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A territorial example of good practice : the Isère Departmental Council « Diversified development contracts »

The local context

The Isère department has 22 alpine ski resorts and 30 nordic ski resorts (some resorts offer both activities). In 2010 tourism generated 15.5 million overnight stays, 50% of which during Winter months. Despite an increase in the number of skier days, due to a large number of proximity clients, the total number of overnight stays decreased by 5% over a 12 year period, and over the same period the number of commercial accommodations decreased 15%.

The Oisans massif, with its 2 main resorts (Alpe d’Huez and Les 2 Alpes) accounts for 44% of the total overnight stays in the Isère resorts and for over 60% of ski lift revenues. With respect to the overall ski industry, mid-mountain resorts have more of a social vocation, providing accessible Winter activities to proximity clients.

Until 2003, the Isère Departmental Council had mainly focused its attention on ski areas (safety compliance for ski lifts, seeding ski-runs with grass, acquisition of ski-run preparation and safety equipment, redevelopment of mountain reception buildings).

In 2000 it had already been noted that the activities of the resorts, especially the mid-mountain ones, was affected by unpredictable snowfall conditions: despite some satisfactory seasons, on average one out of five seasons was classified as « catastrophic ».

Hence, as early as 2001, reflection undertaken jointly by elected representatives, national and regional parks representatives (ANEM), with the support of a technical study of 27 Isère locations, highlighted the following issues: 
  • aging ski lift stock,
  • insufficient artificial snow production equipment (primarily to ensure skier return journeys from the ski-runs or to ensure snow cover in family recreational areas), 
  • quality of accommodation below client expectations,  
  • lack of non-ski activities.

The General Council thus decided to break with its previous approach and focus on « diversification », intended in 3 different ways : 

  • development of  a non-ski offering, for the later hours of the day and for non-skiing visitors, 
  • creation an all-season offering, 
  • possible conversion of some sites.

Since sites can no longer expect to survive on snow alone they should receive support in becoming multi-season tourism and leisure locations.

Where instead snow-related activities create added value and economic dynamism, such activities are to be consolidated and complemented with a new recreational, cultural and sports offering to attract new clients and multi-season visitors.

This intervention is one of the components of a global mountain area policy which is not just restricted to measures that support tourism (policies for road networks, public transport, including the creation of the Trans’Altitude lines, sports, spatial planning, etc.)

Presentation of « diversified development contracts »

Diversified development contracts have been established to achieve greater efficiency in supporting mid-mountain resorts and to anticipate the consequences of global warming. Their purpose is to deliver a forward looking vision of the development of tourism in mountain areas and provide a balanced approach to initiatives for the upgrading and diversification of ski areas.

In operational terms, only the projects submitted by public authorities are eligible for financial support from the Department. Subsidies are negotiated with the signatories to the agreement and may amount up to 80% of the global objective of an operation. The funds mobilised for the same contract cannot exceed 50% of the total objective cost of all the projects receiving funding. These subsidies are granted to investment projects (research, planning) that are directly related to the development or maintenance of tourist activities, and that have a significant local economic impact. The support packages are allocated according to the alpine and nordic skiing offering and the year-round attractiveness of the resorts (commercial accommodation capacity and variety of non-ski activities) and according to specific obligations required from ski areas. 

Initially, between 2005 and 2009, at the level of clusters of resorts, development contracts mobilised 12,3 million euros in departmental allocations and provided funding for 130 activities, 61 of which outside ski areas and distributed over 16 mid-mountain clusters. This showed the importance of project engineering for such an approach and the need for prior diagnosis that is not concession-based. The implementation of a contract-based approach has enabled a number of small sites to gain access to departmental funds: previously they had been excluded from such funding owing to their lack of expertise in building up a case or in complying with required criteria. Nevertheless, despite their great potential, development contracts have pointed to the difficulty there is in finding innovative projects and engaging in public/private partnerships.

For the 2010-2014 period, the scope of activities has been extended to a massif scale (Isère has 5 massifs: Belledonne, Chartreuse, Oisans, Vercors, Sud Isère) so as to take account of the diversification potential in the areas surrounding the resorts and get intermunicipal groupings more closely involved in initiatives outside ski areas.

The contracts are based on 3 pillars :

  • a charter of objectives incorporated into a « massif project », a framework document with a definition of priorities at a massif scale.
  • yearly programming of supported activities, in compliance with the massif project guidelines,
  • project evaluation on the basis of contractual indicators contained in the action fiches.

The definition of objectives and priority activities is prepared in consultation with stakeholders belonging to two entities :

  • A technical committee comprising a technician from each of the partners (community of municipalities, organising authority, association for tourism development, national park, regional natural park, tourist office…) is tasked with drawing up a massif plan and providing for the monitoring and evaluation of supported projects,
  • A steering committee chaired by the Vice-president of the General Council in charge of tourist and mountain economies, and comprising General Councillors, Presidents of communities of municipalities, representatives from organising authorities and representatives from partner organisations.  

Sectors concerned by the Alpine convention action plan on climate change

Mitigation strategies

  • Spatial and urban planning
    • requalification of village centres (public areas), in particular in Sappey-en-Chartreuse
    • support for the reclamation of the Croix de Chamrousse site (demolition of the cable car and 2 chairlifts, replaced by a telecabine, demolition of the mountain restaurant and fitting out of a new integrated restaurant, restoration of the quality of the local landscape) : the programme started in 2009 and should be completed by the end of 2012
  • Tourism
    • funding for a study on the implementation of « soft » mobility, securing pedestrian pathways and introduction of shuttles between villages and resortso support for the rehabilitation of tourist accommodation:
    • support for the rehabilitation of leisure accommodation, mountain huts, holiday centres and reception buildings (compliance with standards, upgrading of heating systems),  these operations were completed between 2005 and 2009.
    • funding of promotion and marketing tools, in particular for non-ski, après-ski and all-season

Adaptation strategies

  • Tourism
    • support for initiatives intended to diversify Winter and all-season activities : creation of leisure parks, adventure playgrounds, education trails, a « big air-bag », ice climbing, outdoor activities and sports (new winter sports like MBX and MTB, MTB trails, roller ski trails, orienteering courses, theme routes, climbing, via ferrata, equestrian activities…), aid for diversification measures in spa resorts (in particular the creation of a fitness centre), creation of cultural facilities (cinema, museum…), and services (child care, recreational centre)
    • drawing up of massif projects for 2010-2014 : these framework documents outline activities to be developed at a massif scale (restructuring of ski areas, development of non-ski, après-ski and all-season activities….)
    • aid for capital investment projects for artificial snow equipment, conditional on the completion of environmental studies and compliance with the requirements of the « artificial snow reconciliation scheme »  currently being drafted for the Isère Department
    • rehabilitation of tourist accommodation (see mitigation strategies) 
  • Water and water resources : support for the modernisation water supply and waste water treatment systems


Isère tourisme
Pôle aménagement et développement
tel : 04 76 00 33 82
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