Aux armes citoyens!

Skiers in the Hautes-Pyrenees department have been faced with a nasty surprise as they have queued up to by their ”gens du pays” lift passes. The department’s prefect has told ski resorts that it is illegal for them to offer discounts to locals or any other form of discriminatory pricing. 

Following a case between a second home owner and a ski resort the Pau court said that the French Constitution made it clear that a public service, including ski lifts, cannot discriminate against different classes of user. The principal goes back to 1789 declaration of human rights and the cherished principal of freedom, equality and brotherhood.

The court case has caused confusion. Some ski resorts have already fallen into line with others to follow suit. Other stations in the region are holding out against the directive or are proposing different forms of discount such early bird pricing. Val Louron and Peyragudes say it is sometime since they offered local’s discounts but they still offer free lift passes for young people living in the area, something they claim doesn’t discriminate against other skiers. At Saint-Lary the local council has been offering vouchers to young local skiers, the lift company, Altiservice still receives full price for the pass. The mayor of Piau-Engaly says that the ruling does not take into account the way of life in the valleys and says that discounts help locals to ski and develop mountain and snow based careers. Locals have benefited from free skiing. In the Tourmalet locals have also been offered reductions, a season is just 161 € for an adult compared to 336 € for a non-resident with free passes for children. The local authority is now planning to pay 80% of the lift pass for under 18s via the ski clubs. At Hautacam the local tariff is just 80 € for a season pass rather than the usual 125 €, one of the cheapest in France.

Gavarnie, Luz and Cauterets have adopted the idea of pre-season tarrifs to get around the ruling. If you by your lift pass at Cauterets before the 19th of November it will cost 390 € instead of 475 €. The offer at Luz is even better where the pass will be half price up to the 24th of November. Locals and non-locals alike can benefit from these rates but obviously those in the know are more likely to take advantage. The system brings money into resorts before the season gets underway, even if the snow is poor.

If you are over in the Hautes-Savoie the Grand Massif lift pass which include the ski area of Flaine is half price for adults and juniors until the 10th of December. That’s just 395 € for an adult pass.

Posted by davidof on Wednesday, 29 November, 2006 at 05:31 PM

Irrespective of the perceived rights and wrongs of locals getting discounted passes I do think we should all step back a bit and think about the value you can get from a skipass. In Alpe d’Huez, for example, an annual adult Visalp pass gives you access to all the areas lifts for Winter Skiing (200+km of piste), and Summer Mountain Biking, free access to the sports centre, swimming pools. ice rink etc. All this for 700€, £500 or less with family disconts etc. This equates to 50 hours on a dry ski slope in the UK ! Fantastic value.
I am no different from most other people, I am sure, in wanting as much as possible for the lowest price but I have to say I don’t have a problem with those sort of prices.

Posted by  on  Wednesday, 29 November, 2006  at 08:59 PM

It’s not about value.  It’s about people who work and live in the ski resorts.  Normally, they get minimum wage, have to pay overpriced accomodation costs and precious little time to ski. 
I’m not talking about sponsored jobs i.e. people who come to work, get accomodation lift pass etc.
The Luz lift pass sale was available for two days only at 135 euros, not a bad price, but only word of mouth advertised the dates and then 3 or 4 days in advance.  The dates being the middle of the week in off season - before any seasonaires had arrived and also when many of the locals were away on holiday.  Valley discounts available in Bareges - the price is now comparible if you missed the ‘sale’.
Furthermore the price, outside of the sale, is now prohibative or simply not worth it for those that may only get 10 days or half days skiing.
The point is that SNCF get family discounts on trains, EDF give discounts to staff on electricity and the list goes on.  Why can’t communities in mountain villages support the people who make it happen for all the holidaymakers?

Posted by  on  Friday, 01 December, 2006  at 02:57 PM

Not only do locals get crappy job wages for the most part (unless they are business owners), but also the fact that the town councils (and thus our local taxes) must pay for the increased infrastructure such as wider and improved roads, larger shopping markets that are only kept full in ‘high season’ (so thus higher prices year ‘round for all), putting up fancy decorations, advertising etc. - all that a ski resort requires. So to me the only one benefitting from skiing in a monetary way is the company that runs it and some of the local shops with increased business - but the average local who is not a shop owner certainly deserves a break in the price due to the extra taxes one pays to make the town big enough to support the tourists which the lift company wishes to attract.

Posted by  on  Monday, 04 December, 2006  at 05:26 PM

Let’s not forget by the way that Mountain guides and ski instructors also get reduced price passes (last year for Chamonix year-round it was something under 200€ I believe) - so are these also ‘illegal’ - seems just silly! Who would want to punish the mountain guides? How then do you differ that discount from local residents? This sounds like a lot of sour grapes coming from secondary residents - many of whom I must say are actually full time residents who simply avoid paying their taxes in France - the good thing about the GDP card here is that you were required to show proof of income tax payment in town as well as taxe fonciere - therefore showing you helped support the infrastructure of the town - before being given GDP status. This also gets one discounts on buses and SNCF as well as to the local sports center/swimmiing pool - will all that then also be required to stop? Again just plain silliness to punish the locals who are already struggling to afford to continue living in the town where they were born or grew up for the most part - these people are not all rich and certainly deserve to be able to afford to keep skiing in their home town!

Posted by  on  Monday, 04 December, 2006  at 05:32 PM
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