Dominique Roche is a bit like the snow god. The one who makes white gold fall…even if it’s not from the sky. This Tuesday, November 14, he scans his screens. He is responsible for the Isola 2000 snow factory and makes the final adjustments to the artificial snow system. “Everything is programmed in advance so that the system starts automatically when the parameters are met, he presents. We prioritize the installation according to the snow cover we want. Everything is in water, ready for operation.”
The only things missing are very low temperatures (negative or close to zero), low hygrometry (humidity) and no wind. “Under these conditions, we can produce a large amount of very good quality snow in a short time, continues the director of operations for the resort’s ski area, Jean-Christophe Desens. In a campaign of five days, we are able to snow on all slopes covered by the network of artificial snow [430 enneigeurs] and secure the five months of skiing. The smallest shooting window will be exploited. We are waiting for it. We have high hopes to open on December 3rd, we should not rely on the current landscape, it can go very quickly.
No way for someone who looks like the conductor of the ski area to give off the wrong tone. Even if only the top of the slopes is a bit white and the rain is coming that day, it is time for dynamism and optimism while the resort is in full preparation. On and around the slopes it is bubbling. In hotels, restaurants, in shops in the shopping center, professionals are waiting for the last deliveries of equipment, carrying and unpacking the boxes, preparing the last premises, setting up the tables that will receive the first customers within a few days.
Among them, Eric Martin. Dynamic president of the association of traders, he is also the head of the Utile mini-markets (Saint-Pierre and Tavels) in the resort. And this Tuesday, two days before the reopening of the larger of its two stores after major work, the excitement is palpable. “We break our heads there, we have to get everything in”bellows his smiling companion, Isabelle, who is busy in the “Bazaar” department. “We also need snowballs”comments the manager of Utile Tavels, Thibaut, in front of the department of timeless sleds.
At the entrance to the store, local producers will be in the spotlight. In the background the catering department “has been enlarged”next to “right” butchers and cheeses.
“We revisited the entire store to cut our carbon footprint in half”, reveals Eric Martin. New generation of door fridges, new lighting, insulation etc. “We no longer need to heat the shop, he says proudly, pointing to the row of refrigerators. The heat from the groups is recovered for heating. In summer, a VMC will allow ventilation.
“The increase in energy has driven this change”, he admits. And at a time when the latest EDF contracts are arriving in mailboxes, it is “convinced that the increase will be offset by the decrease in consumption” of this brand new store. “Maybe we’ll even get a small economy”he hopes, while he spends, per month between 2000 and 4500 euros depending on the season.
“Have you received your EDF contract yourself?”, asks Valérie Belpois. The manager of the Le Druos hotel is waiting for her: “Since the end of September we have been trying to find out more, but no one at EDF has been able to inform us. At the latest news, the tariff was blocked until October 2023.”
A wind of hope quickly swept away at the passage of La Poste an hour later at his hotel. “I just received the contract and it’s not good news, she lets go. That’s not what they told me. It gets very complicated.” Papers in hand, she tries to compare with her old rates. Her husband joins her: “We were at 13,766 euro cents per kilowatt hour in the middle of winter, we are going to 58,104, He travels. It’s scary, it’s not possible’. The calculation is fast.
The electricity budget for this three-star would rise from 20,000 euros to almost 80,000. “We hope to find a solution with EDF, but regardless the increase will be significant, confirms Valérie Belpois. We can’t really see what we can do, but we have to make decisions about the sauna. Should we open it or not, make it pay or not? And to worry you: “Will our customers understand the changes? We will try to raise awareness as much as possible upstream without falling into melodrama because they are not there for that.”
Upstairs, Cettina, housekeeper for 7 years, is busy preparing Druos’ 39 rooms. “You’ve checked the heat, can I turn it off?”asks his boss, who this winter more than ever prepares to regulate the heating of the hotel. “People ski for the day and let everything run. We have a system that allows us to cut from a distance.”
Energy limitations well in mind, Cettina intends to get the message across to the chambermaids who will work with her. “Turn off the lights, especially lingerie, so as not to clean the bathroom with the water on all the time, turn off the towel warmer during the day, turn down the heat in the rooms”she lists. “We have changed the boiler room and the hot water tanks which were 50 years old, we hope this will help us control the expenses, rebounds Valérie Belpoix. But it is certain that we must pay even more attention to the way we regulate the heating. We will have to find a balance between energy and financial constraints and the comfort of our customers.” Especially since she remembers, “The increase does not only concern energy, but all suppliers, supplementary health insurance, wages, etc.”
Will the increase in room rates compensate for all this? “The one we’ve already done, no, but we’re also going to think about raising prices for future bookings.she admits. There, the electricity budget will exceed 10% of turnover, as it was 5.’
Further down the mall, at Luc Morisset, owners of three ski equipment shops, the 5% increase in rental prices has already been implemented “because everything grew regardless of electricity” –, will not offset the invoice either. So here, too, it is time for the justified use of power. In the midst of setting up his shops, boxes of clothes and pairs of skis everywhere, he is busy “in the dark. We save electricity, he attacks. We are waiting for the electrician to change the lighting and switch to LED, especially for the spotlights in the windows. Before they were on until 11 p.m., now we have to interrupt earlier. We await instructions.”
Open this weekend, “especially for owners who go up to prepare their apartment”However, Luc Morisset is not too worried about the coming winter: “I’m not too worried about the turnout, but we need a good snow winter.”
An optimism that we find on the side of the traders’ president, Eric Martin: “People need a breather.”
It does: “As a business operator, you have to adapt and survive all the time.. We have already experienced covid, the last two seasons have been complicated, but the customers have still been loyal. Traders are convinced. And then we realize that the station still attracts new professionals. The premises for sale will not remain that long, which is a good sign. Property prices are not falling either. All indicators are green.”
Just like in the ski area. The last seats are installed on machines that are being serviced under the program of major ski lift inspections. The permanent employees in the piste maintenance and operations section are in the process of retraining their evacuation training to repeat the correct actions to be taken in the event of an evacuation from a chairlift.
The snow cannons are ready to go, the snow groomers are waiting to process the white gold. “There is more than making the switch”, assures Jean-Christophe Desens. Recruitment has ended “we are ready to welcome seasonal workers who will be in operation after 3 days of training or retraining”.
The only thing missing is snow falling from the sky, or the conditions to produce it.
And it is once again optimism that rules. “In Isola 2000, snow cover is guaranteed”, smiles Eric Martin. No one at the resort, despite a snow front that is still green, is questioning the announced Dec. 3 opening date. “It is important to communicate in advance of the opening date to allow social professionals to organize themselves to be ready and open at the same time as us, reminiscent of the ski area’s operations director. The aim is to offer a high-quality welcome from the first weekend.”
The start of the 3rd edition of Trail on snow in duo is also scheduled to launch the season on the opening Saturday.
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