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

Friday, 25 September 2015

GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS: The French Ski Market

The good news is that France has regained its crown as the world's Number 1 ski destination.

The less good news is that this is the result of a 5% fall in skier numbers in the US. French numbers are down by "only" 2.7%, and so it returns to the top spot.

Terrible snow on the other side of the Atlantic is a key factor in the American numbers: this Planet Ski account contains more detail.

In total, France registers 53.9m skier days, with the US on 53.6m.  Austria is catching up, with just under 52m (up 2%).

This annual review, from the French ski resort association, says resorts didn't do too badly all things considering.  In particular, the early season snow was terrible, and the resorts remained plagued by late school holidays.

The southern Alps fared worst, with an 8% year-on-year fall, while the season saw a sharp recovery in the Vosges (after a disastrous 2013/14) and a good season in the Jura. Smaller stations were aided by the good mid-winter snow cover.  In the ski heartland of the northern Alps, which account for between 65-75% of skier days, visitor numbers are broadly in line with the previous four seasons.

All in all, not a disaster, but not too great either.  One reason why the big resorts are still coming up with new marketing schemes like the mega Tarentaise pass.

Early season in Les Arcs

(For more details on the 2013/14 season, click here.)

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

ONWARDS & UPWARDS: New lifts for Les Arcs and La Plagne

A good summary of some of the things to watch out for this season in Les Arcs & La Plagne can be found on the Ski Nordique website.

This includes:

  • The new telecabine at Montalbert, part of a phased redevelopment of the La Plagne system.  For the latest photos, follow the Perso La Plagne site
  • The new Paradiski Yuge app, which is being given a big marketing push
  • In Montalbert, a new 3km blue piste - les Lupins - aimed at younger skiers, complete with wood sculptures and a feature tunnel
  • A Traversée du Paradis challenge, aimed at people energetic enough to make the journey from Montalbert to Villaroger.  It includes offers at participating restaurants as well as a prize draw at the end of the season

Meanwhile, the Ski Club of Great Britain provides a good summary of the new lifts coming on stream this season: Avoriaz, Val d'Isere, 3 Valleys.  And in Les Arcs we will have the new Carreley lift, which will provide fast access to Arc 2000 from the Edenarc complex, just above Arc 1800.  It links with the transformation of the Chantal slopes, following the launch of the Mille 8 development last season.

All in all, quite a transformation over the last couple of years.  The only sad note is the demise of the Grand Renard lift, which provided a rustic alternative to the second stage of the Transarc.  It's nowsurplus to requirements, given the increase in capacity provided by the new lift.

Mille 8

Sunday, 13 September 2015

ALPINE LEGENDS: Marketing the mega resorts

The first snowfalls have started to appear on the tops.  The new edition of Where to Ski and Snowboard is out.  Britain itself faces "months" of heavy snow.  Time to look ahead to season 2015/2016.

Val Thorens last week. Source: Val Thorens Tourist Office

The big marketing news is the arrival of the new Alpine Legends pass.  The chance to enjoy Paradiski, Espace Killy and the 3 Valleys on a single ticket.  In return for a 340€ six-day pass, the winter visitor now can now take advantage of the 391 lifts, 1300 ski runs, 5 glaciers the three areas have to offer.

"It's a unique product with a unique target market", says the website sniffily, in response to the "FAQ" asking why there are no discounts for children, seniors or groups.  Quite what that target market is, who knows.

Here are the prices for day tickets in each of the mega-areas covered:

Espace Killy: €54€
Paradiski €57 (50€ for Les Arcs/Peisey only)
3 Valleys: €59

By my maths, the cost of simply buying day passes in the area you want to ski in is practically identical, but maybe I am missing something.  I imagine relatively few people will want to ski in one area in the morning and another in the afternoon?  Even rally driving from Les Granges above Arc 1600 to Les Brevieres at Tignes is still likely to take an hour or so out of the day....

Note: if you are visiting Les Arcs for the week, you'd be far better spending a day in La Rosiere or Sainte-Foy-Tarentaise than trekking up to Tignes - the two smaller resorts offering a change of pace and a different experience.

Anyway, it all seems harmless marketing spin, and with the decline in the  ski market witnessed in recent years, everyone is thinking about how they can increase their market share and/or win back some of the lost skiers.

There is now a real gulf in prices between the big league resorts and the next level down.  A 6 day Paradiski pass will set you back €291.  Set his against relative neighbours Les Saisies, Le Norma and Aussois, and the southern resorts of Auron, Isola 2000 and Le Sauze.  These are all credible resorts, which were all offering six-day passes for under €150 last season.

Saturday, 5 September 2015


Thus far, people staying in the upmarket Edenarc and Chantal apartments at Arc 1800 have had to rely on a shuttle bus to link with the resort.  That, or walk up and down a slushy/icy piste.

This is all about to change with the arrival of a new pedestrian lift to link the expanding area at the top of the slopes with the front de neige.

This photo, taken last week, shows the new pylons.  A new Edenarc residence is also under construction.    For more on the transformation taking place at Arc 1800, click here.  

The Chantal slopes:
The old chairlift has been dismantled during the summer

Next up in terms of new developments: the proposed chairlift to link Arc 1800 with the Arc 2000 valley via the Col des Frettes.