Les 8-9 et 10 février a eu lieu le colloque « Touriscape» à Torremolinos (Malaga).

Caterina Franco  a présenté son travail intitulé « Ski resorts in the Alps: questioning the concept of natural resource through the history of a landscape ».


Résumé :


The proposed contribution deals with the role of landscape in the history and future of the ski resorts built at a high altitude in the French Italian Alps. We refer to landscape as to a synergy between the natural features of a site and the work of man on it (Turri, 2001) and we focus the attention on the evolution of this relationship after the implantation ex-nihlo of cities for leisure and sports occurred after the Second World War.

The trajectory of this evolution could be defined by the succession of three moments: at first, a massive exploitation of the environmental elements of the site like snow (the primary motor of the investment) or pastures (a reserve of buildable soil); secondly, a breaking point after the oil crisis in 1973 and some winters without snow in the eighties, that demonstrated how the availability of those natural elements was not unlimited; finally, evidences of strategies adopted to face external changes, like huge modification of sites for production of artificial snow or, in some cases, the enhancement of alternative natural features to enlarge the tourist offer.


The long-term future of ski resorts is uncertain for different causes, both structural (like the aging of the dwellings facilities or of the infrastructure) and circumstantial (like climate change, a shortening of the duration of the tourist’s stay or a shift in the global economic situation). Some research centres both in France and in Italy are now working on this topic, from different disciplines1. In general, geographers and economists underline the necessity to study the ski resorts in continuity with territory and on a scale proper to analyse its relation with the context (François, 2007; Marcelpoil, Billet, François, 2010).

1 Like the IRSTEA or the LabEx ITEM, based in Grenoble (FR) or the Università della Montagna, in Edolo (IT).

In the field of architectural research, ski resorts have been considered mostly as autonomous settlements, the result of a colonization of the mountain by the urban world (Zanzi, 2004). Through an archival research we mobilize documents that have not been explored yet, and that enables us to shift from the analysis of decontextualized objects towards the enquire on the transformation of a landscape.


The main objective is to provide a new knowledge of the historical process of design and construction of alpine ski resorts. We include, in the research, the study of the transformations that occurred to the natural environment, selecting some indicators like water, soil and vegetation and to the built environment, analyzing the changes in the system of infrastructure.

We explore the hypothesis that the comprehension of the historical process helps in understanding the response that these sites are giving towards the actual critical issues. The research is thus meant to provide tools for the actors engaged in the reflection on the future of ski resorts. Understanding the relationship between the tourist activity and the elements of the natural landscape could open the way to a reflection of them as territorial resources (Gumuchian, Pecqueur, 2007).


The contribution proposes a case study analysis of La Plagne, in Savoy (France) and San Sicario in Piemonte (Italy), using different kinds of sources. Trough documents collected in the archives of architects (Laurent Chappis, Michel Bezançon) or in municipal archives we analyse the projects (built or non-built) to understand the evolution of ideas; through the analysis of historical maps or orthoimages we study the effective transformation of the territory.

Drawing and cartography are the principal tools used to retrace the changing of the landscape, together with the production of tables and timelines to understand, for each step, the network of actors and urban tools that contributed to the modification of land, considering the ski resort as a tourist system (Tissot, 2004).


Landscape is a crucial aspect in the reflection on the future of the high-altitude ski resorts. Indeed, on one side, landscape features could play an important role in the process of diversification of the tourist offer, on the other hand, natural resources will increasingly be considered in the elaboration of post-carbon scenarios, as claimed by the policies of the transition énergétique.

The research also seems to suggest that both the history and the strategies that could be implemented are “site specific”: rather than proposing general models, a deep understanding of each context could help in revealing its potentialities and vulnerabilities.

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