away from alpine skiing with the Haute-Savoie conseil général. It really is the end of the road for the Essert ski area (note la Chapelle d’Abondance is still operating and has recently installed a new six seater chair). Abondance is now focussing on a snow park aimed at children (see comments above). The contract will entitle them to state aid to further this and other none-ski related objectives. Given this year’s poor snow in mid-mountain areas they are probably relieved they have made this difficult step.

Posted by davidof on  Monday, 11 February, 2008  at 03:23 PM
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