Banque Populaire Auvergne Rhône Alpes

The Snow Plan (Le plan Neige)

Thursday 13 February 2014

A plan that was implemented “almost” without a hitch

The “Innovations” saga is coming to an end. Montagne Leaders is about to wrap up this series launched at SAM 2012, which has allowed you to vote for the most significant innovations in the mountain world. The series is coming to an end, but a reality has become evident: the mountain is ripe ground for innovations. And, as we wind up this discussion, it would be unthinkable not to talk about the Snow Plan, without which today’s mountain world would be very different, and not as important as it is today in economic terms. France, which has been the world’s top snow destination for the last two years, owes this honour to some long-term efforts made before, but especially after, World War II.

ski vintage

In 1948, France was recovering from the war. Winter sports were gradually starting to get their breath back, after having abruptly disappeared. The country was being rebuilt, and new ski resorts were mushrooming everywhere. The French population was getting accustomed to spending one week per year on the ski slopes. It was the famous golden age of skiing. Let’s take a look at that period: World War II had interrupted all projects, but the Department of Savoy, supported by the French State, decided in 1945 to develop Courchevel. This was to be the beginning of an adventure in winter sports. Gradually, France gave winter-sports development the status of a national cause, in answer to the rising demand on the part of the French people.

Courchevel plan neige

Courchevel was the prototype of a ski resort built on virgin ground. Thus was created the concept of French-style ski resort development, and the Snow Plan was about to see the light. The plan was conceived in 1964, and it adopted the concepts of very functional high-altitude resorts focused on skiing, and of high-rise resort development. The State threw its weight behind the projects: regulatory measures were adopted to drive out long-time residents, and financing was made available at low interest rates. Bold developers come onto the scene, such as Godino, Schnebelen, and many others.


A crazy gamble

Without any debate, without any market studies, and armed only with the conviction of having the most beautiful ski zones in Europe and the certainty that a winter sports boom was approaching, the Snow Plan was launched in 1964. But what exactly was the Snow Plan? It was a set of policies introduced by the French State in 1964, which were rescinded after Giscard d’Estaing’s speech of Vallouise in 1977.
These policies were aimed at developing the mountains, in all of France’s massifs. It involved organising mass tourism and attracting many foreign visitors. It was in that context that the third-generation resorts were created, i.e. integrated resorts according to the model of Courchevel.

So, in the early 1960’s, the Snow Plan imposed the concept of an integrated resort conceived as a prototype of urban development calibrated by the importance of the ski zone in question. The strategy was based on collaboration between a promoter, a sole construction contractor, a local municipality which granted exclusivity in terms of development privileges, and the State services which animated and controlled the project. The promoter/ developer assured the execution of the project: land rights, equipping, exploitation of the ski resort, construction of all infrastructure, buildings, stores, hotels, basic services and other facilities, management, and advertising, hospitality management on the part of all operators, etc. The “urban plan” was highly rational, concentrating all buildings and structures around the foot of the slopes, and proposing the concept of a resort without cars.

There was a clear primacy of the apartment building, whose dimensions depended on market demand. The role of the developer/promoter consisted of ensuring the integrated activity of the design teams, which included architects and urban planners, mountain residents and skiers, facilitators and operators. The integrated resorts were places for experimenting, for research, and for innovation. The designers created true high-altitude cities with thousands of beds in each. These were long-term projects (sometimes decades-long), and the creators had to repeatedly incorporate new constraints associated with the evolution of the project’s commercial and financial aspects.
With the invention of the ski resort, mankind crossed one of the last remaining physical frontiers: living at high altitude, year-round.


The end of the golden era

Val Thorens années 70From 1971 to 1975, the State intensified its efforts. It had promoted the development of 23 resorts, and now it undertook twenty others, including Isola 2000, la Plagne, les Ménuires, Val Thorens, Valmorel, and Les 7 Laux. The Snow Plan was part of the emergence of a new type of economy: mountain development. If we had no ski resorts, there would be no ski lifts, no artificial snow, no special safety measures, no snow grooming, no snow removal, no signage. But this frantic mountain development has left its traces and has had serious effects on the local populations who did not benefit from the “white gold”. In fact, the Snow Plan was contemptuous of the local people who suffered expropriation, and of the environment. The plan had set itself the objective of 350,000 beds, but “only” 150,000 beds were actually implemented.
Today, 1964 and the launching of the Snow Plan seem just a remote memory: at that time, the French State gave full support and promoted the mountain sector to achieve world-class status. And today, with France once again being the top-ranked snow destination, where is official support? Should we conclude that government support will never return? Let’s not be pessimistic. Let’s remember our strengths - your strengths - and move forward to continually improve our ski zones and our professions.

Photos : © DR - Bibliothèque municipale de Chamrousse - Collection B. Chastagnol, OT Val Thorens, Coll. Mairie Saint-Bon-Courchevel. Fonds Baetz


The innovations

  • Montagne Leaders 231 >> Juridique et institution : SNTF – DSF (Prochainement en ligne)
  • Montagne Leaders 232 >> Services à la clientèle : Le main libre (Prochainement en ligne)
  • Montagne Leaders 233 >> Savoir faire : Le service des pistes (Prochainement en ligne)
  • Montagne Leaders 234 >> Pistes : Enneigeur HP/BP (Prochainement en ligne)
  • Montagne Leaders 235 >> Remontées mécaniques et transports : La pince débrayable (Prochainement en ligne)
  • Montagne Leaders 236 >> Sécurité : Déclencheur d'avalanches
  • Montagne Leaders 237 >> Juridique et institutions : La loi Montagne (Prochainement en ligne)
  • Montagne Leaders 238 >> Savoir faire : Ski à la française (Emile Allais) (Prochainement en ligne)
  • Montagne Leaders 239 >> The 3S
  • Montagne Leaders 240 >> Snow grooming
  • Montagne Leaders 241 >> The Snow Plan (Le plan Neige)


Twitter Facebook Google Plus Linkedin