Has Cham killed the golden goose?

According to journalist Antoine Chandelier Chamonix has been hit hard by the credit crunch. The area relies on rich British and Russian visitors for its fortunes. Over half of guests come from abroad.

Hoteliers in the valley say that reservations are down by 15% and its worse for restaurants which report sales down by a whopping 30%. The Chamonix McDonalds must be doing good business, especially as it is one of the few establishments which has passed on the 5.5% VAT rate . Even lift pass turnover is down 6% on last year. Easter reservations are currently running at 59% compared to 73% for a selection of other French resorts.

Chamonix is trying to market itself to last minute visitors but some valley residents say the area has relied too long on the symbol of Mont Blanc and rich foreign guests.

Despite a recent change in the administration there are complaints that the valley has not invested sufficiently, particularly for summer visitors. They bemoan a lack of infrastructure such as good cycle routes or an efficient bus service.

However the drop in visitor numbers may also be due to the good overall snow conditions which has seen a rise in booking in other ski areas including the Pyrenees, Southern Alps and Massif Central. Despite a rise in visitor numbers this winter there are only a certain number of skier/days to go around. Chamonix also had a very good winter last year due to poor snow elsewhere early in the season.

CHAMONIX La “capitale” fait grise mine

Posted by davidof on Sunday, 05 April, 2009 at 11:28 PM

i did a season in chamonix, many moons ago and it was one of the best seasons i ever did.  Of course the place relies on mont blanc. its sitting right under it. as well as the farcical/uncomfortable bus system, the resort does not really lend itself to anything than the expert skier no matter what anyone says about it.

bookings will be down everywhere, in spain its terrible at the minute( i know, im here)

chamonix better prepare it self for the hard times ahead!

Posted by  on  Monday, 06 April, 2009  at 12:01 PM

They’ve also done well in scaring away regional skiers. One way they could try to get their “local” skiers like myself to come back, would be to admit that individually, the various Cham ski areas are in fact quite small. So charging 38 EUR and then “claim” that this gives access to all areas is a disgrace. Who on earth switches ski areas on a 1 day ski outing?

Compare for example La Balme with nearby much larger Les Contamines. That’s 38.50 vs 30.50 EUR for 45km vs 120km of pistes. It’s also 817m vs 1323m vertical. And no, Cham is not the only place with a view, The Mt Blanc is just as impressive from Les Contamines!

Oh I almost forgot, my last Carbonara at Brevent was EUR 17! I think it runs around 10EUR in les Cont....

So for a day’s skiing it really is a no brainer, and the comparison can be made for many ski areas of haute savoie.

If anyone from the Compagnie du Mt Blanc reads this forum, I beg them to reconsider how they treat day ticket customers!

Posted by  on  Wednesday, 08 April, 2009  at 09:31 AM

I’ve heard the same comments as you from others. One French person said “funny how when things are not going well they suddenly rediscover local skiers whom they’ve shunned for years”. The whole Compagnie des Alpes marketing has revolved around well heeled Brits.

I skied Sommand in the Pras de Lys domain Monday. 14 Euros for a lift pass. Okay its not got the vertical but it has splendid views of Mont Blanc and probably as much skiing as any of the CMB areas. Lunch for 3 was 38 euros including a carafe of wine. So for not much more than the cost of the CMB LP I got lunch thrown in. I asked the lift company and turnover is up this year and the restaurants have all done well. Last year wasn’t exactly poor for snow either.

Posted by davidof on  Wednesday, 08 April, 2009  at 10:21 AM

I’ve been skiing Cham for a while, and while I admit that it’s great for me (off-piste, high mountain access), it’s terrible for your average holiday maker.  I think the penny has finally dropped and the normal 80% of skiers out there have realized that other resorts offer far better pistes and infrastructure at a better price.

The transportation issue around the valley must be solved and quickly.  It’s outrageous that there are so many people driving in the valley, but I can hardly blame them as the buses are horridly over-crowded (and don’t run late enough into the night) and the trains aren’t frequent enough nor prompted.  I would love to see a big push for the train system as well as doubling the number of trains available which at least would service flegere and grand montet.  And while we’re on the topic, it’s easy to reach every Swiss resort by train from the Geneva or Zurich airport, but the train to Chamonix takes over twice as long as driving.

As far as the clientelle, it’s a tough one.  You can’t really blame them for going after the Brits and Russians as they’ve been the ones with the most expendable income over the past few years.  I think they were late to the game and saw Verbier benefitting massively from their influx and just got going a bit too late.

I don’t fully believe the numbers either as the local realtor I know in Argentiere says that they’ve had everything rented out for all the peak seasons including Easter.  Maybe the great snow this season has cushioned their landing a bit though.  If the economy isn’t stabilised by next winter and there’s below average snow, it could be a ghost town.

Posted by  on  Wednesday, 08 April, 2009  at 05:08 PM

Why does everyone complain when capitolism takes a down turn.  I for one am happy about the economy.  Last time I was in Cham a couple of years ago there were cranes all over building Chalets for rich out of town gumbys, mainly Brits.  When too much economy happens too fast then a town like Cham loses everything that makes it wonderful.  Mainly because outside rich people are clueless idiots that can’t see past their large stack of $$$. They just want to be hip and cool by hanging out in a place like Chamonix.  As for the Russians, well they are probably all made men so best not to say anything.

Posted by  on  Wednesday, 08 April, 2009  at 06:01 PM
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