No more fossil fuels, no more production of artificial snow at positive temperatures, no more ski area extensions… Are ski resorts entering a new era? Compagnie des Alpes, a major player in the field of winter sports and mountain leisure activities, is adopting a visionary approach through 10 commitments and 5 bold renunciations.
Since 6 March, Compagnie des Alpes (CDA), which manages the resorts of La Plagne, Tignes, Val-d’Isère, Les Arcs, Serre-Chevalier, Peisey Vallandry, Les Menuires, Méribel, Flaine and Morillon/Samoëns/Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval, has incorporated its “Raison d’Être” into its articles of group. As part of this approach, the CDA is also committed to shaping dynamic living spaces that combine regional vitality with ecological transformation.
In order to put this “Raison d’Etre” into practice, Compagnie des Alpes is announcing 10 commitments and 5 renunciations, with the aim of developing a sustainable and responsible approach to its activities. These are ambitious actions that Compagnie des Alpes intends to undertake in order to “offer exceptional moments of leisure that generate links and well-being, and [to] create living spaces that combine the vitality of the regions with ecological transformation”.
Compagnie des Alpes leads the way with 5 innovative renunciations
A small revolution is underway in winter sports. In addition to the 10 commitments that demonstrate its determination to create exceptional moments of leisure, conducive to well-being and the generation of bonds, the CDA is also adopting 5 renunciations. “We had a real desire to display these renunciations to demonstrate our commitment to a more sustainable mountain environment. When it comes to managing ski areas, the final decision-maker is the delegator. Our intention is not to give lessons but rather to propose a framework for reference and discussion. In a way, it’s a new frame of reference which, thanks to the experience and expertise we’ve built up, enables us to support delegators in certain areas”, explains Sandra Picard, Director of Communications and CSR for the Compagnie des Alpes Group.
Compagnie des Alpes’ first renunciation: A responsible approach to climate change
Compagnie des Alpes is committed to adopting a responsible approach to the environmental challenges of climate change. With this in mind, it has made a strong initial commitment: not to continue to operate ski areas when climatic conditions no longer allow for satisfactory practice in the medium term, particularly in low-altitude areas or on glaciers.
Aware of the challenges posed by climate change, Compagnie des Alpes wishes to avoid any determination to maintain ski areas that would not benefit from sufficient natural snow cover. This responsible approach takes into account the consequences of global warming on the sustainability of winter sports activities.
Compagnie des Alpes has also undertaken not to develop artificial snow networks in glaciated areas or in areas where specialist scientific studies, such as the Imp’Act or Climsnow studies, do not validate the prospects for natural snow cover in the medium term.
This first decision by Compagnie des Alpes demonstrates its determination to take account of current and future climatic realities, by demonstrating responsibility in its choices to operate and preserve ski areas.
Compagnie des Alpes’ second renunciation: Not using “positive temperature snow”.
As part of its commitment to the environment, Compagnie des Alpes has made a second commitment: it undertakes never to use “positive-temperature snow-making” systems. “We’ve never done it, and we don’t intend to ever do it», says Sandra Picard.
Positive temperature snow” refers to a technique that involves producing snow when the temperature is above 0°C. This method requires greater energy consumption and is therefore less environmentally friendly.
By renouncing the use of this practice, Compagnie des Alpes is also demonstrating its commitment to preserving natural resources, reducing its environmental footprint and promoting a more sustainable approach to winter sports. This decision reflects Compagnie des Alpes’ commitment to respecting the ecological balance of the Alps while offering a responsible leisure experience in line with current climate issues.
Third renunciation by Compagnie des Alpes: the abandonment of fossil fuels for the company’s operations
As part of its move towards a more sustainable approach, Compagnie des Alpes is making a significant commitment by abandoning the use of fossil fuels in several aspects of its operations.
Firstly, the company is committed to no longer using fossil fuels to power the slope grooming equipment and buses it operates. This decision is aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting the use of alternative, more environmentally-friendly fuels, where available.
In addition, Compagnie des Alpes is also committed to abandoning the use of fossil fuels to heat its buildings and accommodation on its mountain estates. This transition to more sustainable energy sources, such as renewable energies, will help to reduce the company’s carbon footprint and promote the energy transition.
“We have made the choice to move away from fossil fuels and we have adopted this move with immediate action (i.e. all the actions have been launched to date, even if some require ongoing technical studies). Several of our station facilities (mainly technical buildings) used to run on oil or gas. Transition solutions exist and we have worked to adapt to the conditions and configuration of the facilities.
From winter 2023-2024, a building in Tignes that used to run on fuel oil will use HVO. At Les Arcs 1600, work is underway to install a heat pump at the 2 Têtes Technical Centre. Finally, at La Plagne, the biomass boiler solution is in the final study phase for 3 buildings,” explains Sandra Picard.
By opting for alternative energy solutions, Compagnie des Alpes is helping to combat climate change and setting an example in the winter sports and mountain leisure sector.
Compagnie des Alpes’ fourth renunciation: Limiting the net extension of ski areas
In a bid to preserve the environmental balance, Compagnie des Alpes is making a strong commitment by refraining from any net expansion of its ski areas. This decision marks a turning point in the company’s development approach, putting forward a responsible and sustainable vision.
From now on, only isolated adaptations limited in surface area will be envisaged, in particular when they are necessary for the relocation of equipment or the evolution of snow fronts at altitude. However, these adaptations will be strictly consistent with the objective of limiting the net footprint set for 2030.
