Flaine


Flaine

Flaine is the name of a ski area located in the Haute Savoie region of the French Alps, and is a part of the linked Grand Massif domain. It is located in the territory of the communes of Magland and Arâches. Flaine is linked to Samoëns, Morillon, Les Carroz and Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval, with 267km of pistes in total. It featured the first 8 seater high speed chairlift, called Les Grands Vans, and snow cannons to be installed in France.

History

An encounter between Man, Mountain and Art

The site was discovered in 1959 by the geophysicist Eric Boissonnas and the Swiss architect Gérard Chervaz, who went on to succeed in their bid to create a fine example of urban development, architecture and design, where short-term profitability would be second to aesthetics and care of the environment.

Eric and Sylvie Boissonnas entrusted Flaine’s design to Marcel Breuer (1902-1981), the eminent Bauhaus architect who's structural designs are well-known around the world. These include The [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UNESCO "Palais de l'Unesco"] in Paris, the Whitney Museum, [http://www.archiplanet.org/wiki/Atlanta_Public_Library_%28central_location%29%2C_Atlanta_%2C_Georgia The Atlanta-Fulton Central Branch Library] , Flushing Meadows Sports Park in New York, and the Bijenkorf in Rotterdam. Breuer is also know for his innovative use of materials (i.e. tubular steel) in creating his iconic furniture designs. With one of his signature pieces being the Wassily Chair.

Functionality and integration

Right from the design stage, Eric Boissonnas and Marcel Breuer were careful not to disturb the natural surroundings and integrate the resort into the receiving mountain. In other words, the general layout blends in with the environments contours, and the different levels which make up the resort can not be seen from one to the other. The result is a feeling of privacy and tranquillity.

The master plan, the ski runs designed by champion Emile Allais, the technical network for electric cables, gondola lift stations on the same level as the ski runs, even the colour of concrete reminds the surrounding rocks, everything was inspired by the ambition to find a balance between functionality and integration.

Construction

The construction of the resort was not without difficulty. Chappis and Pradelle left after Breuer joined the team, Boissonnas fell out with the government official in charge with planning France's winter sports industry and when local landowners found out that Boissonnas was a billionaire they threatened to block the building of the access road to the resort until they received adequate compensation. The result was a three year delay and huge cost overruns and lead to greater state involvement in French ski resort development. By the time the resort was opened on the 17 January 1969 it had probably cost Boissonnas around $250 million from his personal fortune at 2005 prices.

The site is divided into two areas which are joined by two free lifts. The upper area Flaine Forêt at an altitude of 1700m, consists a number of apartment buildings named after constellations; the Eric et Sylvie Boissonnas Auditorium shops, offices and restaurants. While the lower area Flaine Forum, at an altitude of 1600m, has more restaurants, shops bars and accommodation. [http://www.flaine.com/pages/plan-station-ski.php?lg=EN Map of Flaine]

New developments

Hameau de Flaine is a little higher up the road (1800m) and below the Col de Pierre Carrée (1844m). It is being constructed in a more traditional alpine style.

Location

Flaine is about 1 hour and 15 minutes away from Geneva airport, approximately 3 hours drive from Lyon, and 30 km from the A40 motorway (le Autoroute Blanche). It is close to resorts Les Houches, Les Contamines, large ski area Chamonix as well as the Portes du Soleil reigion - notably resorts Les Gets and Morzine. Trips to Italy via the Mont Blanc Tunnel to Courmayeur are also possible.

Bus services are available several times a day to Tanninges in the Giffre Valley (where resorts Morillon and Samoëns are situated) where buses to Geneva and Chamonix can be accessed. The bus service is run by Transdev Alpbus and details of the bus services from Flaine can be obtained from http://www.altibus.com/

kiing

There is skiing for most in Flaine, as the resort enjoys a particular reputation as being all rounded.

Classic runs in Flaine include Gers (Black); le Diamant Noir (black); Serpentine (blue/red); Ballacha (blue/green) and Mephisto (red). The liaisons ski runs which take you out of Flaine, take you to Samöens, Morillon and Les Carroz via the run Dolomie (blue) and to the smaller ski resort Sixt via the long, and quite flat run, Les Cascades (blue).

In Les Carroz, Morrilion, and Samőens classic runs include Marvel; a fabulously long green that goes through the forest, Sairon; a long blue with many jumps and banks on the side of the piste, Lou Darbes; a medium length blue run that is downhill all the way - an excellent run for 'bombing' down.

