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Seizing Opportunities from One’s Vulnerabilities? The Territorial Trajectory of a Mid-Mountain Resort, Céüze 2000

Anouk Bonnemains et Cécilia Claeys
Cet article est une traduction de :
Saisir les opportunités de ses vulnérabilités ? Trajectoire territoriale d’une station de moyenne montagne, Céüze 2000 [fr]


Cet article propose une analyse de la trajectoire territoriale de Céüze 2000, doyenne des stations de Ski des Hautes-Alpes, visant à fournir des éléments de réponse à la question suivante : dans quelle mesure les vulnérabilités socioéconomiques d’hier, aggravées par les changements climatiques d’aujourd’hui, font-elles de Céüze 2000 un territoire propice à devenir un laboratoire de la transition ? A partir de données d’archives et d’enquêtes de terrain qualitatives et quantitatives, ainsi que d’une frise chrono-systémique, l’article souligne qu’à Céüze 2000 les retards aménagistes d’hier pourraient être les atouts d’adaptation climatique d’aujourd’hui. Restée en marge des grands plans d’aménagement et des montées en gamme touristique, Céüze 2000 est demeurée une station sociale et de proximité. L’arrêt de ses remontées mécaniques n’en a pas fait une station fantôme mais au contraire un lieu de réappropriation par des formes de slow sports. L’enjeu de ces prochaines années sera la valorisation de ces usages spontanés, conditionnée à la capacité des acteurs locaux à porter un projet territorial coordonné.

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1Since the 1980s, the increase in snow anomalies has precipitated the shutting down of ski lifts in an increasing number of resorts, particularly in small mid-altitude ski resorts (Gauchon, 1997; Grec-Sud, 2018; Métral, 2021). Alongside these climate vulnerabilities lay the socio-economic vulnerabilities of a territorial development model that seems to be running out of steam (Bourdeau, 2018; Bonnemains et al. 2019). Nourished by media dramaturgy, the “ghost stations” expression is now commonly used to refer to resorts that have ceased ski activities1. The small resort of Céüze 2000, whose ski lifts have been inactive since 2018, has not escaped this type of media coverage at both local and national level2.

2This article traces the classical and atypical trajectory of this ski resort which is the oldest in the Hautes-Alpes. Its singularity perfectly reflects the issues fuelling current debates on the transition of mountain territories. Our study revolves around the following question: to what extent do yesterday’s socio-economic vulnerabilities, compounded by climate changes today, make Céüze 2000 a territory capable of serving as a laboratory for transition?

3Alpine winter sports stations were created in response to the planning injunctions of the 20th century (Wozniak, 2006). Over the past 30 years, modernist convictions have given way to hesitant controversies that are now part of the debate in the field of transition. The omnipresent concept of transition has given rise to contradictory concepts and ideological tensions (Oudot and de L’Estoile, 2020).

4This article draws on the definition of transition, proposed by Theys et al. (2018), i.e., transition as an “in-between” time, a period of instability and trial and error between two phases of stability. From this perspective, the history of mountain development may be interpreted as a series of transitions. In the case of the Céüze 2000 station, conflicts have been decisive in shaping territorial trajectories.

5There is a raging debate about the transition of mountain tourism, notably winter sports resorts (Vlès, 2021; Tuppen et al., 2020; Steiger, 2019). This debate opposes two extreme viewpoints, i.e., “all-skiing” and “after-skiing”, or even “after-tourism” (Bourdeau, 2018). Today’s debates focus primarily on:

  1. Climate change skepticism versus climate emergency (Vlès, 2021; Bonnemains, 2018; Clivaz et al., 2015);

  2. The viability of economic models (Bourdeau, 2018; Fablet, 2013; Achin, 2015);

  3. The capacity for political and socio-economic actors to make a successful transition (Vlès, 2021);

  4. Changes in user practices, ranging between hyper-modernity and “slow sports” (Corneloup, 2020; Lebreton et al., 2020).

6The very definition of tourism is now being re-examined, especially in light of the recent health crisis. This calls for the “reinvention of tourism” (Bessy, 2021, p. 1), starting with the “part of the world at one’s very own doorstep” (Bourdeau, 2020, p. 16) and “re-enchanting local relational ecology with nature” (Corneloup, 2020, p. 5).

