The interest in cross country skiing looks set to remain this year despite an expected lack of snow.
The discipline saw a boom during the Covid years as the alpine resorts shut or limited access. During the 2020/21 season cross country skiing in France doubled its turnover compared to the average from the previous five years, to €19.4 million.
Although tourists have largely returned to Alpine skiing, French locals who took up Nordic skiing in their department during the Covid years have kept up the sport.
Towards the end of 2021 and as a result of the increasing popularity, the Haute Savoie department designated €50 million to Nordic skiing in the area to develop the stations to be able to accommodate the greater numbers.
The decision appears to have worked: last year pre-sales of Nordic ski passes in Haute Savoie saw a 30% increase compared to the 2021/22 season. 2022/23 represented the third best figures in Haute Savoie’s history despite poor snow conditions.
Cross country ski enthusiasts are optimistic about the future of their sport.
“In alpine skiing, when there is no snow, potential customers must do different, more urban activities.
“Cross country skiers, on the other hand, will always be on the mountain, no matter what happens,” said Matthieu Desprat, director of Haute Savoie Nordic (HSN).
Also, according to the HSN, cross country skiing is far cheaper than alpine; a season pass for cross country skiing being around the price of a two day pass in Chamonix.
There are currently some 245 cross country ski stations in France.
In the past, Nordic skiing suffered from the view that it was old fashioned however it is now attracting younger people; the number of school group excursions to practise the sport has risen by 80% in two years.
It is also thought that people this season are more likely to mix their holiday with a few days of alpine skiing and a couple of cross country.
The sector recognises the need to continue to improve to welcome all types of customers; Nordic France has said that the service offered from one station to the next can vary greatly.
Laurent Vidal, director of the Bessans domaine in Savoie, gave the example that teaching methods could be improved to assist with the progress of beginners who sometimes struggle.