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Hiking above Peisey Vallandry

Friday, 25 October 2013

MOUNTAIN HIGH, VALLEY LOW: The Price of Skiing

Skiing has never been cheap.  Not least for British skiers, given the distance involved and therefore the need to spend a few days in the mountains.  Witness the sharp fall in Brits taking to the slopes, from 1,227,000 in 2007/8 to 899,000 last year.

In the Telegraph, Peter Hardy finds "budget" chalets for the package holiday skier in Peisey Vallandry, Val d'Isere and the Sella Ronda.  In terms of resorts, he recommends Baqueira-Beret (where you may still see the Spanish royal family), Madesimo and, in the Maurienne Valley, Aussois.

Meanwhile, Where to Ski and Snowboard has taken a systematic view in recent years.  It calculates an a "RPI" for each resort, based on a basket of indicators.  The "average" score is 100, with Ste-Foy (85) and Val Cenis (80) emerging as the best value of the bigger French resorts.

A week's Paradiski pass will set you back €277

For short breaks, the cheapest option is to stay down in the valley.  Bourg St Maurice, is one of the most obvious options, with funicular railway or easy bus access to Les Arcs/La Plagne, La RosiereTignes and Val d'Isere.  (That said, the choice of hotels is limited).  Albertville may not be everyone's idea of heaven, but it's very close to ValmorelCrest Voland and Areches-Beaufort.  Annecy is a more mainstream and probably sensible base, with Le Grand Bornand, La Clusaz and Le Semnoz close by.

And for the day-tripping skier, the enterprising www.ausommet.fr has put together a handy guide.  The chart the prices being charged by the various resorts.  Note: a significant proportion are owned by Compagnie des Alpes, who, by clever pricing, managed to increase revenues by 3% last year, thereby outpacing the modest 1% rise in skier numbers - more here.  In that vein perhaps, we see that prices are still rising, particularly in Les 3 Valleés, at 57€, beats Chamonix to the "most expensive" prize by 50 centimes.

The costs may be eye-watering, but generally the hierarchy seems reasonable (eg Valmorel's Grand Domaine and La Rosiere's Espace San Bernadino are priced similarly). Bonneval sur Arc comes in perhaps as best value: 24€ for a ski area with slopes from 1800-3000m.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

ARC 1800: The Masterplan

This year, Arc 1800 welcomes a new mountain restaurant to the lower slopes above the golf course.  But this is just a starter for 10.  Big changes are on the way, it seems.

Planning permission is being sought for a new Télécabine des Villards, which in turn is part of a master plan involving a new luge track, new restaurants, improvements to the swimming pool and the dismantling of ageing ski lifts.  It's all rather exciting.

The full details can be found via the Avenir et Animations des Arcs page, which includes the plans and timelines the lift company want to work towards.  Here are some details:

Background
- Need to improve the offer of Arc 1800: client needs have changed so must adapt accordingly
- Hence this "unique multi-activity" concept, designed to boost the summer as well as the weinter season
- ADS (the lift company, part of the giant Compagnie des Alpes is investing €28.6m in the plans

Objectives
- Give clients more options in the 17h-19h window - they expect this now
- Reorganise the front de neige to better manage skier flow
- Better organise facilities for non-skiers and beginners
- Develop this multi-season, multi-activity offer: all types of snowsports, swimming, restaurants, golf, tennis, VTT...
=> Attract a wider public...a place where nature is preserved...where one can be active or contemplatif...a place full of life, a lung for the resort....

What will it include?
- A piste de luge
- A new covered Centre Aqualudique - this is being funded by the commune rather than ADS.  It will include waterslides, sauna, snack bar etc.  The outdoor pool will stay
- A "zone ludique" - basically a sort of snowpark with rails, jumps, runs through the trees
- Beginners' area just below the summit of the new télécabine
- Zone ski tranquille - which will follow much of the current home run from the Transarc mid station, but taking a more winding route
- A restaurant "base" - again just below the summit of the Villards télécabine.  This will include various facilities including HQ of the Golf des Arcs in Summer
- A kids' area at the front de neige in front of the Tournevelles building below the Vagere

Arc 1800 front de neige

Integral to all this are a number of new lifts
- The Télecabine des Villards
- At last...a new "liaison interurbaine" lift to the Chantel/Edenarc (I imagine this means it will be a covered lift like the Telemetro at La Plagne rather than a conventional ski lift)
- Another link (from the Vagere lift) to take people the short distance up to the Centre Aqualudique

The outdoor pool survives, but will be joined by an indoor
facility with water slides, sauna, snack-bar etc

Avenir et Animations des Arcs point out that summer 2014 holidays could well be disturbed by building works.  Alongside the construction of the new lifts, the current Villards and Carreley telesieges will be withdrawn from service.

