Bourg St M Town Hall, Dec 2017. Has "Architecture of XX Century" status, alongside cinema & Arc 2000 cable car station. Click on photo for more

Saturday, 30 November 2013

YES WE CANNES: Film and the Mountains

Some of the best film and TV moments were of course shot in the mountains, for example many of the best James Bond scenes and unforgettable pop videos by Wham, the Police and the Jacksons.  Not to mention the, er, iconic Apocalypse Snow, shot on Les Arcs' slopes in 1983:

But a number of resorts have developed their own niche in hosting film festivals, as part of their bids to broaden their appeal - for example in Les Arcs.

The season kicks off above Bourg St Maurice with the  Les Arcs Film Festival which runs from 14-21 Dec.  This year includes a special focus on film from  "Yugoslavian countries", for example the 2011 Serbian/Macedonian production "Punk's Not Dead":

Prior to all this excitement, next week sees the 30th Mountain Film Festival taking place at Autrans, over in the Vercors:

Click here for the official Autrans site

Over Christmas, Autrans' neighbour Lans-en-Vercors will be holding its own festival, this time centred on childrens' cinema.

It looks like some of the new Belle et Sébastien film was shot in the Vercors - in cinemas from 18th December:

Finally, at the end of January, Alpes Magazine will be hosting a 3 evenings looking at alpine cinema, including this classic film from 1944:

28-30 January, Palais des Congrés, Chambery

Sunday, 24 November 2013

ALBERTVILLE: Gateway to just about everywhere

It's now 21 years since the Albertville Olympics, and it's not hard to see the legacy (for example the upgraded RN90 through the Tarentaise or indeed the La Plagne bobsleigh track).

Albertville may struggle to make a claim to be a ski resort in its own right, but has options stretching out in all directions - more here.

Its setting, at the confluence of the Isere and Arly, is a beautiful one.  But one would struggle to describe the town as attractive.  With one exception.  The medieval city of Conflans, just above the town, is quite something:

The Wikipedia guide to Conflans is here.

The Auberge de Costaroche sits just below, and is a budget base for visiting some of the following:

  • 30 mins: Brides-les-Bains, with direct access to Méribel and the Trois Vallées
  • 30 mins: Areches-Beaufort.  Here's an appreciative write-up in today's Sunday Telegraph
  • 35 mins: Valmorel - if you want to be a bit different, you can access the skiing via access via Doucy-Combelouviere or (even more daring), Celliers
  • 35 mins: Crest-Voland and the Val d'Arly
PS: If you are buying ski equipment, the Decathlon, just off the RN90, is well worth a stop - both for the range (including ski rando and ski de fond) and the prices.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

REBRANDING MATTERS: Méribel, Chamonix and Alpe d'Huez

Val Thorens isn't the only resort having a good think about how it markets itself to a population of skiers that is showing little sign of growing.

In Méribel, there is a move to rationalise things, highlighting the merits (and location) of the various villages in the valley - the excellent Skipedia sets out the background:

The "retro" logo.  Recent versions
have used a more "modern" font

The new identity has an air of Arc 1950 about it

Meanwhile in Chamonix, powered by its ex-Danone marketing director, it's out with the two logos which had previously been sitting side-by-side:



In comes the new, "One Valley, One Brand" concept.  It's one which the smaller local resorts (eg Vallorcine) are able to sign up to.  Again, there is lots more on this via Skipedia.

Click here to see how Vallorcine is using
the new brand identity

Further south, Alpe d'Huez appears to be getting rid of the Domaine des Grandes Rousses label.  It is now boasting about the merits of its "grand domaine Ski".  This has been criticised both for its irregular use of upper and lower case lettering, and for creating potential confusion with Valmorel's Grand Domaine.

If the official website is anything to go by, it looks like the new branding for the ski area will sit alongside the rather good (and rather longstanding) Alpe d'Huez visual identity:

Back in the Tarentaise, a bit of background to what Les Arcs and La Plagne have been up to when it comes to marketing themselves can be found here.

