Investment and artificial snow, how Nice Côte d’Azur resorts anticipated the lack of snow cover
The weakness for which we provide a solution can quickly turn the whole into an asset. This is exactly the pattern of Auron and Isola 2000. These two ski resorts, which are part of the perimeter of the Nice Côte d’Azur metropolis, post an outrageous attendance record at the beginning of January, while in the Alpes du North, in the Pyrenees or in Haute-Savoie find themselves severely deprived of a mild temperature that reduces, or even prevents, the use of the ski area.
However, the snow did not like the skies of the Côte d’Azur to spread its white coat. Here the temperatures recorded on December 25 were almost 6 degrees above normal. Same effect, but not the same consequences.
Artificial snow, the choice that changes everything
Because of Auron as in Isola 2000, the questions of snow cover are known, and for a long time. Snow depth is usually low – around 1.5m to 2.3m last season – and the record was 7m at Auron and 10m at Isola 2000 in the best years.
It’s a real problem that has forced the joint syndicate that manages the stations to act quickly to counter what Mother Nature doesn’t want to give herself. And since 2003, it is through solutions that guarantee snow activity, ie a total of 46.1 million euros allocated to the installation of hill reservoirs and snow guns. It should be noted that for the start of the season, the use of the so-called latest generation snow cannons, capable of entering production from 0° when the hydrometry rate is low, made it possible to produce respectively 480,000 m3 and 330,000 m3 of artificial snow in Auron and Isola 2000.
Maintain business models
The decision to rely on artificial snow and invest in infrastructure was initiated almost 20 years ago. It was then necessary to allow economic activity to take place as calmly as possible, to continue to make it a complement to tourist activity as a real lever, both for local consumption and for reasons of attractiveness. Exactly 185.7 million euros have been allocated to the two resorts since 2003. In Auron, 96.3 million euros of investment have been granted to chairlifts, to a hillside reservoir, to 429 snow guns and a snow park. The 89.4 million euros allowed Isola 2000 to have 4 ski lifts, a Family Park, a FIS (International Ski Federation) competition track, 428 snow cannons, as well as an altitude to give road is guaranteed snow.
Artificial snow, which is now clearly part of the business models of ski resorts, not only on the Côte d’Azur. A way of definitively guaranteeing these business models for a long time to come, which is not neutral when we know that the resorts are looking to the future, adding services and activities, especially in the summer, in the longer term , because consumption changes behavior.
The choice of long-term
Investments that, on the Côte d’Azur side, will obviously continue. In Auron, the construction of gondolas, the installation of chairlifts and the redevelopment of the snow front are planned, which will mobilize a budget of 41 million euros over 5 years. In Isola 2000, a full restructuring of the area was studied, the allocated budget worth 50 million euros, both to consolidate the ski activity but also to serve the variety of activities, both in the season of winter and summer. It is also planned to create a second hill reservoir to form an artificial snow installation.
Which brings us back to the economic matter and the part the mountain has played in global tourism. As a reminder, ski resorts employ 270 employees and generate 1,600 indirect jobs. And then, not only tourism makes its contribution, there are also activities related to ski schools, which, with the same dynamics, recorded an increase in their turnover of approximately 6% compared to the period of 2021. Must say that during the December holidays, the occupancy rate performed particularly well, at 75% for the first week and 100% for the second week. Enough to stimulate the local economy.
Real estate, another lever that works well
And we don’t quite believe it because another effect of the strategy plays out in a related but not so related sector: real estate. We know at this point that ski resorts are very attached to building warm beds and are always afraid of cold beds. At this moment, at this point, in Auron as in Isola 2000, investors do not hide their satisfaction. Thus, 6 programs of 202 housing units or 1,000 beds have been delivered in Auron, 3 of 260 housing units or 1,300 lots are in the process of being delivered, while two permits have been issued for 87 housing units with 435 beds, two permits has been submitted for housing and cottages.
At Isola 2000, we can breathe better since the end of the legal proceedings that prevented any progress in this segment. At least 66,000 m2 of building space will contribute to the economic development of the resort. A 4-star tourist residence is expected, as well as a performance hall and a youth residence.
So many projects – and a balance sheet – that confirm choices made long ago. Communication carried out, especially through social networks, helps to generate flows, whether local or national. It shows that the Côte d’Azur is not limited to its coast, but is a great whole. Which also corresponds to new desires for tourist consumption, turning towards nature, unknown territories. And not only during the winter.