Cervières: Just Say Non

Riding your bike in the Alps is a wonderful thing, as I’m sure many of you will agree, but all too often on the way to a giant col you run into something like this monstrosity.

This is the ski station of Tignes which is on the road to the ski station of Val d’Isère, then, the Col d’Iseran. Or how about this brutalist beauty?

Flaine

France began building these stations after WWII, backed by government money and 30 years of incredible growth. These projects changed the high Alps from an essentially subsistence economy to one based on mass tourism in just a few years. Here’s another one that you may have even climbed: Alpe d’Huez.

In the sixties it was open season on the valleys of the Alps and a Belgian company spent two years trying to convince the residents of the Vallée de la Cerveyrette (basically the village of Cervières, pictured below) that they needed to turn their village into an urban center that would have between 15,000 and 40,000 beds to rent out in winter, along with a heliport and a golf course. Instead, the villagers resisted and refused to sell their land.

What they did decide to do was make an alternative project to develop the area into Europe’s No 1 hiking destination. I’m not sure what became of this one, but for anyone who has climbed the Col d’Izoard from Briançon, you might want to stop in Cervières on your way up and thank a resident for making this one of the nicest ascents in the Alps.