The World Ski Championships at Val d'Isere

 By: Earl Knudsen
As well as remaining one of the most breathtaking locations for skiing in France, Val d'Isere has a special claim to fame in the history of skiing as a sport. For any aspirant competitor or skiing enthusiast in the chalet, Val d'Isere offers a unique opportunity to ski on a course used by professional competitors at the World Ski Championships. When it comes to sport skiing, Val d'Isere offers the chance to follow in the ski-tracks of world-class skiers.

The Championships

The FIS Alpine World Ski Championships were held at Val d'Isere in February 2009. Val d'Isere saw off competition from Vail/Beaver Creek USA, and Schladming in Austria for the chance to become the official location. These were the first world championships held at Val d'Isere, although the area had also hosted four of the five men's events at the 1992 Winter Olympics.

People-watching

The championships attracted an estimated total of 260,000 spectators all together, over the course of 13 days of competition. The championships also set a record of 70 participating nations, with 382 participating athletes between them. Luckily for visitors today, it won't be quite so crowded in your chalet! Val d'Isere also engaged with the skiing culture in an unexpected way. Philatelists - that's stamp collectors, for you and me - also had an extra reason to celebrate the championships. A series of 5 new stamps was created to commemorate the event, 4 depicting the different skiing disciplines, and the fifth showing the festive side of the event. Though rare, you may be lucky enough to be able to admire a framed version as part of the decor in your chalet. Val d'Isere also received a unique 'World Championship First-Day' postmark, adding a little more philatelic value to the stamps if you can find one!

The Not-so-rugged Mountains

The slopes themselves are a perfect way to celebrate the environment of the 2009 championships. The village of Val d'Isere is encircled by two mountains, situated opposite each other: Solaise and Bellevard. The layout is unique in the history of skiing, and many of the events in the World Championship were held on the legendary "Face de Bellevard". With a vertical drop of 1000 metres, the length of which is almost entirely visible from Val d'Isere, the course started at 2800m from the finish, on the "Mur de Bellevarde", and progressed down through the famous "Passage de l'Ancolie". It's a course that's enough to test any aspiring champion, and attempting to follow it entirely would make a story to tell back in the chalet. Val d'Isere also has frequent cable cars waiting to take a bold skier back up the slope for a second try.

Caught on Camera

Judging the competitors the event was no mean feat - a special camera capable of capturing an object moving at up to 90 kilometres per hour was installed on a traction cable, allowing it to descend at the same speeds as the slalom and downhill competitors. In order to maintain wide coverage and safety of the event, 80 temporary chalets were constructed, with commentator's cabins, TV broadcasting offices, and the jury members' posts within each small chalet. Val d'Isere has been busy ever since, but the accommodation has certainly improved!
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