Ski resorts across Europe are gearing up for their biggest winter season since the outbreak of COVID, but rising energy prices could further thwart the work.
From lighting chalets to running ski lifts like clockwork, electricity is key to keeping resorts running. However, all this costs more and more and jeopardizes the reopening of some slopes.
France recently introduced a series of energy saving measures, from switching off the eiffel tower earlier to lower the temperature of swimming pool.
So what’s the take on Macron’s “energy sobriety” plans? mountain peak?
Can French ski resorts open this winter?
Electricity bills for French ski Ski resorts and lift operators could increase up to eightfold over the next year, warns Anne Marty, deputy president of the Domaines Skiables de France (DSF) union and deputy general manager of Altiservice, which operates a number of ski resorts in Switzerland Pyrenees.
Those whose contracts expire in January can expect particularly steep increases, she says. In the worst-case scenario, bills in the Altiservice resorts of Saint-Lary and Font-Romeu could rise from 2 million to 15 million euros, driving the tourist hotspots into the red.
Sébastien Giraud, who manages the Villard-de-Lans station in the Vercors massif, also had some notable figures to show. “Given the proposals that have been made to us, we cannot sign a new contract with EDF,” he told radio station France 3.
“Electricity bills would account for between 20 and 25 percent of our sales, up from 5 percent now,” he said, adding, “We won’t be able to pay them.” From today’s perspective, we will not be able to open.”
Current electricity prices are “a huge obstacle,” agreed Fabrice Boutet, managing director of the SATA group, which manages lifts in several ski resorts. The group’s energy costs are likely to rise from around 2 to 20 million euros, he told the AFP news agency.
Should chairlifts be considered a “mode of transport”?
With businesses poised to open this winter, owners are asking for government support to see them through.
Marty argues that “chairlifts are a mode of transportation, just like buses or subways. Ski lift operators have a responsibility to the public. You therefore have an obligation to open.”
The DSF demands that cable car companies receive the same state support as energy intensive Companies in other sectors benefit from this. Frédéric Géromin, president of the Isère union region, has also suggested that the government could introduce a tariff that protects elevator operators such as households whose energy bills have been frozen at a four percent increase.
So what does it mean for Avid skier? Of course, if ski lift and gondola operators are forced to close, that would impact the entire ecosystem on the mountain, including ski schools, restaurants and ski schools Hotels.
How do ski resorts save energy?
However, vacationers see more subtle changes, including slightly slower climbs.
“The priority is to adopt a sobriety plan to reduce our consumption as much as possible,” DSF President Alexandre Maullin told RCF listeners. “With a little ingenuity, we can all come up with a 10 percent drop [as Macron has requested of businesses].”
Some slopes could be served by one gondola instead of two during off-peak hours. The speed of other lifts could drop from six to four meters per second, and “the skier won’t notice the difference,” Maullin said.
A probable price increase for ski holidays will be more noticeable. “Some of the additional costs are inevitably passed on to the end customer,” says DSF. Although Géromin says companies will do everything they can to avoid it, French and other tourists are already suffering from inflation.
Resorts powered by renewable energy will do better
Resorts that have invested in renewable energy will feel the benefits this winter.
Serre Chevalier in the Hautes-Alpes region is the first ski resort in the world to produce its own electricity from three clean energy sources. Hydroelectric power, solar panels and small wind turbines feed 30 percent of total consumption, powering ski lifts, machine rooms and snow-making equipment.
Reducing the speed of lifts when there are fewer skiers has already been experimented with, with 70 percent of users giving them the thumbs up.
A more existential and far-reaching threat to ski slopes is climate changeso it makes sense that resorts also seek to reduce emissions while conserving energy.
According to Serre Chevalier, 95 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in ski resorts are caused by snow grooming machines. Therefore, attempts are also being made to switch from diesel to HVO fuel and leave more slopes unprepared or “bruts de neige”.