The Skiable Landscape
I’m not a skier. I live in a low, flat country. Although many of my fellow countrymen went on a ski holiday at least once a year, it wasn't a tradition in my family, nor in my wife's.
Therefore my image was only formed by the adverts for ski holidays. They usually presented small groups of warmly-clad skiers sliding through a peaceful winter wonderland, or enjoying a luxury life in a picturesque chalet, covered with a thick layer of snow.
So, the first time I found myself on the 'front de neige' of a French ski resort I was completely astonished by the industrial scale of what is supposed to be a leisure activity: the ant-like crawling of the skiers coming down the slopes, the machinery that is needed to get all these people up, entire cities being built to house, feed and entertain them, and all this in a spectacular winter wonderland setting.
What also struck me was the strange mix of careful planning and architectural wild-west. Some resorts were beautifully designed to fit in their natural surroundings, while others were nothing more than a clutter of chalet-style buildings that, notwithstanding their so-called traditional architecture, have no relationship with the original landscape at all.
It also made me wonder how all this would look in summer, when all the tourists are gone and only the infrastructure is left behind, bereft of its purpose.
There has always been a lot of debate about the good and the bad sides of mass tourism, about the burden that it is laying on the natural landscape versus the prosperity it brings to a region.
I cannot solve these questions. I can only observe, with a distant - albeit personal - view, and show the things that struck me.
With all this in mind I travelled through the French Alps in the winters from January 2010 till January 2012, and in the summer of 2010. My focus was the landscape, and how it was affected by the ski tourist industry. My vantage point was the idealistic view presented by the advertising photographs. The result is simply what I found, with all its beauty and with all its ugliness.
I chose to mention my series The Skiable Landscape, as it is the ability to be skied upon that has been decisive for the fate of many mountain landscapes.