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, 23 March 2014

ELECTION SPECIAL: Municipales 2014

It's round one of the local elections today.  Here is an open letter written by the proprietors' organisation Avenir et Animation des Arcs setting out their questions to the candidates, together with their responses.  It also includes a TV debate specifically covering Bourg St Maurice-Les Arcs - local democracy in action!

The list of questions/concerns from Avenir et Animation covers the responsibilities of town hall, the lift company, police and neighbouring local authorities.  It includes:

  • How the gulf between valley and town hall down below can be addressed
  • General worries about whether enough is being done to keep Les Arcs in the Premier League
  • Ensuring that the golf course at Arc 1800's future can be assured
  • How the two key cultural events - the summer music festival and the international film festival can be safeguarded/developed
  • Ensuring the dastardly scheme to build a new 4,000 bed development at La Maitaz (part of Vallandry's terrain but very close to Charmettoger) remains off the agenda
  • Putting pressure on the lift company to moderate price rises (this seasons were 5X inflation, apparently)
  • Safeguarding the return piste from Arc 1800 to Arc 1600 following the removal of the Chantel lift
  • Getting more clarity on the plans for the new lift to run between Arc 1800 and Chantel/Edenarc
  • Improving access to the resort, both at the funiculaire and on arrival (signposting etc)
  • Better maintenance of paths, snow clearing, dealing with noise nuisances
  • Giving proprietors more concessions/price reductions, given they are often there for several weeks and are therefore practically residents

Round 2 is next Sunday, 30 March.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

THE SEASON SO FAR: Mixed Messages

We're starting to get some figures on 2013/14, but the picture is far from clear.

The latest data from Domaines Skiables de France finds the Pyrenees to be the only winner, 5% up on last year and 10% higher than the average for the last four years.

The Massif Central is stable on last year, and 9% up on the average for the last four seasons.

Meanwhile the news is apparently less good in the Alps: -2% in Haute Savoie, -4% in Savoie and -8% in the southern Alps compared with this time last year.

Pyreneean resort bosses are clearly chuffed and declare that its reputation for dodgy snow is now behind it.   Our clients are now saying "Yes, we can go there", says the boss of the domaine du Grand Tourmalet.  Cauterets will stay open until 27 April, snow permitting.

This is backed up by the latest report from the Association of Mountain Town Hall Mayors (sorry about the transation), who report the following "indices of skiability" for the season:

  • N.Alps:  9.7
  • Pyrenees: 9.6
  • Massif Central 9.4
  • Jura 9.0
  • S. Alps: 8.9 (10 in the Hautes Alpes)
  • Vosges 7.2

The local government paints a slightly more positive picture, with its numbers based more on reservation rates than skier numbers.  They declare that:

  • The season has been "generally satisfactory", aided by the good snow
  • "Residences de tourisme" are doing better than lower quality accommodation
  • You can find the Brits in the Northern Alps, the Belgians in the Southern Alps and the Vosges, and the Spanish in the Pyrenees
  • The picture is generally stable for restaurants and shops
  • The Southern Alps aren't doing as well as other areas
  • There has been an increase in last minute bookings & short stays in many parts

Overall, the report says the picture is stable or slightly better than a year ago.

Looking ahead to the rest of the season, the picture is rather less positive.  The snow may be good, but the late Easter holidays are a nightmare for the resorts.  This year they run from 12 April to 11 May.  Both the mayors and the ski areas are deeply unhappy, but there is little change on the horizon for the next few years.

Generally, this flattish picture is a reminder why many of the bigger resorts are having to think very carefully both about their positioning and what developments are needed to gain (or maintain) market share.  For example:

A new route to Flaine?

Saturday, 8 March 2014

"DAWN OF A NEW ERA": December 2014

Hold on tight: the plans for the re-development of the Chantel area of Arc 1800 are truly taking shape.  

Here's the rather vague promotional video being put out there by the resort, accompanied by a competition on their Facebook page.

Sunday, 2 March 2014


In what may perhaps be one of the season's more dramatic headlines, we are informed this week that "there's a war going on in the French Alps".  This follows on from the "British ski hosting ban" case, which awaits an appeal at a court in Chambery this spring.

The outrage centres on the arrest of Simon Butler and six of his colleagues in Megeve. Here's the PlanetSki overview.

It's not a new debate, indeed the specific controversy surrounding Simon Butler skiing has been going on for years.  Ten years, in fact, according to Le Dauphiné.

This latest news saw Boris Johnson take to the Telegraph to ask "what kind of system is it that allows French buses on the streets of London but forbids English (sic) ski instructors on the slopes of the French Alps?"

Meanwhile, UKIP's Paul Nuttall made a speech in the European Parliament declaring the whole thing to be a "disgrace", citing an understanding with EU Commissioner Barnier which has apparently now been broken by the French authorities.

And on Wednesday's Today Programme: MEP Emma McClarkin app says the "EU should take urgent action", and went on to have a meeting with the said Commissioner Barnier.

The subsequent statement from Mr Barnier's office plays a rather straight bat, suggesting he may not quite agree with Mr Nuttal's understanding of his position.  It says that "suggesting the Single Market does not work for ski instructors is wrong", while also pointing out that his office has received complaints and is investigating.

As ever, there are two sides to every story.  Here's Linley Lewis, Director of Basecamp Ski and Snowboard who declaries that "to call this "anti-British" is ludicrous".  The current French set-up was developed to deal with the problem of under-qualified French ski instructors, he says.

What appears to make France extra-tricky for would-be instructors is that, in addition to BASI Level 4, you need to past the Euro Test, which is based on being able to race very fast down a slalom course.

BASI itself does not appear particularly impressed with all the hoo-ha, and states curtly that "factual content does not always make good copy".  They provide a useful guide to their understanding of the qualifications required to work in France, and say they will update members as and when the situation changes.

The "War Zone": Megeve, January 2014