The French winter holidays began on February 8 and will end on Sunday, March 8. Four weeks of intense activity, and particularly strategic for ski stations that concentrate almost 35% of their activity during this period of the season
While many media mock the plight of certain ski stations that suffer the effects of climate change, skiing seems to have a bright future ahead. As proof are the results of several stations in the Alps and the Pyrenees. Only the Northern and Southern Alps represent 85% of the sector, 70% and 15% respectively. A preponderant weight often overshadowed by certain critical situations in certain massifs that stigmatize skiing as an endangered activity with no future.
Record attendance at some French ski stations
We remember the last winter holidays, with record attendance in all the French mountains, and almost 2 million days of skiing recorded during the four weeks of vacation. The settings for this winter are very different, especially in terms of the amount of snow. “The holidays are carried out according to the climatic conditions that Mother Nature gives us and the disparities in the level of snow depending on the massifs”, says Jean-Marc Silva, director of France Montagnes:
ALTITUDE STATIONS HAVE THE LOWEST LEVEL OF TROUBLE, SO THAT THIS WINTER SEASON 2019/2020 CAN BE HISTORICAL
The same observation applies in the Pyrenees. Gavarnie station has already exceeded last season’s figures. “It is important in these moments of paradigm shift of our models to know that skiing in good conditions and at the right price still interests many snow enthusiasts”, says Christophe Fabre, director of the Site at STEM International.
In the Northern Alps, Val Cenis complex also reached an attendance record during the week of February 15-22, with an increase in the number of ski days of 5.9% more compared to last year.
A general evaluation is positive for the Haute-Maurienne Vanoise complex, which employs 180 people in the ski area. First there was a very good attendance during the Christmas holidays, and especially the week of New Year’s Day, and then in January a period between holidays almost like last year.
“Last year, we had an average occupancy rate during the four-week vacation of 93%. This winter, in the first three weeks of vacation, we have a similar occupancy rate.”
The ski school also shows an increase in its activity, an important indicator that always shows a true enthusiasm for skiing. “Val Cenis is well positioned for learning and the results of the Ski School prove it”, said Yves Dimier, director of Val Cenis.
Small recess for the last week of vacation when the occupancy rate is around 70%. “This is related to zoning for school vacations. The Rhône-Alpes holiday week has no overlap with other foreign areas or customers. This is a penalty for the weekly stay, but we expect snowfall in the coming days and the return of winter conditions. We hope to attract customers in short stays with “last minute” reservations. For a four-day stay from Thursday 5 to Sunday 8, not all plans have been sold, there are still some discounts on packages up to 40%. ”
In the Pyrenees, the Peyragudes complex has a very good season, with February vacations like those of last season in terms of assistance. “We had 100% occupancy rates during the first two weeks, next week at 94% for the Nantes area and next year around 80%. Now, this is a very good season, but we don’t know for how long. We register between 7000 and 8000 skiers a day during these holidays. But we also know that the balance can erode quickly”, notes wisely Laurent Garcia, director of Peyragudes station.
Mountain ski stations and quality-price
In a general context of lack of snowfall, some stations are fine thanks to their altitude or the quality of their ski area.
“The snowplow system with the snowsat system allows us to measure the depth of the snow and optimize the cleaning work and manage the snow distribution well in the ski area”, explains Laurent García of Peyragudes station.
During this period of school vacations, the lack of snow at certain neighbouring stations also leads skiers to opt for higher, snow-covered ski stations.
In general, “skier customers prefer high-altitude resorts, while vacation clients tend to focus on medium-sized ski stations, but also other activities. Mountain vacations for them are synonymous with skiing, but also a change of scenery and well-being”, specifies Jean-Marc Silva for France Montagnes.
Diversification of ski stations
In addition to skiing, the resorts have been innovating for many years to offer new experiences to their visitors. Proof of this is the success of the complementary activities to skiing in mountain destinations.
“Sleigh evenings organized at the station and complementary activities continue to progress”, says Yves Dimier.
Laurent García made the same observation: “We are observing more and more contemplative activities on foot or by bicycle. We register between 300 and 500 pedestrians per day on this vacation who wish to visit an altitude site. These clients seek to enjoy the landscape, the terraces, practice a new activity such as riding a bicycle or just having a good time. The Skyvall Valley lift, which connects the valley with the station, records between 3800 and 4000 crossings per day. The ski pass with entrance to Balnéa works very well”
Complementary activities to skiing are increasingly popular. “They make us believe that the mountains are discovering diversification, but resorts, especially small ones, are used to this. Clients do not ski all day when they are on vacation in the mountains”, says Jean-Marc Silva.
The sun: an essential ingredient for skiing
This winter, snowboard experts are probably a bit frustrated that they couldn’t hit the virgin slopes with powder snow as often as they would have liked. But for most ski resort visitors, the comments are good, if not very good. Thanks to an essential element, the sun.
Despite the lack of natural snow in many massifs, the sun has paradoxically compensated for the lack of snowfall. You can enjoy skiing in pleasant conditions, but also and above all have a good time outdoors, take a break, have lunch on the terrace of an altitude restaurant or simply sunbathe from the balcony of the chalet.
“Skiing is one of the rare sports that can be shared with the family, whatever the level of each one. Skiing together and sharing the mountain is a beautiful experience”, says Jean-Marc Silva.
End of season under the best auspices
After a spring episode in February, winter returns this week. Snowfall is expected in the coming days.
“The last week of the winter holidays has a lot of availability. Perhaps it is for the locals an opportunity to come skiing during this holiday week in the Rhône Alpes area. The locals ski on average 13 days a year, and many still do not they have skied so much: they still have a little under the tips!”, says Jean-Marc Silva.
On the side of Val Cenis, the trend for the end of the season is good, and in particular for the first week of April, which promises to be very good. “From April 4 to 11, the occupancy rate is around 75% on Easter Monday. This is the first week of vacation in the Paris area and for Belgian clients. The ski area is scheduled to close on April 17”, concludes Yves Dimier.
The stations interviewed to illustrate this article expressed great humility about their good results. An attitude to highlight, which shows great respect and solidarity for the less favored stations in terms of snow.