Friday, March 24, 2006

World’s Highest Ski Resort in Meltdown

The Bolvian glacier of Chacaltaya above La Paz and home to the world’s highest ski station at 5 300 meters altitude (17,000 feet) is in danger of vanishing within five years according to scientists. The cause, a warming climate. Chacaltaya is the only ski station in Bolivia. Samuel Mendoza of the Bolivian Andes Ski Club has said it is the worst year they have known and that the club would like to use artifical snow making to conserve the skiing. The sole rudimentary ski lift dates from before the 2nd World War.

Chacaltaya ski lift

Photos of the evolution of the glacier from

Sunday, March 05, 2006

British Woman Raped on Snow Train

As thousands of tourists remain trapped in the Alps after the return of winter it emerge that a British tourist heading off on a ski holiday was raped on the "snow train" from Paris to Bourg St Maurice as it travelled to the slopes on Friday night.

snow train

Around 500 people were on the train which had been chartered by a British tour operator. Scene of crime officers from Chambéry have taken forensic evidence and hope to continue their inquiries in ski resorts during the week.

Friday, March 03, 2006

La Plagne in debt 14 years after Olympics

The Savoyard village of de Macôt la Plagne, which hosted the four man bobsleigh event in the 1992 Albertville winter Olympics is sitll in debt to the tune of 12 million Euros 14 years after the games. The money is owned to banks in Luxembourg who are showing little Olympic spirit to the tiny community of 1750 inhabitants.

The debt follows a long court battle that was finally settled on the 28th of February by the French High Court (cour de cassation). Before the 1992 games the community stood guarantor for a hotel complex that would house competitors. The builders (Créolie) had borrowed 45 million francs from three banks based in Luxembourg however the builder went bust. In 2001 the village got a new administration who were not keen to pay the debts of Créolie and launched into a long, and ultimately unsuccessful legal battle. It now looks like the town will have to borrow the money over 20 years and raise local taxes by 10%. Fortunately the hotel, hardly the best example of ski architecture, was bought by a tour operator brining in much needed revenue to the village.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Ten Killed in French Avalanches

Ten people have been killed over the last couple of days in French Avalanches. The majority of the accidents happened in the Southern Alps with three deaths of teenagers riding outside of marked runs in the tiny resort of Pra-Loup.

More Information: French Avalanche Deaths

The accidents including a British Man at Puy Saint-Vincent who was skiing with his family and another Brit ski touring alone in the Ubaye mountain range.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Salomon Announces Nearly 400 Job Cuts

Salomon, the French sports good manufacturer, announced today that it plans to cut 378 jobs across its two factories in the Haute-Savoie. Although a lot of manufacturing has already been outsourced to far east, especially China the company still employs 1500 staff on two sites at Rumilly and at Metz-Tessy close to Annecy.

The job cuts will effect 101 office and executive staff with the rest coming from the manufacturing side. Salomon was sold by Adidas to the Finish group Amer Sports. Amer also own the Austrian manufacturer Atomic.

An industry source explained to SnowNews that there is considerable overlap between the two companies’ product lines which will have to be rationalized. He speculated that Atomic would focus on skis where is has built a very good reputation through the successes by the Austrian race team and that Salomon looked set to focus on boots.

Earlier in the year Salomon’s French rivals, Rossignol were bought by the American group Quiksilver. One thing seems certain, more of the manufacturing of budget skis will move to eastern Europe and the far east at the expense of local jobs.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Critérium de la première Neige Celebrates 50th Birthday

Snow cover permitting Critérium de la première Neige at Val d'Isère will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The event started small, just a small article on an inside page of the local paper The Dauphiné Libéré. The brains behind the event were two Alsatians who had moved to the Savoie: Charled Diebold and Louis Erny. Debold was a force behind the development of winter sports in France.

The idea was to kick-off the winter sports season with two weeks of training followed by a competition. On the 17th of December 1955, fifty five competitors launched themselves down the Solaise mountain and a historic event was born. Amongst the competitors, 23 British nationals. The winners of the mens events were local man Mattis and Jean Bourdaleix from Chambéry a top skier of the time in his last international season. However the winners of the women’s giant and slalom throws up two unexpected names: Zandra Nowel and Jean Stanford, both Brits. Jean Standford went on to found Stanford Skiing based in Megève.

