While the ski resorts of the Pyrenees are due to open their slopes next week, everything is being done to reduce the energy bill.
Faced with electricity tariffs that risk crippling the turnover of ski areas, measures are being taken to reduce the pain.
Lowering the speed of the ski lifts or even better management of the stock of snow thanks to geolocated snow groomers are among the ways to reduce consumption.
Snow has been falling for a few days on the peaks of the Pyrenees.
One week before the opening of most of the ski resorts in the massif, the snow groomers have started to work.
But not anyhow.
No more ballet without choreography of these energy-consuming machines.
"Today, snow groomers are equipped with radar and GPS to spread the snow better and keep it better," explains Yves Rougier, CEO of Altiservice, which manages the Font-Roumeu and Saint-Lary areas.
A technology that limits the fuel consumption of machines and also limits the use of snow cannons.
Because this year, with the energy crisis, the electricity bills of station managers are exploding.
"Today, this represents 5% of our turnover, next year it could be 15%", indicates Régis Lignon, the deputy general manager of the Compagnie des Pyrénées, parent company of N'Py which manages eight resorts.
In the midst of inflation, there is no question of driving up the prices of packages.
Tamp better, store better
The solution can only pass through sobriety and alternative measures.
Especially since faced with the risk of energy shortages, the government has asked stations to reduce their electricity consumption by 10%.
Over a season which includes an average of 120 days, to meet this objective without doing anything in particular, the slopes would have to be closed for 12 days.
To avoid this radical solution which would undermine the mountain economy, common sense measures have already been taken, such as lowering the temperature level in buildings.
But it is far from enough.
To see the painful reduction, the managers of the operating companies are forced to play on the most important positions: that of the ski lifts, which represents nearly 40% of the electricity consumption of the stations, and that of the management of the snowpack. , in particular the production of artificial snow, which accounts for the bulk of the bill.
“The geolocation of snow groomers makes it possible to see where the machine has already passed and to make just one pass, which represents 25% fuel savings.
Thanks to the snow measurement system, we are able to produce only what is necessary, it is estimated that this can save us 15% in electricity and water consumption.
And our objective is to produce a sufficient quantity of snow before the end of the year and the increase in the cost of the kilowatt hour, ”explains Akim Boufaïd, director of the Saint-Lary station.
Reduce the speed of the ski lifts
Operators have also decided to play on other levers.
In particular on the reduction of the speed of the ski lifts.
“We can reduce the speed of the chairlifts by 1 meter per second depending on the queues.
This can save us 10% of electricity and it does not change much for users, “says Yves Rougier of Altiservice.
In some cases, this may involve stopping certain ski lifts when they overlap with another lift.
But beyond these cyclical measures, structural investments are now made under the prism of global warming and energy sobriety.
"From now on, we no longer make any investment below 1,800 meters," explains Eric Charre, the general manager of Trio Pyrénées, which brings together the resorts of the Pyrénées-Orientales: Formiguères, Cambre d'Aze and Porté-Puymorens.
And when a budget is put on the table, it is often for large, more efficient infrastructures, which replace several others, thus reducing overall consumption.
Pyrenees: Even before they open, ski resorts are already taken by storm
Climate change: Volunteers dismantle an abandoned ski lift for lack of snow