I Love Ski: currently, the French mountain has pretty good conditions. How would you describe this winter season 2018-2019?
Alexandre Maulin – Domaines Skiables de France: the winter season isn’t quite over yet, and we still have some very important stations that remain open for a week or so. The first observation that can be drawn from this season is that we have had a small progression. In the end there were good results, especially since the beginning of the season was very variable depending on the mountains. Some sites in Haute Savoie were very affected, complete massifs such as the Pyrenees, the Jura, the Vosges or the Central Massif were very affected by the lack of snow. So achieving these results at the end of the season has been quite satisfactory and it shows that the mountain always attracts.
We are witnessing a stability of assistance, with a slight increase, of the order of + 1%.
Jean-Luc Boch – France Montagnes: we’ve had two seasons that were totally different. Last season, we had an excellent attendance with lots of snow; this year, the attendance was just as good but with different snow conditions. Some mountains had difficulties at the beginning of the season, but they managed to attract people because the snow made an appearance in February.
To summarize this year, the season has continued to be excellent and the positioning of most resorts, by differentiating themselves and trying to find other customers, is paying off.
What’s still a problem for us today is that we tend not to be in France, but we’re very present in the workshops, in international activities… Working in a very independent way among us. We need to federate. When we have a press conference, fairs, meetings, etc., we must all be present and united: it’s the French mountain that will be cultivated independently of the massifs, the size of the resorts or the will of the elect.
I Love Ski – French ski resorts registered 20 million ski days during the 4 weeks of February. Is the French mountain once again demonstrating its appeal?
Alexandre Maulin – Domaines Skiables de France: we all dream of being able to distribute equally the 17 weeks of the season and the number of clients we receive in February, so that the attendance is more linear. But today, the school holiday calendars of France and Europe generate a high density of customers, and the 4 weeks of the February holidays are ‘the most important iceberg’. From 35 to 40% of our activity is concentrated in these 4 weeks, which are predominant in the season, especially when some resorts have lost the start of the season: this is the period that we should not miss. We need to find ways to strengthen other periods of the season and to reduce the participation in February and develop periods like January and March / April to make them more important in our business model.
Jean-Luc Boch – France Montagnes: We have many people concentrated on the school holidays in February, and we have to find solutions to take them to other times of the season and fill our resorts.
In February, we have family vacations in France and abroad. Our main international clients are British, Belgian and Dutch. All of them are on vacation at the same time and it’s a habit and a collective knowledge that it’s nice to go to the mountains in February. Before, Christmas used to be a special time to go to the mountains, but we lost a little Christmas because more and more people want to spend the holidays with their family and at home. We must show them that this is a unique and privileged moment. Santa Claus, when you see him on television, is on the reindeer, in the snow: he is not in the plains or in the grass! (Laughs)
I Love Ski – Nowadays, we are witnessing the appearance of new international clients, such as China, for example. Is the French mountain ready for this phenomenon?
Alexandre Maulin – Domaines Skiables de France: it’s very difficult and very variable. If you go to the 10 or 15 most important ski resorts in France, I think they have the means and are adapting to an international clientele. But in France, we have mostly resorts which are more adapted to an European or even national market. There are advances in adapting to the international clientele, but it’s very variable from one resort to another.
Jean-Luc Boch – France Montagnes: for now we are not fully prepared and we still can’t receive Chinese skiers. Why? We have too much diversity and we don’t sufficiently take into account the needs that these clients have when they move internationally. We will have to go much further to have a meal and accommodation that corresponds to their needs, a willingness to welcome them, without eliminating their authenticity and that of the country that receives them, so we can offer them a small home away from home.
I Love Ski – Some detractors of the mountain say that the ski industry is finished. What do you think?
Alexandre Maulin – Domaines Skiables de France: it’s always said that skiing is done, but, without skiing, everything is done!
The clients come to glide and to discover the nature and the mountain through the ski area that we need to secure our product, but also the trip of the client.
Snow is becoming an increasingly important part of the investment, and we still have to move forward: we should not look for 80 or 100% snow coverage. We must allow ski areas to work in all kinds of conditions, in an intelligent way, adapted to their water resources and to the countryside, in order to offer a ski product tha’s satisfactory for the customers.
Nowadays we are witnessing a strong concentration of investment in larger resorts, particularly those that have just renewed their public service delegation contract. As such, we have much more active phases with investments in ski lifts, artificial snow and slope maintenance work. Last year, we had a record year with almost 400 million euros of investment, which is about 30% of the national turnover. This is good and it’s necessary: we currently need a legal and strategic framework that allows us to maintain this investment.
Jean-Luc Boch – France Montagnes: we have fewer and fewer young skiers in our mountains. Snow lessons and discovery classes should be re-established so that children, even near tourist centers, can discover the snow and participate with their families in the development of this activity. Today we are at the beginning of everything that needs to be done, at the beginning of the collective consciousness, and if we don’t change our model, we will have difficulties for the skiers of tomorrow.
Auvergne Rhône Alpes, thanks to its president, Laurent Vauquier, has just established a system that will pay for the transport of young people to the mountains. The local communities look for the solution to have new adaptations to federate the supervisors, who are less afraid of assuming responsibilities, and they all win a discovery of the mountain.
We know it today, and it is a certainty: children who have experienced ski initiation classes, when they form a family or are active youths, mostly return to the resort. They discovered it when they were children. Those are exceptional memories that they have lived. We must promote this desire in our children, this need to discover the mountain.
At the end of November, we are going to organize an event that we hope will be a success: Paris des Neiges, which will be open to all French resorts and all mountain professionals, to give a great blow to communication at a national level, but also internationally. We want to show that the French mountain is capable of uniting and federating.