Competition was nothing new to Val d’Isère. Since the creation of the first lift in 1934 the sports club organized a Grand Prix de l’Iseran on the eponymous col. In 1957 the French women’s team went on strike, considering the course to be too dangerous. At the time women used the same course as men. The event was run the following day allowing the ladies time to check out the descent. In 1959, during training, Emile Viollat had a serious accident and the prognosis was that he would loose his right hand. He recovered and won a world downhill medal in 1962. The point where Viollat crashed is still known as the “Bosse a l’Emile”.

In 1961 two locals won the event, Marielle Goitschel, just 16 years old and daughter of a professional footballer from Olympic Marseilles who had moved to the resort and the legendary Jean-Claude Killy. Both went on to great triumph as part of Honore Bonnet’s “dream team”. Goitschel taking Olympic gold at Innsbruck in ’64 and at Chamrousse in ‘68 and Killy making history with Olympic golds in all three downhill events at Chamrousse (only the Austrian Toni Sailer in 1956 has done the same). Killy slid into controversy after the Chamrousse games for contravening amateur rules. His face and name appeared in publicity photographs… Killy told journalists “I sell Killy and my face sells well” – the Tignes/Val d’Isère ski area is today known as l’Espace Killy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Rossi Announces More Job Losses

The French ski and snowboard company Rossignol which was bought by Quiksilver last March has announced 104 job cuts in the Rossignol, Dynastar and Look factories. The majority of cuts will be through natural wastage.

Quiksilver wants to centralize certain functions across the three parts of the group and across different countries and hopes this will improve communication and productivity within the Rossignol group as well as permitting great mobility for employees.

The cuts follow 134 job losses already announced last March including 78 jobs at the Rossignol factory at Saint-Etienne-de-Crossey in the French Isère department and 56 at the Dynastar factory at Sallanches in the Haute-Savoie. The company also announced the outsourcing of the annual production of 137,000 pairs of mid-range skis to a factory in Spain. Rossignol had a worldwide production of 1.25 million pairs of skis in 2004.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Former Brit Ski Racer Builds Million Pound Business

Former Brit Ski Racer Matt Aitkenhead has built a million pound turnover business since crashing out of the sport with a serious injury last year. Matt had hoped to spend a year racing as a pro and had saved the money for a season but ripped ligaments put paid to his plans. Instead he took his savings and used them as seedcorn along with a government grant to launch a simple, yet effective idea: the Sticmat.

It is a bit like a huge wine gum. The stickmatz will stick to a surface such as the dash of a car and will then hold any object. No more mobile phones and sunglasses dissapearing out the wind on sharp corners.


Saturday, June 11, 2005

Chinese Clean-up Everest

Chinese volunteers have collected 10 tonnes of rubbish from the slopes of Mount Everest over the last 10 days. The team was composed of 31 people has now returned to Peking. The climbed to 8,000 meters altitude to collect the rubbish.

The 400 sacks of rubbish included empty bottles, oxygen tanks, tents and even cigarette butts. The operation was organised before the Olympic flame passes over the highest peak in the world before the Peking games in 2008. Another team already cleared 8 tonnes of rubbish last year.

It is estimated that the 1,600 summiteers have left over 600 tonnes of rubbish on the slopes of the mountain.

Dix tonnes de déchets collectés en dix jours sur l'Everest.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Völkl Shifts Ski Production to China

After the consolodation between Quicksilver and Rossignol and Atomic and Salomon it seems that Völkl is the latest ski manufacturer to be affected by globalization.

Völkl management has long threatened the workforce with a move of production to China, now it is carrying out its promise. Forty nine will be fired in the first move with more job losses to follow. According to boss Christoph Bronder Völkl "must make savings, in Austria costs are 27% less compared to Germany".

The move follows failure by Völkl to negotiate greater flexibility with the workforce including overtime and weekend work. Völkl currently employs 530 in its Straubinger in Bavaria. The parent company K2, already manufacturers 60,000 pairs of ski annually in China.