After a Christmas holiday with more rain than snow, which closed almost half of the ski slopes in our southern neighbours, things will look a lot better before the spring break within a few weeks. Fortunately, because no less than 186 ski stations in France are already permanently closed.
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In no less than 186 French ski stations, the car parks are empty, the slopes are deserted and the chairlift is rusting. This is the conclusion of a doctorate by Pierre-Alexandre Metral, geographer at the University of Grenoble. “The phenomenon affects all mountain ranges: the Vosges, the Jura, the Massif Central, the Pyrenees and, of course, the Alps, the largest massif,” the researcher told the Info Durable website. In the Massif Central, for example, 60 percent of the ski stations ever opened have closed permanently. Nevertheless, Metral immediately reassures the skiers: “In 90 percent of the cases, these are so-called microdomains. If we calculate the length of the closed ski slopes and compare it with the size of the entire French ski area, we see that France has only lost 2 percent, which is actually very little.”
Contrary to expectations, the researcher puts the cause not so much with climate change – “although this will accelerate the trend, certainly in the low and medium mountains” – than with the economic reality: “You often hear that the ski stations are closing because there are no snow lake. No, they close because they are not profitable; so it is ultimately a rational choice. It is an interplay of factors that overlap and also evolve over time.” For example, Metral refers to the aging of the ski lifts, with huge maintenance costs after 20 to 30 years. “What we find is that the typical life cycle of these sites is 30 years. There are many tourist sites, especially in the mountains, that have gone through this cycle that we have completely forgotten about. Think of spas or panoramic cable cars, half of which have now disappeared. Only the most efficient operators survive. The little ones are doomed to disappear.”
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