7The debates concerning the Céüze 2000 resort revolve around these issues, and we will attempt to highlight both the common features of this Alpine arc and also its singularities. This article will contribute to available research by comparing the management approach to a ski resort with the changes in its frequentation patterns in order to break away from the concept of ghost ski resorts and to understand the emergence of new practices from the bottom up.

Field, Materials, and Methods

8The Céüse mountain lies in close proximity to four towns (fig. 1). Located in the town of Manteyer, the Céüze 2000 station is a 25-minute drive from the city of Gap, where the prefecture of the Hautes-Alpes department is located. Historically thought of as a winter sports tourist resort, Céüze 2000 more closely resembles a peri-urban snow stadium in terms of its topography, its socio-economic characteristics, and its visitors (Gauchon, 1997).

  • 3 The spelling “Céüse” refers to the mountain range, and “Céüze” to the ski resort.
  • 4 Dauphiné libéré, March 5, 1962, “Mr Robert Lecourt, former minister, officially inaugurated the Sap (...)
  • 5 Dauphiné libéré, November 30, 1962, “A Marseille story, GAP-Céüze remains the family resort par exc (...)

9As with many other Alpine ski sites, the Céüze 2000 resort3 was initiated by a ski federation. These initiatives were regional, led by the Provençal Ski Federation which signed, in 1933, an emphyteutic lease with the town of Manteyer to build a resort. In the wake of the Second World War, the State, departments, and cities supported social tourism, primarily through the creation of ski clubs and the development of snow classes that helped to spread the practice of skiing (Balseinte, 1958). In this respect, Céüze 2000 embodied the “prototype of school ski resorts4” whose development was acknowledged and encouraged by the local authorities5.

10As with many other resorts, the cost of installing ski lifts required the cooperation of different local authorities (Clarimont et al., 2009). In Céüze 2000, a Single Vocation Intercommunal Syndicate (SIVU) was created in 1951, associating the town of Manteyer and the city of Gap, with the town of La Roche-des-Arnaud joining in 1986.

11The resort now counts eight ski lifts, ranging from 1550 meters to 2060 meters in altitude. No artificial snow network has been developed and the site has never gone beyond the capacity of 500 tourist beds. Today, apart from one or two places offering accommodation, the only other building that still accepts visitors is located in the summer camp in the town of Noisy-le-Sec (93).

Figure 1: Map showing the location of the Céüze 2000 ski station within the SCOT perimeter of the Gap area

Figure 1: Map showing the location of the Céüze 2000 ski station within the SCOT perimeter of the Gap area

Source: Anouk Bonnemains.

12Our data comprises documentary sources (1932–2021) from departmental archives and reports from local authorities and media sources (fig. 2), as well as qualitative and quantitative data. These data made possible the construction of a chrono-systemic timeline (Spiegelberger et al., 2018).

Figure 2: The body of data


Reports: town councils (Manteyer + Sigoyer) and the communauté de communes (regrouping of towns with jurisdiction on certain matters) of Büech-Devoluy


- SIVU minutes

Public inquiries during processes of public interest

Administrative letters between the departments of the Hautes-Alpes and actors in the Céüze station

Studies and prospective analyses

Press reviews and multimedia documents


1 + Long-term lease


































Total number of documents analysed







  • 6 Some of the interviews and a section of the online survey were carried out in collaboration with Ma (...)

13We used direct observations (since 2018), interviews with users, and institutional, economic, and local actors (N=26), and we distributed online questionnaires in 2019 and 2020 (N=832)6. Despite distributing the questionnaire at the national level, the sample was primarily composed of local visitors and residents (three quarters resided in the Hautes-Alpes region and 70% in one of the two communautés de communes in which the Céüse Mountain is located). There were slightly more men than women (52.6% of the sample compared with 48% for the entire French population). All age groups were represented, with the majority aged between 30 and 59 (63.4% of respondents) and a smaller representation of people aged 60 and above (22.7% of the sample, compared with 31% of the French population). Executives were overrepresented (35.6% of the sample, 15% in the Southern region, 16.20% in France). It has been suggested that the over-representation of people under 60 may be explained by the social and demographic inequalities in access to digital tools and outdoor sports (Hoibian et al., 2019; Legleye and Roland, 2019).


Are Yesterday’s Development Delays Assets in Today’s Changing Climate?

