Decryption of Josette Sicsic, Futuroscopie
Totally disrupted by climate change, the mountain is at a crossroads. While skiing will remain the domain of the major high altitude resorts, the others are looking for a new positioning. In this regard, the end-of-year holidays provided an ideal example of the ongoing transition and confirmed the need to reform a territory which, in tourist imaginations, had managed to rise to the top of the charts. But, given the diversity of resorts, the winter/summer duality, the general uncertainty in which the world is evolving, the change will be all the more complex as the development choices are not necessarily sustainable.
In this sector, as in others, the tourist imaginaries must therefore be rebuilt without destroying the history and the symbolisms that constitute them.
The construction of images: when the mountain wanted to win!
In Alpe d’Huez, we’re playing the music card again with the return of one of the most popular electro music festivals in Europe: Tomorrowland-Winter – Tomorrow Land screenshot
Very early entry into the tourist imagery, the mountain has known its finest hours when it has known how to adorn itself with white and highlight its glaciers, its eternal snows and its highest peaks conquered by intrepid mountaineers. Which have largely shaped both tourist mythology and the mythology of this strange elsewhere considered dangerous.
If history is to be believed, mountaineering was invented at the foot of Mont Blanc conquered in 1786, in a historic resort: Chamonix. An elitist practice, mountaineering, it quickly democratized to give birth to the first clubs and expeditions. The French Alpine Club was born in 1874 and greatly contributes to the development of mountain tourism and the survival of regions in the process of desertification.
However, it was not until the 1960s and the advent of white gold that the mountain became part of the tourist practices of the Glorious Thirties and aroused the enthusiasm of a rapidly developing middle class.
The 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble and the harvest of medals collected by French skiers contributed to this enthusiasm, all the less negligible since, in an era of good economic health, the ski resorts never stopped hanging their concrete constructions and throwing cable cars and ski lifts to attack the heights.
Acquired by a middle class in search of new sensations and iconographic complements to display a form of social success, these properties gave a massive boost to the development of a star practice: skiing!
Far from the dangers of yesterday, a secure, warm, family-friendly, welcoming, dynamic and playful mountain entered the imaginations of the second half of the twentieth century, settling there for a good half-century. And it goes without saying that the slogan ” The mountain, that you win could flourish.
A symbolism made of purity, sacredness and transcendence
Generating panic as well as exaltation, it has always aroused the feeling of a universe that escapes the human scale. Close to the heavens, far from the human order, it is the privileged meeting point between Heaven and Earth. It is the lowest place for the gods and the highest for men.
It was on the top of a mountain that Yahvé́ dictated his commandments to Moses, that Buddha preached deliverance and that Christ was transfigured before his disciples.
It is also at the foot of a mountain, Helicon, that Hesiod received inspiration from the Muses to write his Theogony, the sacred story of the Gods and creation. The mountain also appears in every account of the creation of the world. As center and summit, it constitutes the figure of choice symbolizing the birthplace of the world, the summit from which life emerges, the source of all reality.
For all peoples, the mountain symbolizes transcendence. We think of the sacred mountains: Mount Olympus in Greece, Fuji-Yama in Japan, Sinaï. Pilgrimages to these sacred mountains symbolize progressive detachment from matter and spiritual elevation. The mountain is a place of stripping that invites silence and solitude.
The ascent of a mountain evokes for its part a progress towards self-knowledge. To climb one’s inner mountain is to learn to reconcile our opposing principles: earth and sky, and to make them complementary principles for the ultimate union with oneself, with others and with the universe…
New imaginaries: between spirituality and luna-park, who will win?
On these historical and symbolic strata, the new mountain that is taking shape draws on all sporting and recreational resources to fight against its main enemy: climate change.
Green in many resorts instead of being white, it had to resort to a battery of activities and events capable of overcoming the lack of snow and compensating for the frustrations of fans of great skiing. As in the luna-park, they offer electric bikes, curling, scooters combined with rifle shooting, escape games, kite surfing, paragliding, Explore games as in Chamrousse…
A resort like Megève all by itself 50 activities for all ages. As for the Val Thorens Tourist Office, it is even considering a new strategy around the concept of oxygenation at altitude and, as indicated a recent article from TourMag, a first major project has taken shape: the Via 3 Vallées which will take winding roads linking mythical passes…
HAS Alpe d’Huez, another example and not the least: we replay the music card with the return of one of the most popular electro music festivals in Europe: Tomorrowland-Winter. An unmissable event for young people that the entire Oisans massif has decided to target by offering them all kinds of other festive activities: night hikes, fondue evenings…
In short, between sport, games, culture, cooking courses, cheese making and between folklore and avant-gardism, the mosaic of the mountain should have more and more to entertain holidaymakers. Even in the absence of snow.
Reinforcement of spirituality
However, the major card, played more and more by the massifs, is that of well-being. An ideal activity very widespread in the spas of the top-of-the-range hotels of the most upscale resorts.
But also more and more, in more modest resorts. In addition to collective yoga sessions and other taï-chi, meditation combined with a snowshoe outing, forest baths, Nordic baths, respirology… make up the impressive range of activities offered to customers looking for an alternative to skiing but above all in search of detoxification, rejuvenation and sometimes spirituality.
The sacred very present in the symbolism of the mountain is certainly an alternative even if our mountains full of roads, hotels, various facilities are neither Tibet nor Bhutan. Poor in traditional religious buildings, they find it difficult to breathe the spirituality of the Himalayan mountains.
Nevertheless, between the deployment of new recreational facilities that risk distorting its landscapes and its biodiversity, this mountain has a real chance of existing and penetrating the mountain imagery of the years to come, without having to contradict it and going into the sense of history.
… A downside however: it will not run the motors of the ski lifts, but it will be able to appease mountain tourism in winter and summer and its customers.