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High Energy Prices Threaten Ski Resorts Next Winter

With energy prices soaring there are concerns that some resorts may not fully open with implications for the local economies. In France resort officials have met the government with warnings that some resorts may not open. Across the Alps resorts are looking to reduce energy use and considering how to pay for it. UPDATED

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Running ski lifts, making artificial snow, operating fleets of piste bashers and heating all the buildings in sub-zero temperatures.

These are just some of the essentials for ski resorts and they all use large amounts of energy.

The energy bill represents 5% of the budget on average of a French ski resort.

With the projected rise in prices, it could be up to 25%.

70% of the ski resorts in France have three-year contracts with the state electricity supplier, EDF.

These are due to be renegotiated this autumn and indications are that the energy supplier is asking for a 20-fold increase.

EDF has estimated a price of between €800 and €1,000 per megawatt – last winter it was €50 per megawatt.

France derives 70% of its electricity from nuclear power rather than Russian gas, but the rising global costs of energy have hit the French energy sector.

Also more than half of France’s 56 nuclear reactors in France are currently offline.

“We cannot accept the contract proposal that EDF has presented,” said Sébastien Giraud from the ski destination of Villard-de-Lans near Grenoble.

“With these prices, electricity will account for a quarter of the budget. If this is the final offer, we will not be able to stay open this winter because we will not be able to meet the electricity bill,” said Giraud to French television.

More than 120,000 jobs in France depend on the opening of ski areas, according to figures from Domaines skiables de France.

Some ski resorts may be less affected than others, depending on their use of renewable energy.

In 2006 Serre Chevalier in the southern French Alps pledged to produce 30% of its own energy consumption by 2023.

It has now met that target.

Serre Chevalier, France. Image © PlanetSKI

Serre Chevalier, France. Image © PlanetSKI

Serre Chevalier, France. Image © PlanetSKI

Serre Chevalier, France. Image © PlanetSKI

It is the first and only ski area in the world to use three production techniques simultaneously: hydro-electricity, solar panels and small wind-turbines.

“The electricity is consumed usefully and immediately on site.,” said the director of the Serre Chevalier ski area, Patrick Arnaud.

“Thus, during winter and summer seasons when the resort is open, electricity produced by its hydraulic, photovoltaic and wind systems is immediately consumed by its own ski lifts, machine rooms, snow-making systems and tertiary systems on the ski area.

“In low-season, electricity produced is still partly self-consumed, and the excess is sold to the national grid.”

The environmental work of the resorts has been recognised with various awards.

Patrick Arnuad, Serre Chevalier. Image © PlanetSKI

Patrick Arnuad, Serre Chevalier. Image © PlanetSKI

PlanetSKI last visited Serre Cevalier back in January 2019.

Ski resorts in France are looking to cut their energy consumption by 10%.

Night skiing could go with lifts running at slower speeds during the day to save energy.

France has no risk of shortages under normal winter conditions as 95%  of its gas stocks are filled and it has greater reliance on its own nuclear power.

In France households are currently the best-protected in Europe from soaring energy prices.

Gas gas prices are frozen at 2021 levels while electricity bills are capped at a 4% increase.

However the current freeze – known in French as the bouclier tarifaire (tariff shield) – comes to an end at the end of this year.

The Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne, announced that from the beginning of 2023 both gas and electricity prices will rise – by a maximum of 15%.

The extra costs may be passed on to skiers and snowboarders.

There are concerns in the other alpine nations with measures set to be put in place:

Austria

In the Tirol resorts say they will be able to reduce consumption of energy by 10% next winter.

This will be done by running fewer lifts and cancelling night skiing that also requires floodlights.

It is expected the price of a ski pass will rise.

Night skiing in the SkiWelt. Image © PlanetSKI

“We have faced Covid and now we have new challenges with rising energy prices and inflation,” said Martina Jamnig from the Austria National Tourist Office.

She was speaking at a media event in London this month to launch the Austria ski programme for next winter.

Martina Jamnig, ANTO. Image © PlanetSKI

Martina Jamnig, ANTO. Image © PlanetSKI

“British skiers are dedicated to the sport and love skiing as much as us in Austria,” she added.

One area in Austria that places much emphasis on sustainability is the Ski Welt in the Tirol.

PlanetSKI visited last winter to check out its environmental credentials:

The Ski Welt was the first ski area to have a ski lift 100% powered by solar power, the Sonnenlift, and was installed in 2008.

It is a tow rope that is part of an important connection to the linked area, and it is still in operation.

Ski Welt, Tirol, Austria. Image © PlanetSKI

Ski Welt, Tirol, Austria. Image © PlanetSKI

It is also focusing on making its fleet of piste bashers more environmentally efficient.

Ski Welt, Tirol, Austria. Image © PlanetSKI

Ski Welt, Tirol, Austria. Image © PlanetSKI

Ski Welt, Tirol, Austria. Image © PlanetSKI

Ski Welt, Tirol, Austria. Image © PlanetSKI

Some resorts are also considering slowing down the speed of lifts to conserve energy and save money.

Ski lift in the Arlberg. Image © PlanetSKI

Ski lift in the Arlberg. Image © PlanetSKI

Italy

In Italy prices are also expected to rise this coming winter.

The Dolomiti Superski area is reported to have said energy prices are set to triple, so the cost of a ski pass will rise.

The accommodation will likely be more expensive as hotels and apartments pay more for heating and light.

Valtournenche, Italy. Image © PlanetSKI

Valtournenche, Italy. Image © PlanetSKI

Switzerland

The Swiss resort of Laax has frozen the price of lift passes for this coming winter.

It says that “it does not plan on increasing the price of lift passes this season,” in a statement.

It says passes will remain the same price as the 2021-22 ski season, with day passes starting at 55 CHF.

It goes on to say that this “unlike many other Swiss and Austrian ski resorts which will be forced to drastically increase prices due to the cost of purchasing energy.”

There is no evidence so far of drastic price rises in other resorts for next winter.

Laax says it is able to freeze prices as it has already purchased its energy for the next two years until  2024.

All Laax’s lifts run-on CO2 neutral hydro and solar power sourced from throughout Switzerland.

The waste heat from the lifts is also used to heat local restaurants.

Laax, Switzerland. Image © PlanetSKI

Laax, Switzerland. Image © PlanetSKI

In Switzerland resorts may be instructed by central government to reduce energy consumption by up to 20%.

The Association of Ski Lift Operators is currently looking at energy savings measures.

Laurent Vaucher from Téléverbier has told Swiss radio that ideas such as reducing the speed of  lifts and stopping some altogether were being considered.

Other measures include shutting down some escalators and lifts in lift stations.

Resorts are reported to be looking at reducing heating and not using hot water in toilets.

It is thought night skiing in all Swiss resorts will be suspended for next season.

The ski sector consumes 0.34% of all energy in Switzerland.

Verbier, Switzerland

Verbier, Switzerland. Image © PlanetSKI

Other ski areas in Europe are concerned.

Norway

The Norwegian Alpine Resorts and Mountain Destinations has sent a letter to the government calling for measures and support schemes for the ski resorts.

“In our area, with the predicted prices now, we are looking at a tenfold increase in power costs, perhaps more for the coming winter,” said  Odd Stensrud to the newspaper, Dagens Næringsliv.

Electricity costs are the third largest expense item for resorts in Norway.

Narvik, Norway. Image © PlanetSKI

Narvik, Norway. Image © PlanetSKI

Here at PlanetSKI we will be updating this article as developments occur.

Image c/o PlanetSKI

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