Bourg St M Town Hall, Dec 2017. Has "Architecture of XX Century" status, alongside cinema & Arc 2000 cable car station. Click on photo for more

Sunday, 30 September 2012


The economic crisis has brought with it a sharp decline in the number of Brits on the pistes, and some quite marked changes in where we go.  The clear winner in this difficult market is Austria - click here for a handy guide to the resorts.

The most comprehensive set of data over time comes from Crystal, who seem to be compiling the information on the market in a reasonably consistent way.  Here's the 2012 report.

The headline is that the total number of British skiers in 2011/12 was 894,700, a 1.8% decline on the previous season.  

However, this compares to 1,227,000 in 2007/8, so we are talking about a 27% fall compared with pre-crisis.  Indeed there are now fewer Brits going skiing than there were in 2000/01, when 921,000 hit the slopes.

Crystal's figures show 57% going with an operator, and 30% travelling independently. They also report a decline in the school market, something which @ernalow highlight as a cause for concern in their analysis of the data.

By county, there are some big changes.  Here's the Top 7 in 2011/12:

La Thuile, Piemonte

1. FRANCE: 34.6%
2. AUSTRIA: 27.9
3. ITALY: 15.4
4. Andorra: 6.5
5. Switzerland: 4.9
6. USA/Canada: 4.5
7. Bulgaria: 2.7

And, back in 2006/7:

1. FRANCE: 37.1
2. AUSTRIA: 19.0
3. ITALY: 13.8
4. Andorra: 11.1
5. USA/Canada: 7.9
6. Switzerland: 5.1
7. Bulgaria: 2.8

By my maths, this means that the total number of skiers going to Austria has risen, from 130,000 to 143,000.  Although their market share is down on 5 years ago, France has improved its relative position, and with the Compagnie des Alpes increasingly in charge of the show, and the quality of accommodation still improving, does look ready to hold its own at the very least.

The picture in Switzerland, on the other hand, is quite acute, with the latest release glumly reporting a 30% fall on 2008/9.  See this report from @Planetski, including details - and a promotional video - of what the Swiss are doing to fight back.  The North Americans, meanwhile, are having a terrible time, and investment in infrastructure is now at its worst for years.  Crystal do report, however, that Whistler is doing well.

Aiguille Rouge, Les Arcs - looking towards Tignes

Another way of looking at this data comes from @skipedia, who recently reported on the total number of skier days - this being the metric used more in Europe as a benchmark. This shows a 17% decline since 2007/8, from 8.5m to 7.1m.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

WHERE TO SKI? Winners and Losers 1995-2013

The excellent Where to Ski and Snowboard 2013 is now available - it's easily the best guide to resorts, their rude comments about Les Arcs' architecture notwithstanding.

As its name suggests, it's an annual publication, which first appeared in 1995.  A look at that first book tells us which resorts have maintained and/or strengthened their position, and which are on the wane, at least in the British market.

One change, of course, has been in the title of the book - the original guide did not include the word "Snowboard", although there was a chapter devoted to the growth of "Le Surf", as the French used to call it.

"It is estimated that by the year 2000, 
one in three people riding the lifts 
will be a snowboarder"

Not sure if the snowboarder ratio ever got to quite that level; certainly in Les Arcs last year, the number wasn't getting much above 10%.

Back to the resorts.  Then - and now - the bulk of the guide is devoted to chapters on the main destination.  There were more chapters in 1995 than in the latest edition, with the net effect being there are more resorts who have "lost" their individual chapters than there are winners/newcomers.

In France, the winners - each now proudly boasting their own chapter - are Samoens, La Tania and Les Gets.  The losers are La Clusaz, Les Contamines, Valloire, Isola 2000 and Valmorel.

In Austria, the main winner this year is Soelden.  It was in the original guide, but then lost its place, and has now been rightly restored as "Austria's best kept secret", with its 130km of pistes, near-2000m vertical descent and, er, varied nightlife.

WTSS 2013 also gives good coverage to the Vorarlberg region.

A number of Austrian resorts are no longer covered in detail - the most notable perhaps being Zell am See, Zell am Ziller and St Johann in Tirol.  Each were mainstays of the ski brochures during the 1980s and 1990s.

Other Austrian resorts no longer covered include BKK, Fieberbrunn, Galtur, Innsbruck and Niederau.

In Italy, Bormio is out, with Passo Tonale and the Trentino region on the rise, each boasting a chapter for 2013.

Finally, Switzerland.  Arosa, Flims, Lenzerheide and Les Diablerets no longer justify a chapter.  The rising star is clearly the Val d'Anniviers, with four pages now devoted to Zinal, Grimentz et al.

Sunday, 16 September 2012


The verdict on the 2011/12 season was something like this: OK-ish in the French Alps, not too good in the Pyrenees and shocking in Switzerland: more here.  For the Austrians, the good news is that they are taking market share from their Swiss rivals.  The less good news is that Austria is down 2% on last year.

Les Arcs' lift system is part of the Compagnie des Alpes
portfolio,  and they're doing rather well.    See their results here

As the excellent @adepierrefeu has uncovered, the big news is that France has overtaken the US as the No1 ski country.  This is not the result of a stellar French season in 2011/12 (up a modest 3%); it's due to a drastic fall in the US numbers, down 16%.  The US saw the worst season since 1991-92.  Europe's poor snowfalls of 2010/11 were replicated last year in the States, with 50% of American resorts opening late and 48% closing early - particularly unwelcome when skier numbers will not grow as a "natural result" of growing incomes and optimism about the future.  You can read the release from the US National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) here.

Using these figures, it looks like the recent "evolution" for French skiing, measured by the number of ski days each year, are as follows:

2008/9:    58.5m
2010/11:  53.7m
2011/12:  55.3m

If the decline in France has been halted, things don't seem quite so good the other side of the border, if this summer's figures are anything to go by.  Via @snowslider, we find Swiss hotels registering a 7% fall in hotel stays during July compared with the previous year, with a particularly sharp fall in the Lake Geneva region.  Switzerland is being quite successful in attracting Russian and Chinese visitors, but the numbers remain small, and are yet to offset the decline in visitors from Europe.  It looks like this coming winter could be a difficult one for nos amis Suisses.

Cause for Lucerne?  Hard times for the Swiss tourist industry

Saturday, 1 September 2012


Here, in no particular order, are ten videos all about Les Arcs and its environs.

1.  The Beginning of the End for Miguel Indurain

Tour de France, 1996.  "Big Mig" has a jour sans on the road to Les Arcs.  Chris Boardman finds it a tad tricky too.  More here..

2.  Top Gear aux Arcs

Watch Hammond et al descend from Arc 1950 to Villaroger.  By car.  Racing against the locals.  On skis.

3.  Skiing Today

Courtesy of my daughter.

4.  Ski Joering:

Les Arcs seems to be one of the few places to practice this, er, unique activity.

5.  Tour de France 2009

Sadly, they stopped in Bourg St Maurice rather than making the climb up to Les Arcs.  And the winner of the stage was later tested positive.  More here.

6.  The 7e BCA

The Chasseurs Alpins have now left Bourg St Maurice - a big event, and one which will take some adapting to on a whole range of levels.

7.  Mountain Biking on the Cachette

The red run above 1600 morphs into a notable VTT descente in summmer:

8.  Panorama

This starts rather higher up, and gives a wonderful overview of Les Arcs' terrain during the summer.

9.  Welcome to Paradise

It's hard to love the official Paradiski branding but hey ho:


10.  The "LA Session"

I think the days of these February meetings have now gone, but they were quite something...