French ski resorts under pressure as energy contracts renew

Ski resorts in France could struggle to open this winter due to rising energy prices, industry professionals warn.

Up to 70% of winter resorts in France are expected to renegotiate their three-year energy contracts with suppliers this year, as energy prices soar up to 20 times last year’s cost.

With only a few months left before the start of the winter season, some are wondering if they will be able to open.

Sébastien Giraud, general manager of the ski lift company in Isère, and manager of the Villard-de-Lans resort in the Vercors massif, said to France 3“We are not in a position to sign a new contract with EDF given the offers made to us.

“Our electricity bill represents on average 5% of our business expenses. But with the rise in prices, it will now represent 20 to 25%. As things stand now, we won’t be able to open the station because we won’t be able to pay our electricity bill.

In Villard-de-Lans, 80% of the local economy depends on the winter resort.

Mr Giraud continued: “It would threaten the whole activity of the resort, because there are also restaurants, ski schools… around 1,000 to 1,500 people would be unemployed.”

Frédéric Géromin, president of the Isère section of the Domaines skiables de France, said: “It really is a call for help.”

And if Mr. Géromin’s home station, Chamrousse in the Belledonne massif, is not as under pressure as some this season, the problem remains. He said: “Our contract will end in December 2023. So we have a little less pressure, but we are in support of the rest of the profession, and the situation is catastrophic for everyone.”

In Isère more specifically, four stations should be concerned: Villard-de-Lans, Alpes d’Huez, Deux Alpes and Collet d’Allevard.

“If no solution is found, we have to wonder if these stations will be able to open,” said Mr. Géromin. “It is an economic situation that we cannot overcome.”

He also ruled out simply passing on the higher costs to the price of ski passes for visitors. He said: “The French are also suffering from inflation. Their wallets are not expandable.

It asks the government to put in place a price cap for stations, in the same way as it has done for individual households.

Read more: Rising energy bills: France will maintain the “price cap” in 2023

“What is certain is that this problem will accelerate our response to energy savings, even though Domaines skiables de France had already committed to reducing our electricity consumption by 10 to 20%.”

Mr. Giraud added: “We are ready to make an effort this season, in particular by slowing down our [ski lift] machines, changing opening hours and eliminating night skiing.

Mountain professionals, including the ski areas of France, and the National Association of Mayors of mountain resorts, will meet tomorrow (September 6) in a ministerial meeting to discuss the issue, with the aim of finding solutions.

Read more: MAP: French ski slopes begin to reopen after Covid closure losses

The challenge comes after two difficult years for the sector, which suffered considerably during the Covid-19 pandemic after the closure of ski lifts, hotels and restaurants.

Bookings in France hit pre-pandemic levels at the end of the winter season in early 2022, but rising energy costs now threaten to derail that progress.

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