Europe’s ski resorts are preparing for the first proper season in four years with much accommodation already booked up as people finally set off on holidays carried over from as far back as 2019. But, before a single run has even opened, the impact of the energy crisis can be felt. The Panarotta ski area in Italy’s Trentino-Alto Adige has already announced that it will not operate ski lifts this winter — the first in the country to do so.
While it’s likely that only smaller resorts will resort to such measures, operators of ski areas of all sizes are closely monitoring the situation. “One thing is certain: no one will waste energy senselessly,” Elena Protopopow, Head of UK Markets for the Austrian Tirol Tourist Board, told Lonely Planet.
How are rising energy costs impacting prices?
European countries are trying to reduce energy demand and ration supplies as Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine continues to impact energy supply. In France, many resorts are currently in negotiations to renew energy contracts. The deputy president of the Domaines Skiables de France (DSF) union, Anne Marty, warns electricity bills could increase eight-fold this year for some of the country’s operators, according to a report in Euronews.
In the French Alps, resorts like Morzine and Avoriaz are determined to shield skiers from the impact. “The lifts will be open and there will be no increase on ski pass prices,” said Sara Burdon from the Office de Tourisme de Morzine.
But for many operators across Europe, an increase in the cost of ski passes is unavoidable. Skiers heading to the Dolomiti Superski area, the 15 ski resorts of Italy’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed Dolomites, are facing price hikes of 10% on last year’s prices.
In Switzerland’s Jungfrau — ‘the Top of Europe’ — the adult advance booking price for a season pass has risen from CHF 777 (€783) to CHF 850 (€857), although skiers are covered by a money-back guarantee should the authorities order closure due to power shortages or COVID-19.
What energy-saving initiatives are European ski resorts implementing?
Turning down the thermostat, restrictions on night skiing, slower-moving ski lifts: where energy-saving measures are being implemented, they are being designed to cause as little inconvenience as possible to skiers.
In Val d’Isère, France, the off-peak speed of ski lifts will be reduced from five to four metres per second, an adjustment predicted to result in a one-minute longer ride time that the resort believes won’t be noticed by skiers at all.
French operators are working towards the 10% drop in energy consumption the government has set for all businesses. In Morzine and Avoriaz, where lift speeds will also be optimised depending on the number of skiers, they are also preparing to turn street lighting off from 11 pm to 5 am in certain areas, to lower the temperature in public pools by one or two degrees Celcius and to bring down the Christmas lights early, among other energy saving initiatives.
Ski resorts using renewable energy are keeping costs down
What has become clear is that those ski operators who have already made investments in renewable energies are at a distinct advantage heading into the opening weekends of the season.
In Switzerland’s LAAX, a resort which has set a 2030 target to become a carbon-neutral destination, lifts run on run-on CO2 neutral hydro and solar power sourced from throughout Switzerland, with the waste heat from the lifts used to heat local restaurants. A spokesperson for the area confirmed to Lonely Planet that there will be no lift pass price increases this season.
Val d’Isère’s fleet of slope groomers will, for the first time this season, be powered by HVO (Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil), a 100% renewable source that reduces CO2 emissions by 90%. Two electric buses will also enter service, the first of a fleet that is hoped to total 15 by 2025. Across in the Three Valleys (Les Trois Vallées), 450 solar panels have recently been installed on the roof of the Ariondaz gondola arrival station in Courchevel.
Earlier this year, Serre Chevalier in the Southern French Alps installed its first hydroelectric turbine as it powers towards a target of 30% renewable electric power by next year.
Cost of living crisis: How to make your ski dollar go further
As the energy crisis drives up the cost of living, purse strings are tightening and resorts are bracing themselves for holidaymakers to spend less this winter. “We expect that holidays could be shorter than usual,” said Diego Clara, the spokesperson for Dolomiti Superski.
With value for money top of mind for most families, where can savings be achieved this ski season? Track early-bird ski pass offers and other advance booking deals, especially during off-peak weeks: for instance, Dolomiti Superski takes five% off the price for passes booked at least two days in advance, as well as four days ski pass and accommodation for the price of three (or eight days for the price of six) for travel before December 24, 2022.
Also, look out for resorts with kids' ski free deals: Val d’Isère is offering free ski passes for those under eight.
Off-piste, it pays to check in with the local tourist office to see what events are planned in the area during your stay. “We’re increasing our entertainment program, which offers families lots of free activities to keep kids occupied,” said Morzine and Avoriaz’s Burdon.
As always, look beyond the headline resorts for the best deals: For instance, the six ski resorts of Friuli-Venezia in northeastern Italy offer some of the cheapest ski passes of the Alps and the Dolomites at €39.50 a day for an adult.