When you go to the website of La Sambuy ski resort, you are greeted with an ominous message:
“The station permanently closed on Sunday 10/09, following the decision of the municipal council of June 14. Thank you all for this last summer season 2023, and for all these beautiful years spent by your side. We hope to see you again soon.”
Warm winters have led many smaller ski resorts in Europe towards closure, and the latest victim is located in Haute-Savoie, France.
Local France reports that La Sambuy shut its doors on Sunday after 60 years of operations. Last winter was what ultimately caused the closure of the ski resort, with it only operating for four weeks. This resulted in a deficit of around €500,000 ($537,340 USD). In order to continue operating the ski resort, they needed significant renovations and new equipment. In response, the municipal council decided on June 14th to close the ski resort and remove the lifts.
Jacques Dalex, who is the local mayor and used to be the manager of La Sambuy, explained to Europe 1 why they decided to pull the plug on La Sambuy:
“Between the 1960s and today, the climate has changed a lot. Now, there is less snow in the winter. This year, we opened for only four weeks, that’s it. The season is getting shorter and shorter, and obviously, it is not going to get any better.”
Claude, who is a 95-year-old resident of Haute-Savoie, described his heartache for the situation to Europe 1:
“I had the chance to ski here with my wife, then to teach my children, my grandchildren. Well, it won’t happen for my great-grandchildren. There are years when the station does not open, so it is difficult to manage a station which has no customers due to [the lack] of snow.”
Summer tourism ended up being the main strength of the ski resort, with winter operations generating 30% of the revenue. In spite of this, they have also closed their summer attractions for good, which include the mountain coaster, mountain biking, and paragliding.
Within the next three years, all of the structures at the ski resort will be demolished. This has become common in France, as Mountain Wilderness estimates that there are over 3,000 abandoned ski lifts in the country. The NGO has removed 70 ski lifts from closed ski resorts over the past sixty years.
More bad times are likely ahead for the European ski industry. A study by the Nature Journal concluded that 91% of the ski resorts on the continent are at risk due to the warming climate. This is especially true of ski resorts with elevations lower than 1700 meters (5577 feet).
While I imagine that like in North America, ski resorts at higher elevations in Europe will be alright, you have to wonder how many smaller ski resorts in lower to mid-elevations can handle the uncertain future. With France’s Court of Audits saying in 2018 that 70% of their resorts are in lower to moderate elevations, I’m wary of what could be coming to Europe’s ski industry.
Former Mountain Stats
Vertical Drop: 2297 feet
Image Credits: La Sambuy