Travel & Places Skiing

Serre Chevalier"s Luc Alphand Piste Has Helped To Give This French Ski Resort International Status

"Since the resort took up hosting interna­tional competitions again, the name of 'Serre Chevalier' travels around the ski world and we the resort has come out of it's anonymous state.
This is shown by the regular visits of world-wide ski teams who come and do their pre-season training here"
, declares Fabien Astier, assistant marketing director of the resort.
In the build-up to the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, French, Swiss and Norwegian skiers warmed up their thigh muscles here.
"Since the early 1990's, the International Ski Federation (FIS) knows it can count on Serre Chevalier", continues Fabien Astier.
He was one of the architects behind Serre Chevalier's return to the compe­tition scene.
Serre Chevalier reared several ski champions, like Riquet, Brechu, Melquiond and Blanchard, and regularly hosted big competitions until the late 1970's.
As interest declined in slalom gates during the 1980's, competitions were no longer held in Serre Chevalier.
"In the early 1990's, Briançon and Serre Chevalier wanted to host commercial events that would upgrade their status.
The idea to once again become a big resort able to host World Cup seemed like a valid proposition to the local marketing force"
, concludes Mr Astier, who at this time was the Chantemerle ski school director.
Along with the directors of the ski club and a local committee, he was able to launch investments and get their piste approved.
These improvements included artifi­cial snow, new base work, enlarging the piste, installing security protection such as netting and padding, putting in place underground timers (there is 60 km of wiring under the slope) and creating a helicopter pad.
The resort then gained the necessary approvals from the FIS to host any World Cup event apart from men's downhill, which calls for longer pistes with a longer vertical drop.
In December 1990, Serre Chevalier hosted a European Cup women's downhill and one year later a women's downhill and a super G that were part of the World Cup circuit.
Important competitions followed one after another, until the talented local boy won the downhill crystal globe at the end of the winter of 1995.
The Olympic was then re-named the Luc Alphand to thank this skier for competing under the Serre Chevalier flag.
The legend of the piste grew and the resort hosted slalom World Cups, European Cups, French Cham­pionships.
Before each race, enough artificial snow needs to be made to ensure a smooth and hard surface for the skiers.
Departures and arrivals are made safe, gates are installed and timekeepers, press people, security staff, etc.
need to be in the right place at the right time.
"An international competition requires around 300 people, so to organise this kind of event takes a lot of technical know-how, organizational skills and one hundred percent efficiency.
The FIS approvals are renewed every five years",
explains Patrick Gelato who is now the ski club director.
Clearly, Serre Chevalier fulfills all these criteria, judging by the Luc Alphand record.
For the last fifteen years, this piste has seen the organization of the British Army Championships over a period of three weeks.
It is also here that the junior World Championships have been held, as well as many FIS races.
Each one of these events helps to boost low-season activity.
They also contribute to spreading the Serre Cheva­lier name through broadcasting of the races.
But, in the end, it is the average tourist that really benefits from this permanent high-stan­dard maintenance.

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