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SKIING

France’s highest ski resort Val Thorens delays opening over lack of snow

Val Thorens - the French ski resort that sits at an altitude of 2,300 m - has delayed its reopening for 2022 due to inadequate snow.

France's highest ski resort Val Thorens delays opening over lack of snow
Skiers use a ski lift on a sunny day in the mountains in eastern France on February 3, 2022. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP)

Skiers in France who were looking to enjoy early winter sports will be disappointed to hear that the French Alps’ ski resort, Val Thornes, which was set to open Saturday, November 19th, has delayed its reopening by one week.

On Sunday, the resort – which is Europe’s tallest and boasts over 600 kilometres of runs – announced on Twitter that its new opening date would be Saturday, November 26th.

According to the statement published by Val Thorens, the delay is because “snow cover at altitude is satisfactory, but does not allow a ski in, ski out.”

Nevertheless, the resort told eager skiers and snowboarders added that “All the teams are already on the ground to prepare the ski area with a forecast of opening for the weekend of November 26-27 for the High Test.”

In most years, Val Thorens is among the first ski resorts to open in France, due to its high altitude which normally allows for an earlier start to the ski season. 

Last year – during the winter of 2021-2022 – the Alps marked a decrease in snowfall, particularly the southern Alps, which recorded their lowest level of snow cover in over 60 years.

While the Northern Alps were less impacted, climate experts also noted a deficit in snow coverage.

Temperatures have remained high during the 2022 fall, after the month of October was registered as the “warmest on record in Europe”, according to the European climate monitoring service Copernicus.

The agency went on to note that average temperatures were “nearly 2C above the 1991-2020 reference period”. The announcement followed another statement which listed September 2022 as the hottest on record, with temperatures 1.34C above normal.

As of Monday, no other ski resorts in France had announced plans to push back opening dates. With its new start time, Val Thorens will join other resorts in the French alps, such as Chamonix, Tignes, and Val d’Isère which are all also set to open during the final weekend of November. 

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SKIING

‘Slower lifts’: What ski resorts in France will do to save energy this winter

Skiers in France may have to contend with higher prices this winter season, as resorts take measures to deal with rising energy prices.

'Slower lifts': What ski resorts in France will do to save energy this winter

French ski resorts, like most industries are not exempt from the energy crisis, as they attempt to plan for the winter season amid rising prices and potential shortages. 

Called upon to reduce their energy consumption by 10 percent, the resorts are looking into ways they can cut down on energy consumption. 

As a result, skiers may have to accept things from slower chairlifts to pricier tickets as stations attempt to save energy.

How the resorts will be affected

For over a third of ski operators, the energy issue is even more pressing, because they are in the midst of renegotiating their energy supply contracts. Normally signed every three years, some resorts have found themselves at the end of their contracts with rates reaching record highs. 

For the SATA group, which manages the lifts of Alpe-d’Huez, Deux-Alpes and La Grave resorts, current rates, depending on the resort, could double, a group spokesperson told AFP. So a resort with a €10 million energy bill could find it having to pay €20 million this winter.

Meanwhile the Domaines skiables de France (DSF) – the umbrella group in charge of French ski resorts – told AFP that electricity bills, which normally accounts for three to five percent of their costs, could triple or quadruple. 

How skiers could be impacted?

Slower chairlifts and some closures

According to BFMTV, several resorts are considering slowing down their ski lifts, as well as closing others if there is already another lift that serves that slope. The head of DSF, Alexandre Maulin, told BFMTV that this proposal would only “add one minute of climbing time for the skier” and that it would likely “not be noticeable.”

Adjusting opening hours

Resorts are considering opening later in the morning and closing earlier in the evening to cut back on energy usage.

Christmas lights, water temperature and hot tubs

In total, the ski area only accounts for about 20 percent of the resort’s energy, so cuts will be necessary beyond just the slopes themselves. Resort-goers may have to make due without Christmas lights in some resorts, like Avoriaz near Chamonix. As for indoor pools, temperatures could be lowered by up to 3C, and hotels and private chalets may be asked to turn off some exterior lighting and make jacuzzis optional. 

Increased prices:

Finally, several stations are preparing to increase the prices of ski passes. “We are lucky because our energy contract is still running, but we have to face a global increase of our expenses,” explained the head of communications for the La Clusaz resort to BFMTV. For Avoriaz, the price of a day pass will go from €43.5 to €47. France bleu reported that other resorts – including the Val Thorens station and several Vosges resorts in Alsace will also increase prices.

Will there be ski resort closures?

Skiers can rest assured that the sport will still be possible, and that stations are set to remain open all winter, according to Alexandre Maulin. 

“We are not going to reduce services,” Maulin told BFMTV. 

The DSF head explained that that measures impacting opening hours would mostly be activated during off-peak times and outside of school vacations, with the overarching goal of “limiting inconveniences.” 

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