AS THE ski season starts with the Christmas holidays, the majority of French ski resorts do not have enough snow for a decent snowball fight.
After one of the warmest years on record, two leading ski events have already had to be called off, with the season-opening Critérium de la Première Neige at Val d'Isère and the Women’s World Cup at Courchevel, and there are only about 40 resorts are open.
The 160 others face losing 20-30% of their annual revenue before the season even gets underway – but they do, at least, have chalets, hotels and guest houses that are pretty busy.
The Pyrenees resorts are in best position with most expecting to open at least 50% of their pistes, but skis are redundant in the northern Alps and fleeces could be the No1 buy in the ski stores.
In the extreme south, Isola has claimed the title of “snowiest” resort in France, with 1.4m of snow on higher slopes – and it is the only resort 100% open. Neighbouring Auron has 10 pistes open but there is no snow at nearby Saint-Dalmas-le-Selvage or Valberg. Most of the snow is above 2,000m.
The lack of snow is worsened by the non-arrival of thousands of Russian holidaymakers, kept home by the plunge in value of the rouble, but the rise of the pound has meant that British skiers are still on the way. French skiers, however, are delaying their decisions.
Michel Giraudy, president of ski promotion group France Montagnes and mayor of Bourg-Saint-Maurice, told BFMtv: “If the temperatures would only fall 5C everything would be OK.” But Météo France does not hold out much hope, with forecasters saying there will be little or no snow before Christmas.
The mild weather means resorts cannot use snow cannons to produce artificial snow as they need temperatures of below 2C for the snow to lie.
Val d'Isère snow photo: Atout France/Jean François Tripelon-Jarry