President of the National Association of Mountain Elected Officials (ANEM), Jeanine Dubié asks that resorts be considered in the same way as industrial tools by the State, in terms of support and aid. The urgency is also to decouple the prices of gas and electricity at European level, she also underlines. Interview.
How are the elected representatives of the mountains tackling the coming winter season, under the sword of Damocles of energy prices?
After two winters heavily impacted by Covid-19, there is obviously concern because even if the support put in place by the State made it possible to limit the damage of the previous crisis, everyone was able to measure what the closure of the ski lifts and the economic impact that this had on our valleys, which then had to suffer an 80% drop in their activity. At stations, reducing the energy bill is not a new concern, but soaring electricity prices have become a major concern since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In general, supply contracts are signed for three years. Some stations which signed at the beginning of the year saw their bills doubled, others by five when they signed in May and some, according to their contracts, saw a multiplication by ten or even twenty times, since the price of Megawatt-hours experienced surges up to €1,200, whereas it fluctuated between €65 and €85 last year. In doing so, there are ski resorts that do not sign, currently, because they risk sinking.
What support is ANEM asking for?
Skiing is a leisure activity and I would say that in this sense, we must keep the measure of things in the face of the global challenges we are facing today. However, a €1 ski pass brings in an average of €7 in the valley and in France, mountain tourism in winter represents 10 billion euros. On this scale, the opening of the resorts – which thanks to the dual activity of many seasonal workers also allows the maintenance of mountain agriculture – is vital: all must be able to open this year. As such, they must be considered by the public authorities as a real industrial tool and benefit from the same aid and the same tariff shields in order to save mountain activity. But beyond that, the urgency is indeed to decouple the prices of gas and electricity on a European scale. France, like Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Council, is also calling for a profound reform, debated this Friday by EU energy ministers. The electricity produced by our nuclear power plants is among the cheapest, but the market price is determined by the last Megawatt-hour produced and the most expensive, that of gas: it must be stopped.
Covid, climate, water, multiplication of crises… Shouldn’t we also rethink leisure and resorts?
It is already on the table with a global reflection of the ski areas of France, in particular (read page 2). But for the time being, we must also be realistic: the diversifications launched do not, for the time being, compensate for the ski economy with identical positive spin-offs for the territories. The point of balance remains to be found. The only activity that could compensate would be thermalism – 30 ski resorts are also thermal resorts – and this sector, also impacted by the Covid, should today be the subject of a real recovery plan, with support to new well-being activities, of course, but also for a better health prevention policy.