By 2022/23, Compagnie des Alpes will have achieved a spectacular 71% reduction in CO2 emissions in its ski areas and outdoor activities. This reduction is mainly due to the widespread adoption of HVO100 biofuel to replace diesel for snow groomers. This transition has reduced the total CO2 emissions associated with a day’s skiing to just 320 grams, the equivalent of producing 1 kilogram of apples in France.
Dominique THILLAUD, Managing Director of Compagnie des Alpes, talks to us about these results: “We are convinced that energy efficiency will become an essential criterion in the choice of destination. Our aim is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 at the latest, without having to resort to offsets or the purchase of carbon credits. We have managed to reduce emissions from 1.3 kg to just 320 grams per day per skier. This significant achievement is mainly due to the widespread use of 2nd generation biofuel HVO 100. Today, our snow groomers are no longer dependent on fossil fuels”.
HVO, responsible for a 71% drop in CO2 emissions in ski areas
The 2022/23 financial year saw a remarkable 71% drop in CO2 emissions in ski areas and outdoor activities, compared with the previous year. The main reason for this reduction is the widespread adoption of HVO100 biofuel, produced from recycled edible oils, as a complete and sustainable replacement for diesel for all the Group’s snow groomers.
“We are currently using HVO biofuel in our snow groomers. All the thermal buses in Tignes and Val d’Isère run on HVO. Where we had oil-fired boilers, we’ve switched to HVO. For example, at an MMV establishment in the Corbier resort, we have made the transition from fossil fuels to HVO.
In October 2022, we began this process, and today this reduction in emissions is sustainable. All the used oil from our Leisure Parks is recycled in our mountain resorts, and we also purchase some. These measures have reduced our CO2 emissions by the equivalent of producing one kilo of apples, or 320 grams per ski day.
We have also carried out retrofits on our 4x4s, and tested the pre-series. Over the next 5 to 6 years, we plan to electrify our entire fleet. In the meantime, we are in the process of converting all our vehicles to HVO. Today, we have succeeded in reducing CO2 emissions in our snow groomers by 100% thanks to the use of HVO, even if this entails an additional cost of 15 to 20 centimes per litre compared with diesel”, explains Dominique THILLAUD.
Towards a concept of “Less polluter/Less payer”?
Dominique Thillaud points out that, at present, taxes are the same for high- and low-emission fuels. He is now advocating the concept of “Less polluter / Less payer” to absorb the additional financial cost of using HVO: “Many stations were waiting for answers from the CDA, and now the evidence confirms the positive impact of HVO. More than just a promise, we are now providing the industry with proof. On a national scale, the transition to HVO no longer seems to be hampered by technical obstacles, with the exception of the additional financial cost.
That’s why we are advocating the principle of “the least polluter pays less” to absorb the price difference between HVO and diesel. We remain determined to convince the Government of this approach, because we believe it is in everyone’s interest”.
The weight of environmental responsibility at Group level
In the 2022/23 financial year, Compagnie des Alpes recorded a Group-wide total of 18,041 tonnes of CO2 emissions (scopes 1 and 2), which represents an impressive 34% reduction on the previous year, including after the addition of MMV to the Group.
This performance significantly exceeds the initial target of a 25% reduction that the company had set itself for this period. By concluding the year with a 39% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to the 2018/19 baseline (a 43.5% reduction to 16,701 tonnes of CO2 equivalent, excluding MMV), Compagnie des Alpes is well ahead of its plan unveiled in October 2022 to achieve carbon neutrality (scopes 1 and 2) for all its sites by 2030 at the latest.
“Our carbon emissions are audited, which is the cornerstone of trust. Our environmental performance now forms part of the variable part of management remuneration. This concern resonates even in aspects as fundamental as remuneration.
In addition, we have entered into negotiations with our banks and have obtained advantages in terms of interest rates. Our latest loan, for example, includes a clause linked to the Group’s ability to meet its Net Zero Carbon target,” explains Dominique Thillaud.
Environmental and financial performance
For the 2022/23 financial year, Compagnie des Alpes posted consolidated sales of €1,125.5 million. This represents an increase of 17.4% on a reported basis and 9.9% on a like-for-like basis (mainly excluding the integration of MMV) compared with the 2021/22 financial year. Excluding the non-recurring items recorded in 2021/22, like-for-like growth was 10.6%, reflecting robust expansion across all the Group’s business lines.
The Ski Areas and Outdoor Activities segment generated sales of €489.2 million, up 7.2% on the previous year (and 7.1% on a like-for-like basis).
Ski lift sales rose by 7.8% to €465.9 million. This growth was mainly attributable to a 5.9% increase in average revenue per ski day, partly reflecting inflation and the pass-through of higher electricity costs to ski pass prices, and to a 1.8% rise in the number of skier-days to 12.5 million, against a backdrop of a 5% decline in the national ski market.
“Last year, we introduced a two-pronged price increase. Firstly, a permanent increase linked to an inflation policy of +1% to +1.5%. Secondly, a non-permanent increase, negotiated for a single year, in response to rising energy costs. This is how we managed to cushion the financial challenges of the period”.
When asked about the factors that contributed to the 1.8% increase in the number of skier-days, particularly against the backdrop of an overall decline in the national ski market, Dominique Thillaud explains: “Altitude and guaranteed snow are key factors. During difficult ski seasons, we have seen increased interest in skiing at high altitude, because of the implicit assurance it offers in terms of snow cover. As a result, we have seen significant growth in our high-altitude resorts.
Finally, in the face of challenges such as climate change and market developments, Dominique THILLAUD looks back at Compagnie des Alpes’ strategy for sustaining growth in the ski areas and outdoor activities sector: “We have focused our marketing efforts mainly on Europe, with an emphasis on France, Benelux and the UK, which account for 80% of our customer base. On the ski areas, we have made major investments in improving our ski lifts, notably at Serre Chevalier (Pontillas gondola), La Plagne (Télécabines des Glaciers) and Les Arcs (Transarc). These investments, involving high-capacity, high-speed lifts, have enabled us to replace older installations and improve the customer experience, while offering impressive views, perfect for Instagram posts. The total value of these investments amounts to almost 150 million euros, for these three installations alone.
At the same time, we have implemented pricing strategies based on yield management, offering attractive rates and à la carte skiing options. This approach has proved increasingly successful over the years. In addition, we have created dedicated areas offering special experiences for young skiers and visitors, helping to boost the appeal of our resorts”.