France edges out US for title of top ski destination

France has regained the prestigious title of world's most popular ski destination, it was revealed on Tuesday, thanks in the main to the affordability of its resorts and that many of the them are connected.

France edges out US for title of top ski destination
France is world's top ski destination according to French industry chiefs. Photo: Shutterstock

France glided past the United States last winter to emerge as the world's top ski destination despite a 2.7 percent drop in visitors to its stations, according to industry body DSF.

Domaines Skiables de France (DSF) said it had registered some 53.9 million individual days of skiing on the slopes, a 2.7 percent drop from the year before.

That was partly due to the fact that many ski stations opened up later than usual due to the lack of snow last December.

However this still placed France slightly ahead of the United States which also suffered a drop in visitors of some 5.2 percent with 53.6 million days on the slopes.

“There's hardly any difference between us,” the DSF's Laurent Reynaud said of the results.

“But we are still happy because the season was challenging, we had a difficult start in terms of snow, and a strong drop (in visitors) over the spring holidays at the end,” he said.

It is only the fourth time that France has won the crown of top skiing destination, traditionally held by the United States.

France last held the title back in 2013 and the secret to its success has been put down to a combination of affordability and having the biggest and best resorts.

“The main reason is the price of the ski passes in France, which remain the cheapest in the world in relation to the size of the resorts,” DSF's Reynaud told The Local previously.

“Skiing is still a sport for the most wealthy but we still have many families and students who,despite the expense, come skiing in France because we have catered to them,” Reynaud said.

“The second reason is the size of our resorts and the fact that unlike in other countries many of them are connected, which means skiers do not have to take transport between the various ski lifts.”

SEE ALSO: Why France is the World's top skiing destination


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Tourism minister: Book your French ski holiday now

France’s ski resorts will be open for business this winter, tourism minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne has promised - but no decision has yet been taken on whether a health pass will be required to use ski lifts.

Skiers at a French Alpine resort
Photo: Philippe Desmazes / AFP

“This winter, it’s open, the resorts are open,” Lemoyne told France 2’s 4 Vérités programme.

“Compared to last year, we have the vaccine,” he said, adding that he would “invite those who have not yet done so to [book], because … there will soon be no more room.”

And he promised an answer ‘in the next few days’ to the question of whether health passes would be required for winter holidaymakers to use ski lifts. “Discussions are underway with the professionals,” he said.

The stakes are high: the closure of ski lifts last winter cost manufacturers and ski shops nearly a billion euros. 

This year ski lifts will remain open, but a health pass may be necessary to access them. The health pass is already compulsory for après ski activities such as visits to bars, cafés and restaurants.

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Many town halls and communities which depend on winter sports have found it difficult or impossible to make ends meet.

“It’s time for the French mountains to revive,” Lemoyne said, pointing to the fact that the government has provided “more than €6 billion” in aid to the sector.

Winter tourism professionals, however, have said that they are struggling to recruit for the winter season.

“Restaurant and bars are very affected,” by the recruitment crisis, one expert told Franceinfo, blaming a lack of urgency from authorities towards the winter holiday industry.

“We are all asking ourselves what we should do tomorrow to find full employment in the resort,” the expert added.

Post-Brexit visa and work permit rules mean that ski businesses have found it difficult to recruit Brits for short-term, seasonal positions.