The Pierra Menta, whose last stage will be run Saturday, March 16, has been offering for over twenty years a junior race that is more and more recipe.
Just like ski mountaineering, which attracts young skiers who love freedom and authenticity.
"Now it's done, I had a little pressure before the race, it's my first Pierra Menta, the whole family was there to look at me. " At the age of 16, Capucine Blanc is one of 148 competitors of the Pierra Menta Junior, ski mountaineering competition reserved for 15-20 year olds. A skier among others? Not quite, since she is the little girl of Guy Blanc, one of the main craftsmen of the creation of this race in 1986.
Ski mountaineering at the crossroads of its history
His father Sébastien, himself a former skier on the Pierra Menta and today one of the pillars of the organization, eyes the youngest of the lineage. "We are proud of her, and we are happy that the family tradition continueshe says. Anyway, we have more and more young people on the race, ski mountaineering works well. "
This 24e Pierra Menta young offers two categories, cadets (15, 16, 17 years old) and juniors (18-19 years old) who crossed 1,200 meters of elevation gain Friday, March 15 and have as much in the program on Saturday 16 for the final.
"They are the future of our mountains"
"It's the future of our mountains and our villages", enthuses Silvano Gadin, the race announcer who sees more and more young people from his native Aosta Valley putting on seal skins. "It's in tune with the times, young people want authenticity in natural areas, which they do not always find in alpine skiing, explains this connoisseur of endurance skiing, also a journalist on Eurosport Italy. At home, all the kids go there. The competition is also much cheaper than downhill skiing. " In fact, once the ski mountaineering equipment paid, about € 3,000 for the high-end, the rest is roughly supported by the federations. "Our daughter costs us around € 2,500 a year, that's okay I think", explains the father of Capucine who is in 1re S in high school converted in Moutiers.
What are these teenagers looking for in an anonymous endurance sport? "The spirit of the mountain, fraternity, the taste of prolonged effort"explains Rémi Castan, 16, third in the junior standings on the first day of the Pierra Menta youth. "I've been downhill skiing in competition for eight years, but it's war, every man for himself"continues the young boy who is destined for a ski instructor's career, "To make a living, while continuing ski mountaineering competitions for fun".
"One day I'll take a younger one too"
His young teammate (all the Pierra Menta races are done in teams of two) does not say anything else. At age 15, Pierre Ferreol would leave his place for nothing in the world. "We are applauded on our way, we share the adventure and friendship, Remi is much stronger than me downhill, I learn a lot, one day I will take me too a younger"explains the teenager who would like to one day work in the mountains. "But surely not in ski mountaineering, because I know very well that no one or almost does not make a living with that"he nuanced.
He may be heading to the more lucrative world of trail running, a sport he practices a lot in the summer. In the footsteps of a certain François Dhaene, one of the best long-distance runners of trail, who participates, like many of his colleagues, in this Pierra Menta. "We are happy to see young people taking an interest in these sports, he said. It works as well in the trail. It is on this kind of junior races that the elites of tomorrow are formed. "
Maybe a future Kilian Jornet or a future Laetitia Roux is hiding under one of the junior bibs that will leave Saturday for a second and final stage, in front of the crowd of big days come to applaud also the seniors who will buckle Saturday the fourth and ultimate step of this 34e Pierra Menta. Good weather is announced on the ridges of the famous Grands Monts route.
Jean-François Fournel, special envoy to Arêche-Beaufort (73)