France saw an increase in ski tourism by 5% last winter, bringing the total number of skiers in the country during 2013/14 to 57.9 million. This was one million more than both Austria and the United States. It meant that France was the most popular destination for skiers in the world for the second year in a row. So why the spike in popularity? And do we expect this trend to continue?
Firstly, although the Alps as a whole has enjoyed 2 excellent years of snow fall, France has been particularly fortunate. The eastern and southern Alps (Austria, Switzerland, Italy) were not quite as lucky. Last minute ski deals are on the rise and many people chose France largely based on this excellent snow record. Websites such as www.snow-forecast.com have a plethora of excellent information on individual resorts to help make an informed decision.
The french Alps enjoy excellent transport links, particularly for UK holiday makers. There are 4 major airports that service the french Alps – Geneva, Chambery, Lyon and Grenoble. There are a couple of high speed train options, and the drive to the french Alps is quicker than to any other country (except of course the Cairgorms in Scotland!)
The french resorts have larger and more interconnected ski areas than anywhere else in the Alps. Other countries do have their large areas, but not quite in the same abundance – think of the Portes du Soleil, Le Grand Massif, Chamonix, The Three Valleys, Alpes d’Huez and the Espace Killy. Indeed, the Portes du Soleil and the Three Valleys both have legitimate claims to being the largest ski areas in the world.
So do we expect this trend to continue? It will be interesting to see if the recent debacle surrounding ‘ski guiding’ in France has an effect on tourism in the Alops. For those out of the loop, it is now illegal for ski companies to offer ski guiding in France, and only qualified guides are allowed to take holiday makers out on the slopes. This was seen by many as an aggressive policy to protect the interests as ESF, but it may backfire as holiday makers may look elsewhere. To be honest we think this is extremely unlikely, and we have only had positive experiences with ESF in both Morzine and Le Grand Massif.