France became the biggest destination for alpine skiing during the 2011-12 winter season, according to Domaines Skiables de France, the association that groups the ski lift operators in the country. They sold 55 million day passes for the season, or 3 percent more than in the previous season.

Similar organizations reported a 16 percent drop in the U.S. to 51 million passes and a 2 percent decline in Austria to 50 million passes. Fewer skiers were also recorded in Switzerland, Italy and Spain, probably for a variety of reasons, including the lack of snow and the poor economy in the latter two countries. For Switzerland, where the rate of decline amounted to only 0.5 percent, the strong appreciation of the national currency probably discouraged many tourists from coming over.

France had already reached the first place during the 2008-09 season, with 3 million more daily ski passes than in 2011-12. In the past autumn/winter season, the snow started to fall on the French Alps in December, just in time for the critical Christmas period. On the other hand, the French ski resorts have suffered a drop of about 50 percent in the number of children visiting them during the Easter school holidays since 2009, when the government decided to push them back later. They will start on Apr. 13 in 2013.

No precise figures could be obtained on the number of foreign tourists using the ski facilities in France. According to Domaines Skiables, between 20 and 25 percent of the ski passes are handed out to foreigners. About half of them are British. Belgian and Dutch tourists come next.