It only gets a couple of lines, but perhaps the most exciting thing in here for keen skiers is the plan for a new Carreley lift, which will take Arc 1800 skiers directly to the Arc 2000 valley.  This is scheduled for December 2015.

I'm trying to find more details of the likelihood of these plans all happening, and whether they will run to what looks like quite an ambitious timescale.  There is nothing on the official Les Arcs site, and there appears to be little or no web chatter (for or against) the plans.  But given the commune is down to put its money into the new pool, a new restaurant is already in place on the site for this season, and that the ADS are clearly ready to invest so much in the scheme, it must go down as probable rather than improbable.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

SKI SEASON 2013/14: The French Market

Last season was the year when the British ski market finally halted its decline, although it remains well below pre-Crisis levels.

France remains the most popular destination for skiers this side of the Channel, and of course it has not been immune from the market conditions - for example in Les Arcs, the Edenarc development has taken an age to get off the ground.

Here are some of the current dynamics in the French market:

New Developments
Many of the larger resorts are continuing to invest in their infrastructure, for example in La Plagne, where there will be a new Montalbert telecabine for December 2014.  Ste-Foy has a new fast lift going up from the village this season, in Valmorel there are a number of new lifts and a new Club Med as well.

OK, but...
The Compagnie des Alpes, which owns the ski lifts for many of the big resorts, including Les Arcs, reports total skier days rising by 1% last year, with revenues up by 3%.  This of course was against the backdrop of a very good season snow-wise.  The view at the Paris Bourse is that these results are disappointing.

Les Arcs and Peisey-Vallandry's ski area
is now combined ina single entity: ADS.
This in turn is owned by Compagnie des Alpes

For Sale
France of course has many small ski resorts, and one of them is a vendre.  For €550,000, you can become owner of 3 teleskis, a chalet at the foot of the pistes and - drumroll - a piste bully.

Closed
The Pyreneean resort of Puigmal is €5m in debt, and is closing.

Angry
The French school holiday calendar has recently changed, and Easter hols are now much later.  This year, for example, the first zone (C) to break up for Easter holidays does so on 12th April, by which time many resorts will have closed.  Meanwhile, Zone A pupils will be waiting until the 26th until their holidays start.  The French ski resorts assoication is fuming about this and is lobbying the Government strongly.  They say that they are now only getting 2% of their revenue from the Easter season, compared with 8% before 2010.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

SKI SEASON 2013/14: THE BRITISH MARKET

The most comprehensive survey of the British market comes courtesy of the annual Crystal Ski Report, which is now building up a really useful set of trend data.

The good news this year is that the worst appears to be over.  The total number of skiers last season is put at 899,700, up 1% on the previous year, and the first rise since 2007/8.

This will prompt a glass of crémant de Savoie rather than champagne; the numbers remain far below pre-Crash levels.  Back in 2007/8, some 1,227,000 Brits went on skiing holidays.

Still building in Les Arcs...
Big changes to the Chantel area are
planned for 2014/15

France remains its prominent market share, with Austria consolidating and the Swiss starting to get their house in order.

North America is down, although apparently this is the result of a decline in attractiveness of the US; Canada is apparently improving, on the back of some marketing "momentum",

The student market is up slightly; school ski trips are going in the other direction. Bulgaria is down, following Inghams' withdrawal from the country.

The market share figures are as follows (2011/12 in brackets):

FRANCE: 34.8 (34.6)
AUSTRIA: 28.2 (27.9)
ITALY: 15.2 (15.4)
Andorra: 6.6 (6.5)
Switzerland: 5.5 (4.9)
N. America: 4.0 (4.5)
Bulgaria: 2.4 (2.7)

The trends since 2006/7 are instructive (more here).  In a declining market....

  • North America's share has halved, from 7.9% to 4.0%
  • Austria is up from 19.0% to 28.2%
  • Italy is also up, albeit to a lesser extent: from 13.8% to 15.2%