QUESTION: Can we draw up an overview of closed ski areas in France?
ANSWER : The sites concerned are mainly micro-ski areas, at 90%, and for the rest we have observed, since the beginning of the 2000s, a few snow stages and small tourist resorts: for example Chambon-des-Neiges (Puy-de- Dôme) or Mas de la Barque (Lozère).
There are closures in all the massifs, the Vosges, the Jura, the Massif Central, the Pyrenees but especially in the Alps because it is the largest massif and the most populated.
In France, 31% of the total stock of ski areas have closed. In the mid-mountain massifs, it is much more, 60% in the Massif Central, which means that there are more sites that have declined than there are still active today.
This figure may seem spectacular, but it must be put into context. If we compare the lengths of closed ski slopes to the extent of the French ski area, we realize that France has only lost 2%, which is really very little. This shows that 186 sites equals 2% of the domain.
There was a period of enthusiasm for skiing from the 50s and 60s, these were small centers often created by groups of villagers, sometimes by the priest, to animate the territory. These sites were not intended for profitability or growth.
Q. What are these closures to be attributed to?
R. There is sometimes a confusion: we say + the resorts are closing because there is no more snow +. No, they close because they are not profitable and it is a choice of reason in the end.
It's a combination of intersecting factors, which also evolve over time: there is also the obsolescence of ski lifts, with huge maintenance costs after 20-30 years.
What we observe is that the life cycle of these sites is 30 years. There are a lot of tourist products, especially in the mountains, which have gone through this cycle and which we have completely forgotten, for example climatism with its sanatoriums, hydrotherapy; there are also panoramic cable cars and funiculars, half of which have disappeared in France.
It is the most efficient operators who endure and continue in skiing, the small ones, who were on the margins, were doomed to closure at the end of the race.
Q. Which is better, a conversion or a dismantling?
R. In the vast majority of cases, the sites have become fields and forests again, but it also happens that in the larger sites, the communities take the problem head-on and propose a reconversion, for example in leisure activities four seasons.
There is also another fringe, that of the residential economy, quite linked to suburbanization, especially near Chambéry and Grenoble.
The tourist hamlets become permanent habitats and in the end the resorts do not become +ghosts+ but small mountain villages where people live extremely well, with fairly low land.
In fact, the closure implicitly creates opportunities. These closed resorts that are being converted imagine what the mountains of tomorrow could look like.
In Saint-Honoré 1500 (Isère), for example, there are between 50 and 100 inhabitants and a fabulous quality of life, a breathtaking view of the Vercors.
Moreover, it is always difficult to decide whether a closure is permanent or temporary. The attachment to skiing in the territories is enormous and there is always reluctance about dismounting. Skiing has a sentimental aspect, I would say almost heritage.
As for the dismantling of unused ski lifts, the situation is quite good in France, even if it is progressing quite slowly (one or two dismantlings per year). In Japan or North America, many wastelands are left as they are and remain untouched for several decades.