Ski stations in France may struggle to open this winter due to rising energy prices, professionals from the sector are warning.
Up to 70% of winter stations in France are this year set to renegotiate their three-yearly energy contracts with suppliers, as energy prices soar to up to 20 times last year’s cost.
With only a few months to go until the winter season begins, some are questioning whether they will be able to open at all.
Sébastien Giraud, general manager of the ski lift company in Isère, and in charge of the Villard-de-Lans station in the Vercors massif, told France 3: “We are unable to sign a new contract with EDF given the offers that are being made to us.
“Our electricity bill represents 5% of our business expenses on average. But with the rising prices, it will now represent 20-25%. As things stand now, we won’t be able to open the station because we will not be able to pay our electricity bill.”
In Villard-de-Lans, 80% of the local economy depends on the winter station.
Mr Giraud continued: “It would threaten the entire activity of the station, because there are also restaurants, ski schools…around 1,000 to 1,500 people would be out of work.”
Frédéric Géromin, president of the Isère section of the Domaines skiables de France, said: “This is really a cry for help.”
And while Mr Géromin’s home station, Chamrousse in the Belledonne massif, is not under as much pressure as some this season, the problem still remains. He said: “Our contract will end in December 2023. So we have a bit less pressure, but we are in support of the rest of the profession, and the situation is catastrophic for everyone.”
In Isère specifically, four stations are set to be affected: Villard-de-Lans, l’Alpes d’Huez, les Deux Alpes, and Collet d’Allevard.
“If no solution is found, we have to ask ourselves if these stations will be able to open,” said Mr Géromin. “It’s an economic situation that we cannot overcome.”
He has also ruled out simply passing the higher costs onto the price of ski passes for visitors. He said: “People in France are also suffering from inflation. Their wallets are not extendable.”
He is calling for the government to put a price cap in place for stations, in the same way as it has for individual households.
“What’s certain, is that this problem will speed up our response to saving energy, even as Domaines skiables de France had already committed to reducing our electricity consumption by 10-20%.”
Mr Giraud added: “We are ready to make an effort this season, including slowing down our [ski lift] machines, by changing opening hours, and by getting rid of nighttime skiing.”
Mountain professionals, including the Domaines skiables de France, and the national mountain mayors’ association l'Association nationale des maires des stations de montagne, are set to have a ministerial meeting to discuss the issue tomorrow (September 6), in an aim to find solutions.
The challenge comes after two difficult years for the sector, which suffered significantly during the Covid-19 pandemic after ski lifts, hotels, and restaurants were all closed.
Bookings in France hit pre-pandemic levels at the tail-end of the winter season in early 2022, but rising energy costs are now threatening to derail this progress.