The Skiing Industry in France

The skiing industry in France has a long history and it was the site of the first winter Olympic Games when Chamonix hosted the first event. It was a lot different from what happens today with there being no alpine skiing, but already the tradition of partaking in winter sports was already strong in the country.

Since 1924 the Olympic Games has visited the country twice, Grenoble in 1968 and Albertville in 1992. The country also held the World Championships on four occasions and each year the slopes at Val d’Isere, St Gervais, Megeve, Avoriaz, Les Gets, Les Houches, Puy St Vincent, La Mongie, Valloire, Courchevel and Morzine have been used for World Cup races.

The Brevent cable car in Chamonix

The nation has a fine reputation for producing the world’s top competitors with perhaps their most famous being Jean Claude-Killy. As well as winning two World Cup titles, he also was a triple Olympic Champion at Albertville in 1968, winning the downhill, the slalom and the giant slalom. Chamonix and its surrounding glaciers were first discovered by tow Englishmen, Pococke and Windham in 1741 and they published their stories in a number of journals around Europe. This led to a number of visitors and by the end of the 18th century the region was experiencing 1500 visitors a year.

Guest houses and hotels started to appear, and local guides were employed to help the visitors find their way around the area. With the tourist reputation in place the building of the railway through the valley in 1901 was another boost to the region’s economy. In 1906 the French Alpine Club organized a series of winter events and they took place each year.

The siting of the winter Olympics gave the region a great boost and it was followed by the building of the cable-car ‘des glaciers’ in 1924, The Planpraz cable-car in 1927 and the Brevent cable-car in 1930. The area now has far more up-to date lifts in operation but these were the ones that created one of the earliest ski resorts in Europe and the world.

Val d’Isere was not far behind Chamonix in becoming a ski resort but it struggled initially as a result of it being so isolated. Improvements at the end of the 19th century to the local roads improved communications so that a number of hotels opened.

The World Cup finish at Val d’Isere

The success of the winter Olympics in 1924 at nearby Chanonix inspired the local villages in Val d’Isere. The beauty of the village was its excellent snow record, but it meant that local farmers had to keep their livestock indoors for up to 8 months of the year. Many of the locals took the opportunity to train as ski instructors and during the 1930s the resort emerged.

There has been a huge amount of investment in the area as a result of its remoteness. Tunnels and road developments have made the region more accessible and the locating of the 1992 winter Olympic Games at Albertville once again promoted the quality of the ski at Val d’Isere. Every year the world cup race at the resort is one of the most eagerly awaited and keenly supported.

Also during the 1930s a ski lift was built in a small village called in a hamlet Le Mussillion in the Les Allues Valley. The hamlet was renamed Meribel and this was the start of skiing in the three valleys resort with the development of the Courchevel and Moriond sites also being undertaken in 1938. After the Second World War the development carried on at pace and by 1948 the ski lifts above St Bonn resulted in all three villages being interconnected. This was the formation of the “Les Trois Vallees” and the huge ski area has been developed further ever since.

There are a huge number of different resorts in France and some are even located in the Pyrenees on the French Spanish border. All are very French with the hospitality and cuisine of a high standard, but all of them are unique in their own particular way.