The predominantly north-facing runs are very reliable: package companies offering "snow guarantees" often import punters from other French resorts when their pistes have lost the amount of sufficient snow that can be safely skied on.

Interestingly, in each different grade of run (green, blue, red, & black) there is a theme in the Flaine bowl. For example most of the blue runs are named after rocks/jewels (e.g. turquoise, dolomie, crystal, emeraude), nearly all the reds are diabollically named (e.g. faust, mephisto, belzebuth, lucifer) and most black runs after stars (e.g. diamant noir, agate). This only occurs in the Flaine valley though; the other resorts' runs are named separately. However the same named to feature in the different resorts. For example "combe" which means valley in English is a popular name because of the nature many runs leading into the valleys.

Other activities

Music in Flaine

Académie Internationale de Musique (Flaine International Music Academy) is held every August. Its aim is to teach music to a high level and to create some magical moments for the public by holding free concerts in the magnificent Eric et Sylvie Boissonnas Auditorium a 500-seater auditorium. ‘Musique in Flaine’ came about when a number of music teachers involved with the Bain de Musique wanted to set up a high level academy devoted to chamber music. [http://www.flaine.com/uk-e/classical-music-courses.php Classical Music & Flaine]

Walking

Flaine is a good centre for summer walking. A walker can either take the GR96 or take a lift to the Les Grandes Patières (2480m) which gives access to the Désert de Platé a fine and extremely extensive limestone pavement (known in French as a "lapiaz"). From there you can walk to the Refuge de Platé which is fully open from mid-June to mid-September. The route takes the walker past deep ravines, rocks and fissures which contain moss campion, gentians and many other stunningly beautiful flowers [ http://www.rhone-alpes.ecologie.gouv.fr/include/publi/pdf/sc6.pdf Geological description of the Platé in French. ] .In the other direction, also on GR96, walkers can go past the Lac de Flaine, climb to the Col de Cou, down to the Col de la Frête (1347m) and then to the tiny hamlet of La Colonnaz from here there is a relatively flat broad track to Les Carroz. The whole route should take about 3 hours 30 minutes.Other walks that can be taken are to the Belvêdère d’Anjon where good views over the valley can be had. [Le Syndicat Intercommunal Etudes Aménagement Grand Massif (2006) Itinéraires de Randonnées Pédestres: Du Grand Massif. ]

Evolution and environmental issues

Flaine is situated on a geological plate of rock called the "Désert de Platé" [ [http://flaine.courir74.com/ Flaine - station de ski de Flaine ] ] . This type of rock formation is extremely rugged and cracked looking. It is no surprise therefore that there an unusually large amount of crevasses and potholes in the area, which are particularly visible in summer. Due to most of them being covered by thin layers of snow, they are unseeable in the winter. This makes skiing off piste in the Flaine area fairly dangerous.

Night life

The two most popular bars for Brits in Flaine are "le Diamant Noir" and "le White Pub" - known as "the White Grouse" before being bought out by a pair of French entrepreneurs in 2004. The Diamant Noir, in the Forêt, attracts a predominantally English crowd, the bar having multiple pool tables and Champions League Football on certain nights of the week. Le White Pub also shows sporting events but these tend to be more of a Winter Sports style. The bar is mainly used by attracting package tour groups on 'benders'.

"The Flying Dutchman" is another bar in Flaine Forêt. As the name suggests, it has a particular attraction to Dutch skiers in Flaine. The bar is a popular place for skiers living in the Forêt to have a drink after skiing, as it is very close to the ski slopes. Also popular is the more upmarket "Perdrix Noir" i.e. Black Grouse - run by the husband-and-wife partnership which used to manage the White Grouse. This pub attracts a mixed crowd of French and British. The Ski Club of Great Britain representative of Flaine meets here every evening with locals and skiers.

The bowling alley bar is increasingly popular because of its late opening hours.

Crime

The crime associated with larger resorts was notable by its absence in Flaine until the turn of the 21st Century. A few years ago there had been increasing reports of burglaries, muggings and minor assaults. Nowadays crime has seemed to have declined because of Flaine promoting itself as a more 'family resort'.

References

External links

* [http://www.flaine.com Flaine Website]
* [http://pistehors.com/backcountry/wiki/Haute-Savoie/Flaine-History Flaine - The Shock of the New]
* [http://www.skichaletflaine.com Ski Chalet Flaine]
* [http://www.flaine.info Independent Flaine Resort Guide]


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