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.
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.