14Simonet (2020) identifies three main forms of adaptation to climate change: “autonomous adaptation”, which refers to ad hoc adaptation without planning; “adjustment adaptation”, which focuses on maintaining the territorial model in place; and “transformational adaptation”, explicitly aimed at modifying the very nature of the model. Like tourist destinations in other territories (urban, coastal, rural), winter sports resorts have followed different paths, choosing to maintain, or shift away from, certain activities (Duhamel et al., 2011).

15Large and very large ski resorts have tended to opt for “adjustment adaptation”, primarily by introducing artificial snow (Scott et al., 2006); in France, the artificial snow cover rate stood at 35% in 2018 (Bonnemains et al., 2019; Berard-Chenu et al., 2021). These strategies have been largely supported by the local authorities as well as by the Southern Region’s Mountain plan (2021–2027).

16In contrast, several small low-altitude resorts, for which artificial snow is neither technically viable nor economically accessible, have opted for “transformational adaptation” and thus for a shift towards other forms of tourism; a few examples include Montagne de Lure and Mont Aigoual (Bonnet et al., 2021).

17Céüze 2000, however, has adopted a “hesitant adaptation”, oscillating between the desire to maintain its actual model and the search for alternatives. From 2001 to 2019, snow anomalies led to the non-opening of the ski station and to a reduction in operations, with several seasons remaining open for less than 20 days. An artificial snow project was launched in 2006, but the mayors of the towns of Manteyer, on the one hand, and Sigoyer and Pelleautier on the other, disagreed over the impact of artificial snow production on water resources. After several years of judicial proceedings, the Marseille Administrative Court dismissed the application by the towns of Sigoyer and Pelleautier. But the project, although it did not see the light of day, was not completely abandoned. Technology as a solution in adapting to climate change prevailed among certain individuals. Indeed, in its 2019 call for a public service delegation contract, the Buëch Devoluy Communauté de Communes included “an artificial snow program […] planned no later than the 2020 financial year”. However, as early as 1993, the resort’s diagnostic report noted an “imbalance between charges that are too high and revenues that are too low, creating structural difficulties, worsened by cyclical difficulties when there is insufficient snow cover”.

  • 7 Dauphiné libéré, January 30, 1962, “Céüze, the soaring station... which is breaking all records. 40 (...)
  • 8 Ibid.

18The trajectory of Céüze 2000 highlights the extent to which the Alpine ski resort model is based on heavy industry, requiring a strong capacity for investment and upgrading (Bonnemains, 2015). Quite early on, drawing on measures of dispersion, Balseinte (1958) showed that ski resorts would need clientele with high purchasing power if they were to be economically profitable. In Céüze 2000, despite mention in the local press in 19627 of the presence of famous musicians (Y. Giraud and M. Herand), politicians (M. Monteil), officials from various national bodies (J. Pierron) and executives from large companies (M. Maisonneuve), attendance was sustained8 but remained local and social. As a result, Céüze 2000 was financially unable to develop and modernise its ski lifts, or even to take charge of the 30-year regulatory inspections by the STRMTG, i.e., the Technical Service for Ski Lifts and Guided Transport.

19In 2017, the Buëch-Dévoluy Communauté de communes (CCBD) won a contract providing for the 30-year revision of certain ski lifts and the installation of artificial snow equipment. However, neither of these two projects was implemented. Today, the relevance of using artificial snow at Céüze 2000 is no longer on the CCDB’s agenda. During our questionnaire survey, 73% of the users interviewed considered that, in the face of climate change, installing snow cannons in Céüze 2000 was no longer an appropriate solution.

20Tourist accommodation is the other economic pillar of the winter sports resort model (Fablet, 2013). However, in Céüze 2000, the few projects that have emerged over time have been hampered by conflicts of interest at the local level. Today, there is only one hotel which is closed and unable to find a buyer. One building appears to be abandoned, and others, with their closed shutters, appear to be following in the same direction.

21Céüze 2000 is thus devoid of the heavy technical and real estate improvements that make for the economic success of a winter sports resort. Given the climate changes which are calling into question the sustainability of the modernist ski resort model, could such developmental delays promote “transformational adaptation”? Can yesterday’s development delays become opportunities in today’s changing climate?

Deciding upon the Transition: The Complex Political Backing of a Divided Region

22In France, ski resorts are primarily managed in three different ways (Marcelpoil et al., 2006):

  1. Direct management by the local authority responsible for management,

  2. Parastatal management through a mixed economy system and

  3. Private management via a Public Service Delegation (DSP).

23In all three cases, the implementation of a long-term tourism strategy requires coordinated governance based on a public/private partnership.

