The opening of the Marquises chair will double the area of pistes in the youngest of the Tarentaise’s ski resorts but the project has not met with universal approval. Sainte-Foy-Tarentaise has planned 15 million € of investment over the next few years including a new area of ski runs under the Camp Filluel to the west of resort but environmental and local pressure groups have described this as “a very risky bet at the expense of the local environment”.
Vallon du Clou
The work includes a new “front de neige”, a beginners zone and the replacement of the Marmottes drag lift by a moving carpet to improve access to the Grand Plan chair. The six seater high speed Marquises chair which is scheduled to open for the start of the 2006 winter season give access to new red and blue pistes in the Camps Filluel sector. The resort lacks easier runs and the new area will be sunny in the morning. The plan includes a new car park and 650 new beds including a residence and chalets as well as new phases at the Fermes de Sainte-Foy and Balcons de Sainte-Foy (MGM Group). Two luxury apartment complexes each with a spa which will be open to non-residents under certain conditions. New shops include a newsagents and The Iceberg piano bar and salon de thé.
Protestors think the new building may ruin one of Sainte-Foy’s major selling points. That of a small, traditional ski resort. The Association “Vivre en Tarentaise” (Live in the Tarentaise) say that the eventual development will be of the order of 3,000 to 5,000 beds to take advantage of the current speculation in property in the Savoies. They believe the money could be better spent on improving fresh water supplies to the resort with new pipes and a pumping station and building a sewage treatment works but this will require an investment of many millions of euros. Snow canons will also require a reservoir of 10 000 to 15 000m3.
Sainte-Foy’s finances currently do not look great. Only 1200 beds have been built over the last decade and of these a mere 30% are managed by the communities’ central reservation system with a corresponding loss of revenue for the resort. Except for the peak school holiday period reservations are poor in the winter and very poor in the summer. This has a knock-on effect on the ski pass sales. The resort says the development is necessary to restore equilibrium in the number of visistors and lift usage.
The ski lifts, which are owned and run by the local community (RMRM Ste-Foy Tarentaise) are loss making and local tax payers have to make up the deficit. Turnover for 2004/5 season was 1,153,390 € with turnover per skier/day just 12.65 € compared to an average of 20.8 € for the department’s ski resorts as a whole [they must be giving away a lot of free lift passes – Ed.]. Thanks to a good winter the resort did manage to increase the number of skier/days from 69,634 in 2004 to 91,215 in 2005, an increase of 30% but only managed to grow turnover by 14.8%. Pressure groups say that the new sector and lifts may increase losses and that the resort should renew existing lifts and expand “soft winter tourism” such as cross-country skiing and snowshoe tours. Studies by the French Tourism ministry show that up to half of winter tourists don’t actually alpine ski.
The resort says that it has created nature reserves in the Grand Bois and Grand Follié cantons which will protect their colonies of Tétras Lyre (black grouse) and Lagopèdes Alpines (alpine Ptarmigan) and Lycopode des Alpes (alpine club moss). Environmentalists say the new lift will encourage more off-piste skiing around the Marquise ridge, the couloir des Foyères and into the Mercuel valley which will have a very negative impact on the survival chances of young grouse. They claim that the nature reserve under Arc 2000 in the Villaroger community has shown the difficulty in channeling off-piste skiers. They also say that the new ski runs will be clearly visible from Bourg Saint Maurice. They have called on the French State to protect the Vallon du Clou, to the east of the resort, from possible future expansion either by Sainte-Foy’s or a future buyer for the resort’s lifts.