Saturday, 9 November 2013


"If you're not clear about where you want to position yourselves, 
others will do it for you"
Gregory Guzzot, Director of Val Thorens tourist office

Val Thorens has been thinking carefully about what it is all about, and where it wants to be.  The results is an ambitious rebrand.  Out with the old:

And in with the new: Val Thorens United:

Launched for the 2012/13 season

Gregory Guzzo sets out the thinking in this Skipedia interview, pointing out (i) that the ski industry is reaching maturity and (ii) that it is losing market share to other activities, as the world travel market develops.  

In thinking through what Val Tho was all about, they decided to move away from focusing on being "the biggest" or (in their case) the highest.  Their review included a survey of 5,000 recent visitors:
We didn’t want to define our resort in terms of one group over another.  
The survey showed that Val Thorens combines the best of skiing with the best atmosphere, and that gave us our message.
We are a melting pot of activities, emotions, lifestyles, pulled together by a team spirit.  
We are a unifying, united resort – Val Thorens United. 
Gregory Guzzo (Source: Skipedia)

You can read more about the background in this action plan (in French).  But the Slideshare presentation, given a couple of months ago at a tourism conference, is more accessible.  It's in French too, but in a sort of franglais-management-speak.  Val Thorens United is now a registered trade mark.

As www.valthorensguide.co.uk points out, some things can be lost in translation.   The la neige en couleurs slogan has been translated by the tourist office as "multi-coloured snow".  Ahem.

And the resort's marketing busy-ness does not stop here.  This season, @Val_Tho is laying claim to the #wanttoski hashtag.  It even has a series of YouTube videos to go with the campaign:

The excellent Skipedia site tells the full story.


More about Val Thorens:

Here's how to drive there, via Nick Trend in the Telegraph.

Summer skiing on the Peclet ended in 2002.

Its Premier League partner is Newcastle United.

In December 2011, it was the site of the "Nazi Salute" stag party, attended by Tory MP Aiden Burley.

It is hardly a cycling mecca, but did feature as a Tour de France stage finish in 1994:

Sunday, 3 November 2013

NEW SKI SEASON: Dates for the diary

Regular visitors to Les Arcs will see one or two new things in and around the resort, including the new Aiguille Grive Hotel and a mountain restaurant above the golf course. And there's more to come - with a transformation of the slopes above 1800 planned.

Back to this season...

To celebrate 10 years of Paradiski, the Vanoise Express has been given a makeover by designer JC de Catelbajac.  I am not sure that everyone is going to like it.

It's also 10 years since the opening of Arc 1950 - much loved by British travel writers, but not by all the "pioneers" of Les Arcs who see it as out of step with the original vision for the resort.

Les Arcs has taken the plunge and updated its website.  It looks much better, but still feels a little difficult to find your way around.  For example to find the opening dates for the season (14 Dec - 26 April), it's easier to find the information via www.france-montagnes.com.

Key dates for 2013/14 include:

1.  The 5th Les Arcs Film Festival, which runs from 14-21st December, this time majoring on Yugoslav cinema.  A "movie pass" costs €28, although it's not clear whether this will be enough to entice the various British student ski trips (including @SussexSnow) who will be present in Les Arcs during this pre-Christmas week.  (For a bit more background to the film festival, click here.

Sadly, the cinema over the hill in Arc 1800 is no more

2.  The Red Bull Linecatcher "back country" ski competition runs again - I can't find the exact dates but according to the Les Arcs Press Office it will be in January, and one assumes it will be around the middle of the month again.

Bad weather delayed the 2013 event
for a number of days

3.  School Holidays.  Beware.  Here's a guide to how to avoid at least some of the February crowds.  The big half term week for British skiers is likely to be w/c 15 February, the same date that French Zone C (Paris, Bordeaux...) hits the autoroute for their vacances.  And be careful about assuming there will be no-one about in late Feb - the French school holidays continue until the first weekend of March.

4.  The scarily titled GMX Gavaggio Monster Cross will be in town between 4-7 March. This is basically the French youth skicross championships, and will be based in Arc 1800.

The competition will take place on the
Arc 1800 home slopes