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Climate and energy crises affect winter holidays in the French Alps

The village of Morzine has pedestrianised some streets, and the municipal vehicles are mostly electric to reduce emissions.

MORZINE, France: The climate crisis is presenting a major challenge in the mountain villages of France, where visitors descend each European winter to holiday in the small ski resorts.

Winter is arriving later each year and with the weather too mild in late December and early January - the start of the vacation season - many resorts in the French Alps are left with hardly any snow.

Morzine, a village and ski resort in the French mountains, is among them.

"Generally speaking …  within a framework of 50 years we have lost a month of snow, meaning the winter season is getting smaller. This is a reality and this is also what is at stake: how we protect what we love and what makes us all live,” said director of Morzine tourist office Calypso Sottovia.

Morzine mayor Aube Marullaz said: “We are adapting and we are going to change our habits. We are moving forward. It's not the time to just be aware of this change anymore, it's time for action and we're moving forward little by little, all together.”

She added: “Skiing will be done whenever and wherever possible, we'll continue to ski but we will also develop non-ski activities.”


The village has pedestrianised some streets, and the municipal vehicles are mostly electric to reduce emissions. Its ice rink is also now made of synthetic materials, instead of water.

The authorities in the village are looking to get tourists - many of whom choose to travel by car to their destination perched at the end of narrow, winding roads - to cut down their emissions as well.

With trains stopping just 45 minutes away, and bus services available from the station to the rest of the village, the ski resort has incentivised the public to ditch private vehicles by offering discounts at shops and restaurants for those who come by train.

The number of people returning to the slopes rose 5 per cent for the period between Dec 17 last year and Jan 6 this year, compared to last season, according to France’s National Association of Mountain Resort City Halls.


This winter, climate change is not the only factor affecting the holiday season. Changes are being made to save electricity amid Europe's energy crisis.

Piste-rolling machines usually smoothen the snow surface for skiers, but with fuel subsidies that were available in 2022 scrapped, the resorts are running the slope-sweepers less often, and on fewer pistes to save on fuel costs.

The speed of the lifts at ski resorts that ferry crowds uphill has also been slowed down to save electricity.

Resorts are running these slope-sweepers less often, and on fewer pistes to save on fuel costs.

Ms Severine Blot, head of sustainability for Serma Ski Lift, one of the big ski-lift companies in the valley, said 70 per cent of the energy used on the pistes is dedicated to running the ski lifts and cable cars.

Her costs are going up - for every 1 euro (US$1.08) they used to spend on energy, they now have to spend nearly 4 euros (US$4.30).

In response, her company has lowered the heating in buildings where ski staff work. It has also cut how long they spend reheating ski-lift machinery in the morning.

“Here, everything is heated by electricity. For us, for our activity, the biggest use for the heating is also for the chair lifts, for the stations to make sure we will be able to start in the morning, to have the moving parts not freezing all night, so this was the biggest impact,” Ms Blot said.


The tourist office has turned down the heating in municipal buildings and lowered the temperature of the public swimming pools.It is also encouraging people in chalets and hotels to turn the lights off and the heating down.

Ms Sara Burdon, communications manager at the Morzine tourist office, said individual and collective action is needed to bring down energy costs.

“We’re relying on individuals to keep their windows shut, to not turn up the heating to full blast, but to make an effort the same as the businesses are trying to ensure that we can all work together to lower energy use,” said Ms Burdon.

There are efforts to follow the government’s call to save energy being made across the village.

“We do turn the lights off the whole time to save power and we put the radiators on the lowest setting possible when guests aren’t in, and there are also a few other requirements with turning stuff off in the kitchen but nothing too drastic as of yet,” one hotel worker said.

Source: CNA/ja(ca)


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