French Nordic ski areas awaited the 2021/22 season with trepidation. Would visitors who discovered the pleasures of ski de fond and snowshoeing return this season given the continuing sanitary crisis due to Covid and the reopening of alpine ski areas?
The sanitary crisis saw a decrease in the number of school groups. At the same time some schools in the Alps cancelled alpine activities to reorient to cross country skiing which was seen as safer due to group spacing. Ski areas also had to contend with a more complex organisation and with staff illness. However continuing government restrictions largely spared the sector.
Overall turnover was 15.2 M€. Up 55% over the average for the last 5 years but down on last season's record 19.7M€ when ski lifts were shut.
There were major problems recruiting staff. Both to run ski areas and in associated services such as ski hire and hotels/restaurants. There were difficulties welcoming groups in January 2022. There were also supply shortages for ski hire etc and energy costs were already adding to the list of issues.
In the Northern French Alps ski areas were able to open from the end of November and cold conditions and lack of foehn meant that resorts were open to the start of April. A heatwave in the spring led to a rapid thaw with no continuation past scheduled closing dates. Visitor numbers in the Savoie were up 20% on average with some sites seeing increases of 70%. The Isère had a very good season. Pre sales of season passes were exceptional due to good pre-season offers. Corrençon and Lans en Vercors actually beat last season's record breaking figures. The Drôme had 100 days of skiing with figures just behind last year's record.
The Jura is France's second largest ski area in terms of turnover, about half of the Northern Alps. It had its 2nd best season for the last 15 years. 760,000 skier days, just 5% down on last year's record. The season saw both good snow and sun. Winter visitors have discovered and resdiscovered the joys of nordic activities. Interestingly the three main sites saw a drop in visitors but the mid and small areas an increase. Operators say this is down to increased season pass sales which are the foundation of smaller areas visitors.u Presumably if you have bought a season pass it is a sunk cost and you don't mind going for an hour or two's skiing in the small, local area.
The Massif Central experienced two main snowfalls during the season (with one late fall after the resorts had closed) but cold weather in January preserved the snow. Afterwards oscillating temperatures meant resorts and visitors had to be reactive. There were more people on snow shoes and foot with the resulting conflicts with cross country skiers. Something seen across France to a certain extent.
In the Pyrénées there were excellent snow conditions from November in the Ariège and these continued to the start of February. The winter holidays were damp and a March was warm, especially in the valleys saw visitors melt with the snow. Number of cross country skiers was down but this was compensated by other activities. The Catalan Pyrénées had an exceptionally long season on limited snowfall. Cold and sunny. Font Romeu opened for nearly 4 months with excellent results.
The Southern Alps experienced a bit of a snow drought but most sites were able to open thanks to the work of the resorts. The number of visitors was still up compared to pre-covid. Lets hope the conditions didn't put them off.
The Vosges had a very good season maintaining the good figures of last year. The Season started at the end of November but New Year was ruined by rain with resorts closed from the 27th December to the 7th January. Turnover was 50% above average over 85 to 92 days of opening. Bresse Lispach had 55,000 skier days.