Anyone who skied in the French or the Swiss Alps last year could tell you that it wasn’t exactly what you’d call a bumper season. This time last year, I was spending a snowless Christmas in Cham, with an unprecedented cold, dry spell that lasted until the second week of January. It was, I think we can all agree, a disaster of a season.
Like most of us watching the snowless mountains with a sinking feeling in our collective guts, I knew that last year’s lack of snow would have some negative implications for Chamonix. Any resort placing themselves as the home of extreme skiing does need a healthy dose of the soft stuff, after all. What I didn’t realise until I got back, after spending the off season in London, was how much of an impact there would be.
It’s only a few days until Christmas, and the slopes this week have been deserted.
Not that I’m complaining too much personally; I love an empty run as much as the next skier, but it’s not a good sign for the economic health of a resort. Empty ski resorts are bankrupt ski resorts, after all. Chamonix is lucky. Tourism here thrives in the summer, with climbers, bikers and sightseers from all over the world coming to see Mont Blanc. Other resorts don’t have that luxury. For them, this sort of down turn is a lot more serious.
Still though, there’s a surprising dearth of seasonaires in Cham this year; they’ve looked at last year’s snowfall, and chosen to go elsewhere. If that’s a sign of the season to come, then it’s going to be a quiet winter. Early signs are pointing to fewer skiers on the slopes, smaller lift lines and much better snow than last year.
Seriously, if the snow on my balcony is anything to go by, this year is going to be an absolute corker. I don’t even think I’m jumping the gun anymore.
Honestly, as someone who doesn’t like waiting in queues to hit the hill and almost certainly needs to pick up a shift or two to pay the bills, this is kind of my dream season. For the small businesses that make the town so great though, it’s not ideal. So I’ll keep my fingers and toes crossed hoping this season will be a return to the snowy playground of yesteryear.