Bad news today for those snowsport addicts amongst you who got into the whole thing for the mountain ambience, taste-of-the-wilderness, man-against-the-elements sort of thing. Le Dauphiné reveals that corporate bigwigs at the Compagnie des Alpes, owners of practically everywhere you might want to go skiing, think resorts should be more like theme parks.
I can see it now – flashing neon cartoon characters at every junction, ‘themed’ pistes where all the lifties have to dress up as Romans and stage mock battles every half hour, ski-through fast food outlets and souvenir shops selling pieces of meaningless plastic tat at every lift station. Great idea.
Not that I’m about to claim that the modern ski resort is anything other than a man-made playground – you can’t very well expect to be carried in comfort to an altitude of 3200m by a bloody great diesel engine and then get all snotty about the unspoilt mountain paradise. Anyone who wants the moral high ground is going to have to hike for it.
I’m liking the sound of improved queue management, particularly in February when nitwit punters insist on letting half the chairs go up empty despite the mile-long queue behind them just because they couldn’t possibly be separated from their boyfriend/mates/mother in law for all of the ten minutes it takes to get to the top. For God’s sake people, some of us only have a couple of hours after work to ski today and we’d rather not spend it freezing our tits off in this queue only to get to the glacier just in time to hit the end-of-afternoon M25. Now get on the bloody chair and stop pissing about.
But talk of aménagement des pistes, animations and marketing sounds to me suspiciously like flat boring runs with no bumps, cringeworthy entertainment aimed somewhere half way down the left hand side of the bell curve, and a load of corporate branding wank. We’re being forced to put up with far too much of this kind of depressing global-economy substandardisation as it is and I really can’t see the need for polluting the mountain with it.
But with the multi-tentacled CdA and its Paris-based accountants already running practically every French alpine resort you’ve ever heard of – and no doubt twirling its caddish moustaches and eyeing up the rest of them as well – we could well be left with no choice but to put up with the Disneyfied ‘ski experience’ where we used to get the real thing. Of course there’s nothing to say that their evil plan is actually to cover the pistes in neon lights, fake Gaulish villages and people so desperate for a job that they’ll dress up as Obelix for a living – it could all just come down to a load of new signage and more efficient lift queues. You never know. (Though they already own a pile of tacky theme parks, so I’m not holding out much hope.)
One thing’s for certain – the day they tell me I have to dress up as a cartoon character and start calling me a ‘cast member’ is the day I tell them exactly where they can stick their job, well-paid though it may be. I can prostitute my time and effort for a mess of pottage without a qualm, but I’ll starve in a gutter before you get your corporate claws on my soul.