24Since its creation, Céüze 2000’s management has alternated between private and public governance which has been unable to produce a comprehensive development plan for the resort. The reconstruction of the trajectory of the Céüze 2000 station from 1932 to 2021 highlights four major trajectory changes (fig. 3). The first, in 1951, was the shift from private initiatives (chalet, handcrafted ski lifts, hotel) to economic support by local authorities for the development of the site. This was the period when ski lifts were installed and social and tourist accommodation constructed.

  • 9 “The residents of Manteyer never knew that they had a tourist site with potential in this perched v (...)

25The second trajectory change occurred in 1970 and involved the emergence of conflicts that would block tourism developments and create a deadlock in the development of the resort. Conflicts pitted tourism development actors against a farmer in Manteyer, who owned a third of the land across which the ski resort passed. These tensions made it difficult for the Céüse mountain to emerge as multi-functional9. In addition, internal conflicts between tourism actors were common, with the resort’s hotel operator opposing any development project that could lead to the loss of his virtual monopoly. Projects such as a 25-hectare housing estate, a road extension, or the construction of a chairlift would never see the light of day. After 10 years of conflicts and a public interest investigation, two additional ski lifts were built in 1986.

  • 10 I thought that this situation was not a situation of the future, was not a clear situation and tha (...)

26In 1995, the third trajectory change involved rupture, with the withdrawal of the town of Gap from the SIVU10. The station would never recover financially from this split. The disengagement of Gap also led to a territorial divide, exacerbated by the creation and restructuring of the communautés de communes which split the Céüse mountain range into two entities that were reluctant to engage in dialogue. The 1995–2015 decades were particularly unstable, oscillating between management by the SIVU and private management (fig. 3). In 2015, the SIVU was dissolved on the orders of the prefecture. The fourth trajectory change occurred when management of the resort was taken over by the Deux Buëch Communauté de Communes, which would later become the Buech-Devoluy Communauté de Communes in 2017.

Figure 3: Chrono-systemic timeline of the Céüze 2000 station

Figure 3: Chrono-systemic timeline of the Céüze 2000 station

Source: A. Bonnemains.

27In 2015, the CCBD was thus entrusted with a disconcerting legacy. Despite studies undertaken in 2001—and then in 2009 and 2013—concerning future scenarios for the resort, the local authorities were still struggling to strike a balance between reinforcing the winter tourism model, diversifying activities, and changing the economic model. The CCBD initially opted for maintaining the winter model. In 2019, it began looking for a buyer under a public service delegation contract. No more than one proposal was made and the negotiations would later fail. Consequently, the CCBD announced that the resort would be ceasing all activities.

28Céüze 2000 was a key issue in the 2020 local elections which saw the replacement of the elected local and community representatives of the CCBD. The new municipal team of Manteyer stood out by its proactive approach to the issue, initiating a working group which the CCBD would later join. However, the initial enthusiasm (plans for the Rossignol ski resort, dogsled rides, the dismantling or reopening of ski lifts, etc.) quickly gave way to new hesitations that hindered decision-making, and the situation was made worse by the Covid-19 lockdowns.

Associative Alternatives: From Dissent to Consultation

29Local associative dynamics relating to the future of Céüze 2000 emerged as early as 2007. These were aligned with the trend of contemporary changes in citizen mobilisation (Lascoumes, 2012). They ranged from contestation to the making of proposals but primarily consisted of environmental and alternative claims which ranged from defending the Alpine ski resort model to formulating “transformational adaptation” projects in favour of après-ski (when the snow stops). The mobilisations relating to Céüse were thus part of the classical pattern of an associative world trying to make up for the difficult institutional backing of territorial projects (Chopart et al. 2001). In Céüse, however, these activist trajectories were neither linear nor stable.

30In 2007, the “Céüze passion” association was created by staff from the ski resort, who were later joined by the site’s users. They initiated a petition that collected 1,600 signatures in favour of maintaining Alpine skiing. From 2010, the association added entertainment activities to its mission of protecting the resort: carnival, garage sale, Christmas market, and the Céüze Derby. When the ski lifts were stopped, the association oscillated between its initial objective of saving the resort and the beginning of a trajectory change towards the après-ski. “We are told that Céüse is 30 years late. I think that we shouldn’t try to make up for this delay but should look to the future by seeking an innovative idea,” a representative of the association told us in 2019. He spoke, in passing, of hiking trails, mountain biking, adventurous tree climbing, snowshoe hiking trails, and horse riding tracks.

