Is “the taste of celebration” really back in the ski resorts of the Alps?

As in October 2019, they were 1,200 skiers, last weekend, to launch the ski season in France on the Tignes glacier (Savoie). At an altitude of more than 3,000 m, they illustrated “the very long wait to find the ski lifts”. After a white 2020-2021 season (or black, it depends) for the world of alpine skiing in France, Stephie Dijkman, marketing and sales manager of Tignes Développement clearly announces: “With this Covid-19 year, we had a good time. to deepen our reflection on a diversification of activities during the four seasons, that remains the alpine skiing which makes us live ”. With, for example, already 50% filling for Christmas, Tignes is seeing a slight advance in resort reservations compared to a classic season of the famous “world before”.

This optimistic trend for all periods from 2021-2022 is observed in most ski areas. “We feel a real appetite for alpine skiing, confirms Eric Bouchet, director of the 2 Alpes (Isère) tourist office, which opens its slopes on Saturday for school holidays. We have not lost customers after this year without skiing, on the contrary. Regarding the French clientele, we started off with essentially the same figures as in 2019. We feel that it is itchy in the feet and we can not wait to be on Saturday, to find all our seasonal workers and this ice cream parlor which is a real permanent training stage. “

The resort of Les 2 Alpes will open to the general public from Saturday for the two-week All Saints holiday. – Pyrene Duffau / OT Les 2 Alpes

“People want to have fun by reserving large apartments”

The competitors have been training there for several days and are preparing to rub shoulders with the general public for the two-week holiday, before a total reopening for all on November 28. Eight days earlier, Val Thorens will, as always, be the real first resort (without a glacier) to open in all of Europe, on the occasion of its traditional “Grand Première” weekend. Between 2,500 and 3,000 people will come on this occasion to try out the ski equipment made available.

“We are inundated with calls to the reservation center,” notes Vincent Lalanne, director of the tourist office of this Savoy resort. We are ahead of the entire season, with an average already 58% filling guaranteed. We especially feel that people want to have fun by booking large apartments. At the same time, the regulars at the end of the season have lived through two years of frustration since the first confinement in March 2020. “

Val Thorens will once again be the first resort in Europe (excluding glaciers) to open its ski lifts from November 20.
Val Thorens will once again be the first resort in Europe (excluding glaciers) to open its ski lifts from November 20. – C. Ducruet / OT Val Thorens

A “brake” to come with the possible obligation of the health pass?

In the majority of ski areas in the Alps, things will especially get carried away from December 11. “As soon as the snow cover is sufficient to allow us to open, we will open at all costs,” indicates Nicolas Durochat, director of the Chamonix-Mont-Blanc Valley tourist office. There is the question of the economic model, but this season, there is above all a desire for everyone to reopen as soon as possible. “

The “ongoing reflection” within the government concerning the obligation of the health pass to access the ski lifts, as announced Tuesday Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Secretary of State for Tourism, remains a threatening uncertainty in the eyes of the resorts. “We are already having trouble recruiting seasonal workers, so the obligation to present a health pass could make it even more difficult for us,” says Stephie Dijkman. And then for our international customers [dont 25 % de Britanniques], that would be a brake too. »Co-director of the ski and snowboard school Oxygène, Julien Favre sums up the general feeling.

We all dream of a world without a health pass. But you cannot pass above the laws of the Republic, even if you are at an altitude of 2,000 m. “

Complicated for “international” stations?

Oxygène is also launching its season on Saturday in Tignes, one of the two new stations (with Serre Chevalier) invested by this school with more than 300 instructors. About fifty reservations for ski and snowboard lessons have already been made on the glacier for the All Saints’ Day school holidays. But how is this season, expected as a salvation after the coronavirus crisis, shaping up?

For its 30 years of existence, the ski and snowboard school Oxygène will offer this season free lessons to its customers on the 30th of each month.
For its 30 years of existence, the ski and snowboard school Oxygène will offer this season free lessons to its customers on the 30th of each month. – Rémi NGUYEN CAD

“For resorts that are not geared towards an international clientele, the year promises to be very good in view of the booking indicators,” explains Julien Favre. Apart from the French school vacation periods, things should be more mixed for the 12 resorts which have historically attracted many foreigners. In view of the context of the Covid-19, we know that we will not see Australians, Brazilians or Israelis this season ”. It also promises to be complicated for the Russians, the Americans and even the Scandinavians.

“A nice gift for the reunion” in Chamonix

A deficit in attendance from abroad that the stations intend to compensate with different strategies. Tignes set off on a series of unique cultural events, such as the Xplore Alpes Festival (films and conferences from October 23 to 31), Ride the Snake (snowboard festival) and Tignes Freestyle Week “to attract a young clientele”. Chamonix (Haute-Savoie), for its part, is counting on the launch of a major advertising campaign as far as Paris, Lyon and Strasbourg, to announce group ski lessons offered to the general public, at the start of 2022, excluding holidays school.

The Chamonix-Mont-Blanc Valley stands out this season by offering free group ski lessons.
The Chamonix-Mont-Blanc Valley stands out this season by offering free group ski lessons. – Yucca Films

“As we risk losing large international growth markets, we looked for a strong offer at the national level,” says Nicolas Durochat. It’s a way of thanking the French, who have supported us well, since our attendance was a nice surprise last winter, even without skiing. There, we know that they are in the starting blocks so we give them a nice gift for the reunion. “

Julien Favre nevertheless qualifies this ambient optimism: “The strength of the mountain dweller is resilience and we are clearly looking to the future. We feel this taste of the party which is back. After that, a year ago, it seemed unthinkable to see an entire economic sector closed in this way for a full season. So even if all the indicators are green, we have learned to be wary ”.

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