Most Catalan Snow resorts are open. The Font-Romeu Pyrénées 2000 resort even shows 11% better than in 2022, which was the record year in terms of attendance. Know-how on the work and the maintenance of snow and investments are the ingredients of a Catalan recipe.
There is very little snow in the mountains, that’s undeniable. However, “white gold” covers the slopes of the Catalan Snow resorts. For this reason, they do not extend the list of temporarily closed ski areas in the Pyrenees. How did the local stations manage to do well? You have to rewind the movie to understand.
Already in 1976, snow cannons, the famous hydrants were installed in Pyrénées 2000. A revolution for the time. “TEverybody thought we were crazy when 1000 stations in North America had them. So we brought guns from Canada, compressors from the United States and piping from France and we assembled everything on site. With the resort of Flaine in Haute-Savoie, we were the only two ski areas in France to have guns !” said Bernard Durban.
Read also :
Absence of natural snow in the ski resorts of the Pyrenees: environmentalists warn and urge to “get out of denial”
We manage to maintain the snowpack
Nearly 50 years ago, the Catalan snow resorts anticipated to better consolidate a mountain economy based on skiing. Jacques Alvarez, director of the Font-Romeu Pyrénées 2000 resort, explains how, this Wednesday, January 4, 29 tracks are open. “We are there thanks to the grooming, our know-how to work and maintain the snow. We have invested in modeling tools. All our snow groomers are equipped with precise centimeter-accurate snow depth measurements to manage stocks and move them to where they are needed. We manage to maintain the snowpack wherever we are open.”
How do snow cannons work?
At the rear of the snow groomer, the tiller works the snow cover in depth to let in cold air, which guarantees the longevity of the snow. Behind the strawberry, the finisher creates a ripple cooling the snow in turn. “This know-how in the Catalan Snows, we acquired it a long time ago and refined it. We know how little natural snowfall there is.” And when the snow runs out or to reinforce the existing one, the snow guns take over. “We have 510 of which 30 operate at positive temperatures, at 4°. The water used comes from the Bouillouses dam. Our maximum need and it is not said that we use it completely, is 2.7% or 500,000 m3 out of 18 million m3.” Then, 60% of the water is returned in runoff to the watersheds, Têt and Sègre.
Skiing will remain the engine of the local economy
And skiing, is it over? “If a private company like Altiservice invests €30m, it’s not for nothing. We have commissioned a ClimSnow* study which guarantees that for the next 35 years, we will continue to ski in Font-Romeu Pyrénées 2000. We have clearly integrated the need for diversification to which 3M€ will be devoted, but without retraining because skiing will remain the driving force of the local economy.”