  • 11 In psychology, the concept of loyalty conflict has primarily been used in analysis of intrafamilial (...)

31The association’s remaining key players were left either angry or discouraged, even though their attempts to communicate and maintain certain activities after the ski lifts were stopped made them, almost against their will, actors in a transition to the après-ski. An analysis of the content of the association’s Facebook page reveals this hesitancy and also the loyalty conflicts11 between the initial objective of making the resort sustainable, and the promotion of the Céüse Mountain, which fell within the après-ski diversification attempts (local products, sports activities that do not require ski lifts, etc.). In September 2021, the association announced its dissolution, concluding that: “Today other people are proposing other paths for Céüze, we do not share this vision of the resort, good luck to them.” On the same page it was noted: “this page will remain active by choice to try and centralise and share all the information on the Céüze massif”. The formalisation of the dissolution of the association may be interpreted as the need to give the resort’s former employees and users a chance to let go of their initial demands. Keeping the page active revealed a desire to remain involved, perhaps not in the “station”, but in the “massif”.

  • 12 This is exemplified by the comment by Claude Mézenc during the public interest investigation in 197 (...)

32The phrase “other people [who] are proposing other paths for Céüze” refers in particular to the young association “Idées De Demain” (IDD), which took up the issue from 2019. Created in 2015, IDD first initiated the “Alps Organic” exhibition in Gap. On the initiative of two of its members, the association established itself as a force in favour of the “reconversion of the Céüze ski resort and the creation of a ‘nature park’” (IDD working document, 2019). Environmental concerns were visible from as early as the first controversies around the development of Céüze 200012. The IDD project took a step forward by defending an explicit logic of “transition” which viewed the non-opening of ski lifts as an opportunity to exploit in moving closer to après-ski.

33IDD embraced the characteristics of the environmental association (Lascoumes, 2012). Among its initiators were university graduates from outside the region, with previous experience in associations, and thus with the necessary skills in terms of preparing funding applications, organising consultation meetings, and mobilising activist and university networks. In 2021, IDD initiated several discussion sessions looking at testimonies from actors from other regions, analyses by academics, and thematic workshops aimed at collecting and discussing participants’ expectations and proposals regarding the future of Céüse. These initiatives came up against the obstacles that such consultations commonly encounter: a limited number of participants, an over-representation of people committed to the environmental cause, and relative social homogeneity (Pellizzoni, 2012). Initially, those defending the reopening of the Céüze 2000 ski lifts ignored the consultations, and then participated on an ad hoc basis.

34Despite the Covid-19 health context, IDD succeeded in creating an orientation trail in the ski resort. This trail has received few visits, but its inauguration in May 2021 was nevertheless symbolic. Indeed, representatives of the two communautés de communes of the mountain region were reunited and shared the same discourse on the need to think of a “year-round” development across the entire Céüse massif by overcoming administrative divisions and political differences.

The Role of Practitioners: A Transition From the Bottom Up

35At the national level, the rise in tourism options and the decline of skiing as a social activity has tended to deter individuals with average or modest incomes (Hoibian et al., 2019). In addition, the clientele of ski resorts are now seeking diversified recreational stays, on, off, and at the foot of mountain slopes, stays that oscillate between “hypermodernity” (e.g., connected snowparks) and “postmodernity” (e.g., contemplative hikes) (Courneloup, 2020). Céüze 2000, however, has maintained the social side of skiing, thanks to the sustainability of at least one of its summer camps as well as its peri-urban location. Unlike many other stations, this resort has not invested in “hypermodern” equipment.

36However, given the spontaneous uses of the site, can “being late” mean that Céüze 2000 is actually “early” in today’s context? Indeed, despite the non-operation of its ski lifts since 2018, the resort has not been deserted. Instead of the ghostly void announced by the media, Céüze 2000 is the scene of a peaceful procession with a rich variety of recreational users who have more or less embraced postmodern “slow sports” (Lebreton et al., 2020). All year round, the resort’s parking lot is crowded. A total of 85% of users interviewed said that they visited Céüse all year-round, with sunny days preferred. Céüse also acts as a refuge in cases of uncertain weather and/or when the avalanche risk is high. Visitors arrive from dawn to dusk. Some visitors even practise nocturnal activities such as skiing with a headlamp, bivouacking, or wildlife observation.

