France is the country which has the biggest number of ski lifts, comprising about 18% of the total number of the lifts in the world. It was one of the first countries to develop the ski sector and ski lifts, for instance the iconic construction work of the Aiguille du Midi started at the beginning of the 20th century. The French Ski resorts are located on 6 mountain chains, the Northern Alps, Southern Alps, Pyrenees, the Massif Central and the Jura. The main parts of the ski lifts are located in the Northern Alps, more than half of them being button tows and T-bars (66%) followed by the Gondolas (33%).

What are the main investments of the year? The striking figures of the year 2015:

La Plagne invested in a 10.5 million euros chairlift and the resort of Les Menuires is working on the chairlift Saint Martin ensuring the liaison between les Menuires and Meribel. As for the Pyrenees, the resort Luchon Superbagnères is finishing the construction work of the Cecire Express, and Saint Lary also massively invested. However the amount of investments is every year lower compared to the general income of the resorts, it is at its lowest rate since 1992 (8.2%).

The use of ski lifts, winter 2014-2015

Ski lifts’ frequencies have been rather stable for 10 years with 636 million skiers transported last winter, a figure quite similar to last year’s despite a slight diminution. The number of transports is divided between ski lifts, chair lifts, T-tows and button tows. The highest output this season was recorded for the detachable chairlifts, the output of the many tows being slightly smaller.

If traffic remains stable for the main chains, the Alps and Pyrenees, the figures remain very instable for the smaller ones. In fact, in the Vosges the number of transports has nearly doubled with favorable conditions in late February despite a very poor start in late 2014. What about the number of ski lifts? In 15 years, the number of magic carpet has been highly increasing, being much cheaper than the other lifts.

Photo : Arbisman

Still scarce in 2003 magic carpets are every year renewed in France, in 2011 37 Magic Carpet were built, much more than any other facilities.

However the investments are much lower than for the other lifts. In average every year 25 new Magic Carpets have been built, taking the figures of the last 10 years. However building a new button tows costs on average €0.18 million, a new detachable chairlift requires an investment 34 times bigger! They cost on average €6.15 million in 2015.

Other huge expenses:

Gondolas are even more expensive and these investments are real issues for the resorts, for instance Puigmal resort had to close down after having invested to entirely refurbish a chairlift. The investment was then followed by two years without snow for the Pyrenees, a drama for the resort. But if these new facilities are extremely expensive, it is real boon for skiers: Huge ski areas are sometimes opened, resorts can be linked one to another thanks to the new facilities more comfortable and efficient than the previous ones. Just take a look at the most spectacular and innovative ski lifts of the world.

Telecabina en Saint-Lary

All in all, implementing or refurbishing a ski resorts implies massive investments. In 2015, €104.32 million were invested in ski lifts, 66.5% of the total amount in the Northern Alps. It is a sector which boosts the whole region, not only regarding the resort but also the associated facilities (restaurants, ski schools, shops…).