Poor snowfall in France may have given the U.S. a boost, experts say.
The U.S. edged out France to become the top country for skiing in the 2015/2016 season, local French news sources reported.
The two countries have long competed for the coveted spot, frequently alternating each year. France saw 52 million “skier days” and the U.S. recorded 53.9 million in the past season, according to statistics from French ski industry authority Domaines Skiables de France (DFS).
One “skier day” is generally considered to be a one day-pass, or each time someone paid to hit the slopes.
Lack of snow across parts of Europe was one obstacle to skiers in French mountains. The nation still remained the top ski destination in Europe, however.
“The December situation was pretty much critical to most parts of the Alps not receiving real snowfall before the first days of January in low and mid altitudes, this would include many Christmas and New Year travelers,” Ingo Lemmer, European senior managing editor for Mountain News, told Travel + Leisure by email. “I don’t see any safety issues specifically limiting visitation in French resorts,” Lemmer added.
Despite the overall dip in France, U.S. visitors to Europe may increase this ski season because of favorable exchange rates, according to one representative from Ski.com, a site that helps travelers book packaged ski trips that include flights, hotels and ski equipment rentals.
“There’s a real draw to Europe,” Dan Sherman, VP of marketing for Ski.com, told T + L. “I don’t think snow is really a factor. I think people are going to Europe for the skiing, but also for the culture, the food and the full experience,” he said.
The Alps have long been the top destination for skiers in France, with such famed spots as Chamonix, Courchevel and Val d’Isère. The French Pyrénées on the border with Spain has also grown in popularity in recent years.
“If some Alpine resorts can feel a bit like a production line of British visitors, from flights to chalets, with solid English spoken from boot hire to après-ski, this felt like a warmly welcoming, down-to-earth part of France,” read an excerpt from a 2013 Guardian report on the French Pyrénées.
Jess McHugh is a digital reporter for Travel + Leisure. You can find her on Twitter at @MchughJess.