37Hiking was the activity practised most frequently (68% of respondents). In periods of snowfall, snowshoers (41%) and cross-country skiers of all levels (35%) took over the entire Céüse plateau (fig.4). At the foot of the old slopes, young children and teenagers engaged in hilarious sledding sessions, and a few daring people hurtled down the slopes of the Pic de Céüse to the resort (25.4%). Higher up, snowkites pulled their skiers to the top of the slopes (1.7%).

38The field observations thus show that there are many visitors to the site. This is not only in spite of the ski lifts no longer operating, but actually because of it (photo 1). The ski area and, more generally, the entire Céüse plateau, were occupied mainly by skiers who did not require ski lifts and who were able to adapt to snow anomalies. Consciously or unconsciously, or perhaps in spite of themselves, these users visited the resort in ways that anticipated its possible transition to the après-ski.

Photo no 1: Céüze 2000

Photo no 1: Céüze 2000

Ski hikers at the ski resort despite, or perhaps thanks to, the ski lifts no longer being in operation, Saturday 11 January 2020.

39Some visitors saw the stopping of ski lifts as a godsend, allowing them to reclaim the resort and to dream of dismantling the lifts. A total of 54.3% said that they were favourable, or very favourable, to the idea of dismantling the Céüze 2000 ski lifts. They supported the spontaneous or structured development of recreational activities adapted to climate change and respectful of the natural environment. Others dreamed of a complete restoration of the resort’s natural elements.

40Other respondents, however, hoped that the ski lifts would be reactivated. A total of 45.7% who said that they were not quite in favour of, nor were opposed to, the dismantling the Céüze 2000 ski lifts were mainly former users of the winter sports resort. While they now practised cross-country skiing or snowshoeing at the resort, they missed the not-too-distant days of the ski lifts. “I liked that it was a small family-friendly resort. I loved its runs and its landscape. […] I regret that it closed its doors” (visitor interviewed on site, 2019). Such nostalgia was more frequently expressed by the inhabitants of the mountain towns of Céüse. They had a particularly strong attachment to the resort, an attachment tied not only to their identity, but also to economic reasons as the resort had provided jobs that several of them had occupied in the past. While the dismantling of the ski lifts remained a source of conflict, the majority of users interviewed agreed that it was necessary to develop new leisure activities on the site (84%), including winter activities that did not require ski lifts (79%).

41In short, most of the visitors interviewed had already adopted modes of visitation in line with the après-ski. For some of them, these modes of visitation were aligned with their aspirations for the recreational transition of Céüse, while others’ discourse revealed the gap between the way they now used the site and their desire to maintain the Alpine ski resort model.

Figure 4: Questionnaires distributed among recreational users in the Céüse mountains

Figure 4: Questionnaires distributed among recreational users in the Céüse mountains

42Period distributed: January 2020. Number of usable responses: 832.


43The territorial trajectory of Céüze 2000 is both classical and unique. It is characteristic of small mid-mountain resorts that encounter land, management, economic, and environmental challenges (Métral, 2021). In Céüze 2000, however, the two inseparable pillars of winter sports resorts, namely the extension of the ski area and holiday accommodation (Marcelpoil et al., 2016), have never been combined. Céüze 2000 has therefore remained outside the competition between different winter sports resorts that began in the 1970s. This is what marks its singularity. It has remained a social, educational, local, peri-urban resort. It is a “part of the world at one’s very own doorstep” (Bourdeau 2020) and what Corneloup (2020) refers to as the “around the corner” ahead of its time.

44The fact that its ski lifts were no longer in operation has not transformed Céüze 2000 into a ghost resort. On the contrary, its slopes are now visited by numerous users who practise “slow sports”. Fuelled by political opposition, cultural differences, nostalgia, and resentment, the ongoing conflict concerning the possible dismantling of ski lifts overshadows the existence of a common desire of many of the protagonists and visitors encountered during our study, i.e., that Céüse remains a recreational space offering everyone a natural environment that is both accessible and remarkable.

