Faced with climate change, ski resorts in the French Alps are trying to review their economic model to survive.
Published on 12/10/2023 09:20
Reading time: 2 minutes
In the mountains, the winter sports season has begun. Many ski areas have opened their doors, but for how long? Faced with global warming, the lack of snow and the fear of not surviving the next winters are being felt in small ski resorts, at low or medium altitude. So the estates try to adapt, like in Chabanon, in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, a small resort in the Blanche valley, a two and a half hour drive from Marseille.
The small ski resort of Chabanon has 12 ski lifts, between 1,600 and 2,000 meters above sea level, a few apartments and a few shops. At the Cîmes restaurant, the manager responds to calls from customers worried about the snow. Anthony Buhagiar is starting his last season here, he has put the restaurant up for sale because he can no longer make ends meet. “The winter seasons are getting shorter and shorter”he laments. “The turnover is obviously going down a little. For example last year, in January, we had very little snow, so very little attendance. The lack of snow is felt.”
“We must develop this artificial snow”
To last until spring, the resort is equipped with snow cannons, capable of watering nearly 70% of the ski area. “We would like to be able to open the resort only with natural snow, but today that is impossible. » » admits Fabien Barbier, the operations manager. “We are obliged to develop this artificial snowmaking which goes against ecological principles, but which is necessary to keep the valley alive. »
A valley where climate change is clearly visible. Benoît Cazères is the mayor of the commune of Alleznet which includes the ski resort, a native of the country who has seen the weather change. “What is very complicated to manage is that there can be very significant temperature variations” he observes. “A really good snowfall and within 48 hours the rain melts everything. »
“These peaks of mildness and these peaks of cold, over such short periods of time, it’s really something that has changed. »
Benoît Cazères, mayor of Lorsnet
The mayor always wants to be optimistic. Chabanon is the only one of the three ski resorts in the Blanche valley which can still hope to have winter by 2050, according to him. But the season will only last a few weeks, which is why investment projects are being launched to attract tourists in summer. “Aquatic islands, fishing areas…”» specifies Mayor Benoît Cazères. “We are going to replace a ski lift with a carpet that will allow us to operate a summer sled. There won’t be the economic benefits that skiing can have, that’s for sure, but there could still be a real attraction in terms of economic development. »
We must rethink the mountain economy, he insists, by 2030, and most certainly the organization of the Winter Olympic Games in the French Alps. It could be a meeting to think about the future of the stations, the mayor hopes.