Ski lifts to slow down as French Alps resorts face energy crunch

By Cecile Mantovani and Caroline Pailliez

PARIS (Reuters) - Ski resort managers in the French Alps are scrambling to find ways to conserve energy as part of a national effort to reduce consumption, with about half the resorts also bracing for power bills to be three to six times higher than in prior years.

In Chamonix, close to Switzerland, if there is no crowd, the lift will go 10% slower. And if the resort gets an alert that power supplies cannot meet demand, Chamonix will slow the lifts by 30%.

A number of ski resorts including Chamonix and Val Thorens have also pledged to limit artificial snow production and reduce heating within buildings, officials said.

In Val Thorens, maintenance and restaurant staff will be lifted to their workplace before the slopes open in a slot of around 10 minutes, rather than have the ski lifts working near-empty for an hour.

Those measures "will be invisible and painless for our customers. The objective is to make sure our customers don't feel the impact of the energy cuts," said Benjamin Blanc, a director at Les 3 Vallees, which includes Val Thorens.

Half of France's ski resorts have had to renegotiate their long-term electricity contracts this year amid record-high inflation, and they expect an annual bill that could increase three to six-fold in 2023, said Alexandre Maulin, who chairs France's ski resorts association.

For instance, the energy bill for the ski resorts Maulin manages at the Sybelles domain, in Savoie, should come in at 1.6 million euros ($1.7 million) next year, from 400,000 euros in 2020.

Lift tickets will increase by around 5% but will not cover all the higher operating costs, he added.

Val Thorens was able to secure a contract with utility EDF before the energy crunch for the most part of 2023. But it now needs to find a solution for the next skiing season.

"We are mountain people. Our motto is that we always get out of difficult situations, and it will be the case this time again, because we will adapt," said Jerome Grellet, head of Val Thorens ski lift operator SETAM.

($1 = 0.9612 euros)

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(Writing by Caroline Pailliez; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Lisa Shumaker)