Ski resorts under fire for delivering snow with helicopters

A helicopter transports snow to the lower slopes of the Luchon-Superbagnères ski resort.  © AFP - Anne-Christine Poujoulat

A ski resort has angered ecologists by using helicopters to transfer snow to its lower slopes after a mild winter didn’t bring enough snow.

“Using helicopters to bring snow to ski resorts is not an option,” said the Minister of Ecological Transition Élisabeth Borne on Sunday.

“It’s a question of putting a quick stop to it. It’s not possible to repeat such a highly polluting operation,” one of Borne’s advisers told AFP.

Officials at the Luchon-Superbagnères ski resort above the town of Bagnères-de-Luchon in Haute-Garonne made the decision on Friday to transport the snow from higher up the mountains to the lower slopes used by beginners and ski schools.

It took two and a half hours to transport some 50 tonnes of snow at a cost of between €5,000 to €6,000, said Hervé Pouanu, the director of the local council.

Pounau said the resort expected to recoup at least ten times the cost of the operation from the business that would have been lost from the lack of snow.

Pounau acknowledged the operation was “not very eco-friendly” but explained that it was an “exceptional move”.

“We have no intention of doing it again. We didn’t have a choice this time,” said Pounau, adding that the operation would enable between 50 and 80 people – resort and hotel staff – to work through the holidays.

For the moment, about 40% of the ski area is open.

“We’re not going to cover the whole resort in snow,” said Pounau. “Otherwise, we would have to close a large part of the area (…) as our beginner slopes and ski schools are at their busiest during the holidays,” Pounau added.

The operation comes amid a strike by seasonal workers in ski resorts in the Alps and the Pyrenees over concerns about unemployment insurance reform.

Source: FRANCE 24 with AFP