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Record investments in French winter sport areas

In 2004 France's winter sport resorts invested 348 million euros - more than ever before - in refurbishment and upgrade measures. In the last ten years, such investments have increased by about 200 percent compared with only 50 percent for ski area turnover. The number of skier days per season is now stagnating at 63 million.
According to the Federation of French Cableway Operators, over 70 percent of this capital is invested in the replacement and modernisation of old installations rather than in the construction of new ones. In particular, old drag lifts are being replaced by chairlifts and gondolas. Critics speak of gigantism and overdevelopment caused by the constant enlargement of existing winter sport areas and the development of new ones. The operators' answer is that they are simply responding to the fact that more has to be invested in the winter resort market than in other sectors in order to survive in the face of fierce competition.
Three trends are to be observed today in the French mountain resorts. First, winter sport areas are growing in size as more small ski areas are linked to form bigger operations. Paradiski, between Les Arcs and La Plagne, for example, has no less than 425 kilometres of groomed trails. At the same time, winter resorts in other regions are being upgraded on a huge scale - like Gourette in the Pyrenees, currently the scene of the country's biggest development project, with a planned spend of 43 million euros for ten more hectares of skiing terrain, almost double the present number of snowguns and thirteen new lifts. In addition, snowguns are to be deployed at increasingly higher altitudes. Whereas snowmaking was originally provided to maintain snow cover on the main trail between the ski slopes and the bottom station of the cableway, the man-made white stuff is now to be found at altitudes which were usually left to the weather gods. Another goal is to extend the season. The cableway operators' lobby wants to see the winter sport areas opening at the beginning of November because that, they claim, is the only way to boost the stagnating bednight totals in the resorts.
Sources and information: www.tourisme.equipement.gouv.fr/fr/z2 (fr), Le Monde, 15.12.2004 www.lemonde.fr/web/article/0, href="mailto:1-0@2-3228">1-0@2-3228,36-390998,0.html (fr)