Grenoble, France - The United States overtook France to become the world's top destination during the northern hemisphere winter ski season, thanks to a spate of bad weather, a French ski body has said.
Over the winter, France suffered a three percent fall in visitors, compared with a year earlier, putting it in second place behind the United States, while Austria took third place.
“We remain top in Europe,” insisted Laurent Reynaud of Domaines Skiables de France (DSF), a professional body which groups 238 ski lift operators across the country.
For several years, France and the United States have been vying for the top spot which has been determined by levels of snowfall in the two countries.
Since the winter of 2008-2009, France has taken the top spot four times.
But during the winter season, its ranking slipped as a result of “a very difficult start (to the season) due to a lack of snow at low and medium altitudes, followed by changeable weather which disrupted operating conditions,” DSF said.
At the same time, visitor numbers jumped on the US West coast when compared with the previous winter when conditions had been very dry.
In France, tourist numbers have fallen across the board in recent months, notably in the wake of a wave of deadly Islamist attacks. Official figures show that in the first six months of 2016, the number of tourists visiting France fell by seven percent.