French Alpine ski resort closes down due to lack of snow

After managing to open for just four weeks last year because of the lack of snow, one French ski resort near Annecy has called it quits and begun dismantling its ski lifts.

French Alpine ski resort closes down due to lack of snow
Workers dismantle the site of a ski lift in Saint Firmin in the Parc National des Ecrins between Grenoble and Gap, eastern France. (Photo by OLIVIER CHASSIGNOLE / AFP)

The La Sambuy ski resort, located in the town of Faverges-Seythenex in the French Alps near Annecy, has begun taking down its mechanical ski lifts, after 60 years of operation.

The small, family-oriented ski resort was perched at an altitude of 1,200 metres, offering 10 ski runs, three chairlifts and “breathtaking views of Lake Annecy and Mont Blanc”, according to its website.

Local mayor and the former resort manager, Jacques Dalex, explained to Europe 1 that financial constraints exacerbated by warmer temperatures and a lack of snowfall were largely to blame for the closure. 

“Between the 1960s and today, the climate has changed a lot. Now, there is less snow in the winter. This year, we opened for only four weeks, that’s it. The season is getting shorter and shorter, and obviously it is not going to get any better,” Dalex told Europe 1.

As such the town council decided in June that the lifts will be closed indefinitely starting Sunday, September 10th. 

Dalex told French newspaper Libération that the climate change had created a “real financial problem.”

The resort had started to decrease its winter operations due to a lack of snow, eventually making it so that the winter season only accounted for 30 percent of the ski resort’s annual revenue as they shifted toward a business model focused on summer tourism.

Dalex told Libération that this allowed La Sambuy to become “one of the few French ski resorts that makes more money in the summer than in the winter.”

Nevertheless, La Sambuy still incurred a hefty operating deficit of €500,000 in the winter 2022/23. In order to stay in business, the ski resort would have needed more funds to pay for renovations in the years to come, as well as new equipment.

Skiers will not be the only ones affected by the town council’s decision to close La Sambuy – other activities that were previously offered by the resort such as sledding on rails (rail tobogganing), mountain biking and paragliding will also close down.

Libération reported that the municipal agreement would lead to all of structures related to the ski resort being dismantled within three years.

Dalex told Libération that “there comes a time when you have to open your eyes (…) climate change is leading us to revise our way of thinking.”

La Sambuy is far from the only place in France that has taken down its ski lifts – the NGO Mountain Wilderness has dismantled 70 ski lifts since 1963 and estimates that there are around 3,000 abandoned lifts rusting in French mountain ranges. The majority were abandoned because of a lack of snow, and local authorities often lack the resources to remove them.

READ MORE: French Alps village says goodbye to ski lift of winters past

A new study by the journal Nature Climate Change found that 91 percent of European ski resorts are threatened by global warming.

According to a Euronews report, those resorts at the highest risk were low to middle altitude, meaning under 1,700 metres in elevation.

As of 2018, low and middle altitude resorts represented more than 70 percent of ski areas in France, according to the country’s Court of Audits.

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French minister ‘angry’ with big oil producers at COP28

The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is pushing against proposals to target fossil fuels at the COP28 climate summit, drawing fury from France.

French minister 'angry' with big oil producers at COP28

French Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said Saturday she was “stunned” after the oil cartel OPEC urged its members to thwart any deal targeting fossil fuels at the COP28 conference.

“I am stunned by these statements from OPEC. And I am angry,” she said from the climate conference in Dubai, adding that “OPEC’s position endangers the most vulnerable countries and the poorest populations who are the first victims of this situation”.

The minister said she was “counting on the presidency of the COP not to be influenced by these declarations, and to reach an agreement which affirms a clear objective of phasing out fossil fuels”.

OPEC Secretary General Haitham Al Ghais sent a letter to the group’s 13 members and 10 Russian-led allies this week after negotiators at talks in Dubai released a draft deal that included calls for a phase-out of fossil fuels.

In the letter sent Wednesday, Ghais urges the group to “proactively reject any text or formula that targets energy i.e. fossil fuels rather than emissions”.

The letter has drawn anger from activists and the High Ambition Coalition, a broad group of nations ranging from Barbados to France, Kenya and Pacific island states.

Spain’s ecology transition minister Teresa Ribera called the move “disgusting”.