Tarentaise ski monopoly imposes “roaming charges”

The Espace Olympique comprises the ski resorts that participated in the 1992 Albertville games. One of the advantages of the Espace to users was that holders of 6 day or more passes could try out some of the other domains. The rules were never entirely clear but if you had your lift pass and receipt and had some wheels you could be centrally based and ski around the other areas searching for the best snow and off-piste. We’ve used the pass when skiing with guides to do a virtual safari of the area.

espace olympique

We’ve heard reports from people who had problems with partner resorts but this largely seemed to be down to them not having their receipt. Our experience is that the system, although often not known by the lift pass office staff, worked well as long as you had all the documentation. Now the virtual monopoly that runs the Tarentaise has imposed a roaming charge of 10 Euros if you want to ski in another area. They try to spin this as a benefit to users but even the name, the XXL Pass, conjours up pictures of fat cats at the Compagnie des Alpes (CdA) raking in even more money.

Remember that out of the participating resorts: la Plagne, Tignes, les Arcs, Meribel, les Menuires, Val d’Isere and Peisey-Nancroix are part of the Compagnie des Alpes with Val Thorens and Courchevel as the only sizeable independent ski areas. We use the term independent advisedly. The Compagnie des Alpes was established by murky state bank the Caisse des dépôts et Consignations through its arm: the Caisse des Dépôts - Développement (C3D) and although quoted on the stock market the C3D retains a substantial shareholding. Courchevel is owned by the Savoie Council. The tentacles of the Caisse des dépôts et Consignations are far reaching. They had a substantial stake in recently defunct Transmontagne which ran a number of second tier ski resorts (including interests in la Tania) in France and abroad. We were recently surprised to discover they also have a large holding in the SATA which controls the ski lifts in l’Alpe d’Huez.

You may be thinking that this move in needed after the hard 2005/6 season which saw a drop in turnover of 8% for the top 100 ski resorts. Not a bit of it. The Compagnie des Alpes was a beneficiary of the poor winter as skiers flocked from lower lying resorts. Tignes increased turnover by 3.73%, les Arcs by 2.96% and la Plagne by 2.09%. The figures are more or less stable if you factor in that lift pass prices rose by 2 to 3% last season. The Tarentaise portofolio of the CdA alone accounts for a whopping 27% of lift company turnover for France.

The CdA is also provoking anger futher south. It acquired a stake in Serre Chevalier in 2004 and has since consolidated its position. Robert de Caumont, former Socialist mayor of Briançon has slammed the CdA for its lift pass pricing which he claims is aimed at luxury guests and discriminating against poorer local skiers. He is particularly concerned with the dissapearance of tickets covering just small domains such as Prorel, Monétier-les-Bains, Puy St Pierre and Puy St André. He is also calling on the CdA to freeze prices for the coming season. We’ve been contacted by residents of Monétier who have echoed Mr de Caumonts sentiments. Serre Chevalier also did well last season with a 2.94% increase in turnover.

Further Information

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Posted by davidof on Tuesday, 06 November, 2007 at 11:33 AM

We’ve had a few questions about the new XXL pass already. First of all there is absolutely no information on the Tignes, Val d’Isere, les Arcs or la Plagne websites about the exact details of this pass. Can a season worker make multiple visits to other resorts through the season? The answer should be YES but who knows without the T&C. After all, apart from Courchevel you are paying your extra ten euros to the Compagnie des Alpes. You can’t ski in two places at once so it is more money in their coffers.

Here is how the Espace Olympique pass worked in 2007:

The Paradiski 6-day lift passes allows the access to the Espace Olympique Savoie ski area.
Ask for your Espace Olympique Savoie pass at the ticket office before leaving for the resort of your choice.
Access 1 DAY OF FREE SKI per stay : ESPACE KILLY
Access 1 DAY OF FREE SKI per stay : 3 VALLEES
Access 1 DAY OF FREE SKI per stay: LES SAISIES

To do that will now cost you 40 euros extra! Plus you don’t get les Saisies or Pralognan (some great off piste here). So it seems like a lose/lose for the poor old skier. The press release of for the XXL pass is just spin. There was nothing complicated about the old pass as long as you followed the T&C.

Posted by davidof on  Wednesday, 07 November, 2007  at 11:05 AM

When we worked in Val D’Isere - 3 seasons ago -we were given monthly passes.  These gave no discounts at other resorts.  However, the 3 valleys season pass, one season earlier, entitled us to 2 days in each of the neighbouring resorts - notably La Plagne and Val D’Isere.
Getting a day trip pass was easy and we simply handed over our season pass (no receipts etc.) for an upgrade.
Out of interest changes have been made in the Pyrenees this year with a joint Luz St Sauveur/ Tourmalet pass available again (6 days consequetive) .  This also includes one trip up to the Pic du Midi.  Otherwise, the season pass price was reduced if you waived the right to 50% discount for day passes at participating resorts (c.100 euros cheaper).....

Posted by  on  Thursday, 08 November, 2007  at 11:20 AM

CdA do seem to have had a change of heart as far as Serre Chevalier is concerned. Hidden deep in the pages of the tour operators website are pass prices for the individual Serre Chevalier villages.

Posted by Helen Beaumont on  Friday, 30 November, 2007  at 10:32 AM

That’s great news Helen, I have friends in Monetier who were a bit annoyed last season so it seems like the mighty behemoth does listen to local opinion.

The snow seems pretty good too, at least above 2000m, looks like Serre Ch. is getting the best start to the season in France.

Posted by davidof on  Friday, 30 November, 2007  at 11:26 AM

Have just bought my 3 Valleys season pass in Les Menuires and on the receipt are two “coupons” for two days in the Espace Killy and the same for Paradiski - same as last year in fact.

In view of your article, I asked about the E 10/day surcharge and was told that there is no surcharge ( may still be wrong , of course), just need to get the receipt clipped at the lift office of resort being visited and, presumably, pick up a one-day pass.

Posted by  on  Tuesday, 11 December, 2007  at 01:46 PM
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