In February, the Queen of the Dolomites – Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy – played host to the prestigious FIS Alpine World Ski Championships 2021. Though there was speculation that the event would be pushed back to 2022 due to the pandemic, the 14-day winter sports competition proceeded as planned with 600 athletes from 70 nations competing in 13 races.
Organised by the International Ski Federation, the highest international body for snowboarding and skiing, the Alpine World Ski championships date back to 1931 and are hosted every other year. Hosting the event is a true privilege as it cements a resort’s reputation as a premier ski destination, boosts enthusiasm for winter sports and has a positive effect on economic development, leaving a legacy of infrastructure improvements that can be enjoyed by all long after the awards ceremony. For example, Cortina d’Ampezzo saw improvements to the snowmaking facilities on the Olympia delle Tofane slope, a brand-new cable car as well as several new slopes. Not only did hosting the championships improve the ski infrastructure, but there are plans in motion to renovate the public swimming pool by June 2021.
It is now time for Cortina d’Ampezzo to pass the baton to the next hosts: Courchevel and Méribel.
It is the fourth time that the championships have come to the French Alps and the first time that the competition has been hosted by two resorts in tandem. FIS President Gian Franco Kasper commented that “the bid of Courchevel-Méribel was very appealing with two top-level resorts offering essentially men’s and ladies’ venues, which is sure to facilitate scheduling and logistics”.
However, it is certainly not the first time that these two resorts have been on the international stage with both Courchevel and Méribel playing a key part in the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympic Games.
For Méribel, the Olympic Games were a catalyst to redevelop the resort and improvements included the Olympic Park sports centre, the modernisation of existing facilities and a wave of new hotels, some of which have since been reinvented as high-end ski apartments for sale.
Courchevel too saw a number of improvements including two Olympic ski jumps, which have since been expanded, transforming Courchevel into a benchmark resort for ski jumping and creating a passion for jumping within the resort. Indeed, many French ski jumpers hail from Courchevel, like Nicolas Dessum, and most French teams head to Courchevel to practise before entering the competition circuit In addition, a brand-new ice rink was created for the Olympics and continues to host international sporting events such as ice hockey matches and ice-skating galas.
Back in 1992, the resort was home to 11 4-star hotels and this number has grown considerably since then. Today there are 45 hotels, five of which have been awarded prestigious ‘palace’ status, cementing Courchevel as a leading Alpine resort.
Méribel’s Roc de Fer area will be taking centre stage in the 2023 AlpineWorld Ski Championships and to get the resort ready for the competition, two blue pistes will be upgraded to more challenging red pistes and a skiable tunnel will be constructed so that visitors can still enjoy the slopes while the competitions take place. In addition, the local snowmaking facilities will also be improved, which will double the resort’s snowmaking capacity.
Courchevel too will benefit from improved snowmaking facilities and, already delivered for the 2019/20 ski season, a new high-speed 10-seater gondola from the new Alpinium complex in Le Praz now takes skiers up to Courchevel 1850 in just under six minutes. This new lift will also reduce the number of cars travelling on the road up to Courchevel 1850 which can be as many as 7,500 per day.
The Alpinium is a huge 18,000 sqm sports complex created for the upcoming event and will have a long-lasting impact on the Le Praz area. Whilst complementing the local landscape, the project comprises parking for 500 cars, a children’s play area and sporting facilities.
However, the star of the show is the brand-new l’Éclipse run which has been recognised as one of the most challenging pistes in the world and descends 3,200m from the summit of the Col de la Loze and finishes on the roof of the Alpinium complex. French ski team coach and former downhill racer Yannick Bertrand comments: “The further down you get, the harder it gets. The further down you get, the shadier it gets. The further down you get, the steeper it gets. These three characteristics mean it’ll be an extreme run. So it’ll be similar to Bormio [in Italy], but harder!”.
With so much organisation going on behind the scenes, these championships will also leave behind an important skills legacy which will be invaluable when coordinating and planning future events.
The Alpine World Ski Championships will also be a socially and environmentally responsible event as the committee has joined forces with the Minister of Sport and WWF to create the “Charter of Environmentally Responsible Commitments for Organisers of Major Sports Events”. Their 15 commitments cover everything from sourcing food from a responsible source and reducing waste to promoting gender equality in top positions and ensuring public areas are accessible to those with disabilities.
The Alpine World Ski Championships are now just under two years away with the event booked in for the 6th-19th February 2023 and renovation works are in full swing. Over the 12 days of competing, the event is expected to draw in up to 20,000 visitors per day and around 6 billion people will be watching the competition on television. We expect that this increase in publicity will further solidify Méribel and Courchevel as leading resorts, having a positive impact on tourism and the property market here.