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Winter tourism: lateral thinking in Savoy

Artificial ski piste: Biot is one of the first municipalities in France to close loss-making lifts and concentrate on "soft" tourism. © CIPRA CH

The skiing area of Biot/F sees ever less snow, and the resort is deep in debt. The local mayor now wants to get rid of the lifts and develop other forms of tourism. A visionary decision in the western Alps.
The skiing area of Drouzin-le-Mont, in the small municipality of Biot in Haute-Savoie, lies at an altitude of 1,230 metres. In recent years the pistes and the lifts, opened in 1973, have been making annual losses of up to 150,000 euros. The operators are having to give up the business: climate change means that there is no future for low-lying ski areas. According to the OECD, a temperature rise of 4 degrees will mean that just 30% of ski pistes in the Alps can still be sure of snow.
Mayor Henri-Victor Tournier therefore wants to dismantle the two chairlifts and two of the four drag lifts. There will instead be new offers for mountain biking, walking or cross-country skiing. The sub-prefecture has welcomed the project, believing that the sooner a skiing area diversifies, the more attractive it is.
It is extremely rare for a skiing area to close in France. Saint-Pierre-de-Chartreuse (Isère) is one example: the pistes are closed outside of holiday periods. But in 2011 it transformed itself into a trail-running area, the first of its kind. Proof that diversification pays off is also provided by the example of the Stockhornbahn AG company in the Swiss Bernese Oberland. The pistes were shut down in 2003 and a new business model introduced with an emphasis on gastronomy, nature-oriented summer and winter activities, and offers for groups.
Source and further information: www.brecorder.com/world/europe, www.lexpress.fr/actualites/1/societe (fr)