45While elected officials are busy hesitating, associations are consulting, and experts are prescribing, the resort’s users are inventing new forms of recreation transitions. Residential and professional micro-initiatives are also emerging and taking up the abandoned premises of the small station of Céüze 2000. These initial signs highlight the possibilities for the development or even for the planning of this territory. Instead of a laboratory delivered to the new operators of the transition, Céüse appears to be timidly moving towards “a transition from the bottom up”, meaning one driven by local users and citizen initiatives (Hourcade and Van Neste, 2019). Are they about to transform inherited vulnerabilities into opportunities for this unique territory?

46Citizen initiatives in mountain territories are on the increase today (Landel et al., 2018). They are challenging the industrial model of the winter resort and opposing development projects aimed at strengthening this model (petitions against the ski lift projects in La Grave, Saint-Véran, and the Alpes d’Hue-les-2 Alpes, and against the catchment reservoirs in La Clusaz). They are also taking on territorial projects, such as the rehabilitation and repopulation of the village of Ostana in the Upper Po Valley, or more recently, the resumption of the Err-Puigmal station in the Pyrenees. Naturally, the question of the economic viability of these alternatives will quickly arise, meaning that their progress should be followed.

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1 As the creator of the website “ghost stations” (, retrieved March 23, 2023) indicates, this term was initially coined in relation to the metro stations between East and West Berlin that were closed during the Cold War.

2 Le Journal du Dimanche, December 29, 2019;, January 9, 2020; C-Politique, France 5, February 14, 2021.

3 The spelling “Céüse” refers to the mountain range, and “Céüze” to the ski resort.

4 Dauphiné libéré, March 5, 1962, “Mr Robert Lecourt, former minister, officially inaugurated the Sapie ski lift.”

5 Dauphiné libéré, November 30, 1962, “A Marseille story, GAP-Céüze remains the family resort par excellence in the Gap region”, last paragraph: “Céüze, as it now stands among these stations, is a solid link in a chain of satellite stations designed to develop tourism and skiing among the working class”.

6 Some of the interviews and a section of the online survey were carried out in collaboration with Master’s students enrolled in the GDTM programme at the Gap University Centre as part of the ETITMONT educational project funded by the Aix-Marseille University Education Innovation Fund (Claeys [eds.], 2020).

7 Dauphiné libéré, January 30, 1962, “Céüze, the soaring station... which is breaking all records. 404 cars and 16 coaches last Sunday.”

8 Ibid.

9 “The residents of Manteyer never knew that they had a tourist site with potential in this perched valley. Its location at a distance from the main villages and the fact that residents are primarily farmers explain the local population’s lack of interest in the resort,” according to a colleague of the planning professionals, reporting his regrets during the public inquiry concerning the extension of the station.

10 I thought that this situation was not a situation of the future, was not a clear situation and that we would keep on procrastinating and never succeed in making Céüze a real station, the Mayor of Gap would declare on this occasion (

11 In psychology, the concept of loyalty conflict has primarily been used in analysis of intrafamilial conflicts, referring in particular to the impossibility for children to choose between their loyalties to both parents (Douieb, 2020). This article uses it in a similar manner.

12 This is exemplified by the comment by Claude Mézenc during the public interest investigation in 1979 (4th observation, 3rd sheet): “At a time when the quality of life and respect for natural resources should be taken into account, could we not consider a path outside the forest?”

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: Map showing the location of the Céüze 2000 ski station within the SCOT perimeter of the Gap area
Crédits Source: Anouk Bonnemains.
Fichier image/jpeg, 785k
Titre Figure 3: Chrono-systemic timeline of the Céüze 2000 station
Crédits Source: A. Bonnemains.
Fichier image/jpeg, 1004k
Titre Photo no 1: Céüze 2000
Crédits Ski hikers at the ski resort despite, or perhaps thanks to, the ski lifts no longer being in operation, Saturday 11 January 2020.
Fichier image/jpeg, 111k
Titre Figure 4: Questionnaires distributed among recreational users in the Céüse mountains
Fichier image/jpeg, 180k
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Référence électronique

Anouk Bonnemains et Cécilia Claeys, « Seizing Opportunities from One’s Vulnerabilities? The Territorial Trajectory of a Mid-Mountain Resort, Céüze 2000 »Journal of Alpine Research | Revue de géographie alpine [En ligne], 111-1 | 2023, mis en ligne le 31 mars 2023, consulté le 25 septembre 2023. URL : ; DOI :

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Anouk Bonnemains

Geographer, University of Lausanne/IGD 

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Cécilia Claeys

Sociologist, University of Perpignan/CRESEM

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