“Overall, there won’t be any extensions, but rather occasional adaptations. At Peisey Vallandry, for example, we have installed the new Vallandry gondola lift, which will enable us to go up to the snow front and the beginners’ area. In the end, we have the same surface area, it’s more a question of adapting.
We adapt according to the studies and in agreement with our delegators, and we make common sense decisions to encourage connections or replace spaces”, explains Sandra Picard.
In making this decision, Compagnie des Alpes is demonstrating its determination to promote sensible growth that respects the environment. This means that efforts will be concentrated on improving and optimising existing infrastructures, rather than on excessive expansion of ski areas.
By refraining from clear-cut extensions, the company is helping to preserve Alpine ecosystems while offering visitors a high-quality, sustainable leisure experience.
Fifth renunciation by Compagnie des Alpes: The end of technical assistance for projects to create ski resorts not based on natural snow
In a move aligned with its commitment to a responsible approach to mountain tourism, Compagnie des Alpes is making a fifth major renunciation: it is committing to no longer providing technical assistance to ski resort creation projects, whether French or international, if these projects do not include a significant majority share of natural snow.
Compagnie des Alpes set up a subsidiary in China in August 2016. Headed by Cécilia Yang, its aim was to identify new opportunities for ski resorts and leisure parks.
“After conducting our own market study on existing sites, we intend to position ourselves, in the future, in the top 15 Chinese ski resorts,” had explained Delphine Pons in 2016 (CDA annual report in 2016).
As early as the 2015-2016 season, CDA Management was present at Thaiwoo, in the heart of Chongli, the region that hosted the Olympic Games, less than an hour from Beijing via the future high-speed train.
In 2016-2017, CDA Management renewed its contract with Thaiwoo on a broader scope and signed a technical and operational assistance contract with Silk Road.
In 2016, in its annual report, the group announced that “Compagnie des Alpes’ dual expertise in ski areas and leisure parks gives it (…) great credibility when it comes to snow-dome concepts”. In 2016, a CDA Management team worked on the master plan and scenography for the Winterland project, a new-generation snow-dome in Shanghai.
Today, Compagnie des Alpes is involved in the Foliday Town Taicang city snow-dome project, in Jiangsu province in eastern China, which is due to open very soon.
“We have a technical assistance department (CDA Management) that enables us to capitalise on our teams and share our know-how and expertise internationally. The work on snow domes in China was a good way for our teams to see how the Chinese market works.
From now on, we want to give priority to projects that rely mainly on natural snow… We have therefore reached a limit. As far as the contract with Foliday Town Taicang city is concerned, the construction support phase is coming to an end and we are committed to providing operational support for the management of the snow dome. However, this will be our last project,” says Sandra Picard.
This decision to no longer provide technical assistance for projects to create ski resorts not based on natural snow is a 180-degree turn. It reflects Compagnie des Alpes’ desire to give priority to destinations that make the most of natural snow, an essential element for an authentic winter sports experience. By withdrawing from technical assistance for projects centred on artificial infrastructures such as snow domes, the CDA is affirming its commitment to an approach that respects the environment and seeks to preserve the very essence of winter sports.
“In 2016, we did indeed intend to expand in China, and that desire has waned. A number of factors accelerated the process: firstly, the reality on the ground in China; secondly, a new stance for the Group with the arrival of a new CEO who is very committed and sure of his choices; and thirdly, real ecological and environmental convictions that are pushing us to be ever more virtuous”, explains Sandra Picard.
This decision marks a strong stand by Compagnie des Alpes, which has undertaken not to enter into any new contracts relating to these issues. This decision reflects our desire to support mountain tourism projects that respect the ecological balance, preserve natural resources and offer visitors an authentic experience.
By ending technical assistance for such projects, Compagnie des Alpes is sending out a clear signal about its commitment to sustainable mountain tourism, based on the preservation of nature and the real experience of winter activities.
The choice of an owl to illustrate this article is not insignificant. Its calm and composed appearance symbolises wisdom. Like an owl, a visionary company knows how to assess situations carefully and make informed decisions, thanks to a thorough understanding of the issues at stake. Its large eyes, associated with vision and intuition, underline the importance of courage in making informed decisions, even in times of uncertainty. The owl’s ability to fly silently symbolises the discretion and keen sense of listening needed to make strategic decisions.
By choosing the owl as the emblem for this article, I Love Ski wanted to highlight the importance of adopting a considered and wise approach to business decision-making to ensure long-term success.
Reminder of the 5 renunciations
1- Compagnie des Alpes undertakes not to be relentless when climate change makes part of its Domains unsuitable for skiing, in the more or less short term, particularly low-altitude areas or glaciers. In this respect, it will not develop artificial snow networks on glacier areas or on areas where the Imp’Act or Climsnow study does not validate the prospects of sufficient natural snow cover in the medium term.
2- Compagnie des Alpes has never used, and will never use, “positive-temperature snow-making” systems.
3- Compagnie des Alpes undertakes to stop using fossil fuels to power the slope grooming machines and buses it operates (subject to the availability of alternative fuels) and to heat its buildings and accommodation in its Mountain Areas.
4- Compagnie des Alpes undertakes not to propose any net extension of Ski Areas. Only one-off adaptations limited in surface area, linked in particular to the relocation of equipment and/or changes to the snow fronts will be considered, and consistent with the objective of limiting the net footprint to 2030.
5- Compagnie des Alpes undertakes to no longer provide technical assistance for French or international ski resort (and/or snowdome) creation projects that do not involve a significant majority of natural snow. No new contracts on these subjects will be concluded.
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