Improving the mountains

  • What is an integrated resort ?
  • A village resort ?
  • Where did the concept of "Skis from your door" develop ?
  • When did the first tracked grooming machines appear ?
  • Does the snow maker live in a "snow cat" ?
  • And did we ski in the Alps in the middle ages ?

Here you will discover the story of the development of ski resorts in the Savoie and meet the architects and the pioneers. From the beginning of the 20th century, skiing began around the villages, thanks to the Grenoble alpinist Henri Duhamel who introduced the first pair of skis in the alps in 1878. Little by little, these villages were transformed into resorts, for example Val d’Isère or Les Allues which became known as Méribel. In the 1930s/40s, ski lifts were built, and ski technique was defined by Émile Allais. Then after 1945, at Courchevel, the first developers, Maurice Michaud, Laurent Chappis, Denys Pradelle, invented the idea of building resorts where you skied with "Skis from your door". Everything took off in the 1960 when integrated resorts were built at altitude : control of real estate, large common buildings which limit building footprints and environmental impact, integrated lift systems, separate vehicle, pedestrian and skier circulation. The alpine meadows were transformed into snow fields and became groomed runs (tracked grooming machines from 1962, which had been developed for polar expeditions and were called “snow-cats”). Ski runs converged at the centre of the resorts, known as the ski schools meeting area. New professions developed : ski patroller, or snow maker who runs the artificial snow making systems.

This was a period of great architectural innovation with the construction of the resorts, with architects such as Michel Bezançon at la Plagne, Charlotte Perriand and the Architecture Workshop for Les Arcs or Jacques Labro at Avoriaz, who created an art of living at altitude, on the slopes and in the snow.

Today, the resorts, real economic engines, have allowed the population of the mountains to remain stable, and are committed to improving the quality of life in their areas.  

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