Alta States 

Action from Mondial du Ski 2005

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Reminiscent of Whistler’s World Ski and Snowboard Festival (only at the front-end of the season), the Mondial du Ski has become something of a cult event in France. Whether pro or wannabe, manufacturer or retailer, the event brings together a true cross-section of the Gallic skiing community. The younger sibling of the 10-year-old Mondial du Surf — unlike our local sport ecumenism, Les 2 Alpes prefers to cater to boarders and skiers separately during concurrent three-day events — the skiing version is definitely the big star now. And it doesn’t seem like it’s about to crash anytime soon.

Born during the youth revolt of the late 1990s, imbued with the spirit of big-mountain freeriding and new school freestyling, the event was initially billed as an alternative to what was then considered a very stodgy French mainstream ski culture. Its stars were young, brash and definitely edgy. But so were its fans. And that’s exactly the market Les 2 Alpes wanted to connect with. “This is a real skier’s mountain,” says Gilles Vanheule, the director of l'Office du Tourisme des 2 Alpes. “And we’ve consciously chosen to brand ourselves to cater to a young, outgoing group of consumers. Sure — we could have gone with a ski-racing motif, like in the old days. But we think events like the Mondial are a lot more relevant to today’s market.”

And the French ski racing community is finally taking his words seriously.

Ironic, isn’t it? Where once the prestigious Federation Française de Ski would have turned up its nose at such a comment, the folks who now run the country’s ski racing franchise understand just how much things have changed in recent years. A number of national team members were actually in attendance at the Mondial this year — and for the first time, actively visible at various functions. “We can’t afford to position ourselves outside of youth culture anymore,” said Yves Dimier, the French Team’s new technical director. “We have to make ski racing relevant again to French kids.”

Speaking during a forum on the changing role of racing in France’s very important ski tourism business (just to give you an idea, the country boasts at least a dozen resorts the size of Whistler-Blackcomb), Dimier made it clear that his charges were now ready to participate fully in the new order. “We need to do a better job,” he said, “of integrating the ski racing family back into events like this one.”

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