French ski station has snow delivered by helicopter

A ski station in the Pyrenees has had 50 tonnes of emergency snow delivered by helicopter, after high temperatures and a lack of snow caused the station to be otherwise un-skiable.

16 February 2020
By Connexion journalist

The station of Luchon-Superbagnères (Haute-Garonne, Occitanie) had the snow brought in across several deliveries by helicopter, over the course of two hours, at a cost of more than €5,000.

The snow was spread primarily in areas dedicated to beginner skiers and children, the local departmental council said in a statement to the Agence France-Presse.

A council statement from director Hervé Pounau said: “It will cost us between €5,000 and €6,000; in the knowledge that over the long term we will get at least 10 times’ return on that investment [now we can operate the station].”

Opening the station will allow 50 to 80 people to work, Mr Pounau said, including lift operators, ski school teachers, childminders, ski equipment rental shop staff, and restaurant owners.

But even after the helicopter delivery, just 40% of the station is open.

Mr Pounau said: “We are not going to spread snow over the whole station. [But] without this [helicopter delivery], we would have to close a huge part of the area…It is during school holidays that we have the biggest activity among beginners and ski schools.”

It is the first time that the station has resorted to using a helicopter, but it is not the first to do so in recent years. In 2015, some stations in the Savoie department used the same method to spread several tonnes of snow across major pistes that were lacking in coverage.

But at the time, environmental associations denounced the move as an “ecological scandal”.

Mr Pounau admitted that this year’s helicopter delivery had not been “the most eco-friendly” move. He said: “It is really an exception, and we have no intention of doing it again. But we had no choice this time.”

Luchon-Superbagnères is one of three troubled ski stations - as well as Mourtis and Bourg d’Oueil - to have had its entire operation taken over by the Haute-Garonne department.

The delivery comes at the same time as many seasonal workers in ski stations - in the Pyrenees and the Alps - have gone on strike to express their worry about proposed reforms to unemployment insurance, and the potential impact of climate change on their livelihoods.

Yet, in the Haute-Garonne, strike calls have been lifted after workers met with department council president, Georges Méric.

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