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WEATHER

French ski resorts forced to close due to lack of snow

Unusually warm temperatures over Christmas and New Year have led to melting snow - and French ski resorts in the Alps, Pyrenees and Jura mountains are being forced to close because of the lack of snow.

French ski resorts forced to close due to lack of snow
A stopped chairlift at Le Semnoz ski resort, near Annecy, as the resort had to close temporarily due to the lack of snow. (Photo by JEFF PACHOUD / AFP)

Many of France’s lower-altitude resorts were only able to keep their doors open for a few weeks before temperatures rose too high for snow to remain deep enough for winter sports. 

The period immediately after Christmas was the warmest since 1997 in France and much of the country experienced “exceptionally high” temperatures, averaging at least 7 to 8C above seasonal norms.

The Pyrenees

In the French Pyrenees, ten of the resorts 30 resorts have had to close their ski areas in recent days, and as of December 27th only a quarter of ski runs were open for skiing.

One such resort is Ax 3 Domaines, located in Ariège, which closed on Saturday after only being operational for three weeks this winter. It typically employs about 80 people.

Some skiers who had visited Ax 3 Domaines hit stones and rocks during their descents down the mountain, damaging their equipment, as a result of the lack of sufficient snow cover. 

According to Jean-Claude Lorenzon, who owns a ski rental shop at the station, Ax 3 Domaines will not be able to open again until more snow falls.

Two other resorts closed their ski areas just before Christmas – Mourtis, located in Haute-Garonne, which closed on December 22nd, and La Pierre Saint-Martin, located in the Pyrenees-Atlantiques, which closed on December 23rd.

As of January 2nd, forecasters expected temperatures to remain mild during the beginning of January, indicating that the closures could continue at least until the middle of the month.

The Vosges and Jura Mountains

Other skiable parts of France – like the Vosges and the Jura Mountains, have also been heavily impacted by warm temperatures, with less than a quarter of runs open for skiing.

In some places, like the Schlucht resort in the Vosges mountains, ski resort operators have been forced to adapt by opening the chairlift to hikers. “Usually, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is the strongest of the season,” Laurent Vaxelaire, the manager of the resort told France Bleu

While some resorts have been able to keep certain runs open with artificial snow, the technique is costly and energy intensive, and temperatures have to be near freezing for the machines to work.

The Alps

The Alps have also been affected by rising temperatures, particularly those in the northern part of the range and sections below 2,000 metres. In Haute-Savoie, rain fell instead of snow, forcing the ski resort of Semnoz to close its doors completely during the Christmas holidays.

Another ski resort, Praz de Lyz Sommand experienced flooding after heavy rains just ahead of Christmas.

And at the resort Les Gets, part of the famous Portes de Soleil ski area, only had two runs open on January 2nd. 

According to projections Météo France, by 2050, the availability of snow cover in mid-mountain areas will be reduced to 10 to 40 percent current thickness due to the climate crisis.

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TOURISM

French island wins €1.3 million legal battle against Airbnb

Airbnb has been handed a €1.3 million fine after a tiny island off the coast of western France won the latest stage of its legal battle against the US-based lettings giant.

French island wins €1.3 million legal battle against Airbnb

The picturesque Île d’Oléron off the coast of western France (15km long by 35km wide) has been engaged in a long-running legal battle with Airbnb, which it accuses of not paying the tourist tax (taxe de séjour) which it collects from its users.

This week a tribunal in La Rochelle sided with the island, and ordered Airbnb to pay €1.385 million to the local authorities.

Airbnb had already been fined €30,000 in 2023 after blaming “incorrect IT settings” for not passing on the tourist tax that it collected.

Island authorities described the €1.3 million payout as an “important first victory” but added that they would be appealing as the amount they are seeking is actually €30 million.

In France the tourist tax is collected by local authorities, who also have the power to set the tax rate, within a national framework. 

READ ALSO How much is the tourist tax in France?

In most cases the tax, which is usually just a few euros per person per night, is collected when you arrive at your hotel or campsite. However Airbnb states on its website that the “tax is collected when guests book their reservation, not at the time of stay.”

The tax is then supposed to be handed on to local authorities by tourist businesses.

The Île d’Oléron is extremely popular with tourists, attracting on average 350,000 tourists per year.

READ ALSO 3 of the best French islands to visit this summer

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