The exceptionally mild autumn, with little snow and temperatures too high to make any, also upset the opening schedule of certain sites.

This is the case in Val Thorens (Savoie), which planned to launch its winter season on November 19 and postponed for a week. Val d’Isère, Tignes and several resorts in the Pyrenees also had to postpone the opening of the slopes to early December.

The cold and the snow have meanwhile arrived and the majority of the other ski areas should open their doors, as planned, around mid-December.

Despite everything, attendance promises to be “encouraging” for the season (7% reservation forecasts for rental accommodation in the mountains compared to the very good year 2021/22) and holidaymakers are “at the rendezvous”, according to industry professionals.

“Despite (a) complicated context marked by inflation, the French continue to go on vacation and make personal decisions to do this, they go to France and consume French”, rejoiced the Minister of Tourism Olivia Grégoire.

In this context of high inflation, skiers will have to deal with a sharp rise in the price of the pass (between 3 and 9% depending on the resort).

– “Incredible increase” –

For the stations themselves, the main headache this year is the cost of energy. If the problem is not specific to mountain tourism, it hits hard an industry very dependent on electricity to run its ski lifts.

“The increase is quite incredible: the companies paid 50-60 euros per kWh and they will go to ten times more expensive. Many stations are affected”, deplores Claude Jay, mayor of the municipality of Belleville (Savoie), where are located in Val Thorens, Les Menuires and Saint Martin.

The sector hopes for support measures “to limit the damage a little. Real work is being done in the government but for the moment we cannot consider that it is enough”, believes he.

In the meantime, “everyone is committed to a real energy saving approach with objectives of around 10% (…). The idea is to manage to be more economical in degrading customer service as little as possible”, he continues, noting that this can sometimes be “delicate”.

In Val d’Isère, comfort equipment such as heated seats or heated platforms in the gondolas will not be put into service. “We will also try to be economical on a daily basis, to have the most rational use of energy possible”, explains Olivier Simonin, general manager of Val d’Isère Téléphériques.

In the Pyrenees, we are betting on “reducing the speed of ski lifts”, “eco-driving” or even “lowering building temperatures”, adds Guillaume Roger, operational director of N’Py, a group of eight resorts.

– Stations looking for seasonal workers –

Some resorts also plan to cut the spring season by a week to save energy, says Antoine Fatiga, CGT manager for ski lifts and slopes services.

Some seasonal workers, whose contracts only run for 14 to 15 weeks, could find themselves penalized: “We have put the kibosh on it. It is out of the question to cause an employee who does not ‘already not very big to win,’ he annoys.

But the arms are still missing in the stations, forcing employers to let go of ballast. On the ski lift side, the unions have just obtained a “historic” revaluation of 7.1% of the lowest wages.

“Salary negotiations are going to be more complicated and the discussions a little more impactful than usual,” admits Claude Jay, the mayor of Belleville.

“Before, there were ten candidates for a position. Today, they go looking for people. It’s a phenomenon that we had not known,” explains Mr. Fatiga. While some employers “have made efforts”, particularly on the thorny issue of housing for seasonal workers, others are considering bringing in “foreign employees”, he laments.