Wednesday, June 19, 2019
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What place for freestyle skiing in France?

After her disappointment with the Olympics, Tess Ledeux got back on her skis.
After her disappointment with the Olympics, Tess Ledeux got back on her skis. Pierre MERIMEE

After the absence of snow, the wind. Due to weather conditions that were not conducive to a competition seeing the athletes chaining aerial tricks, the French stage of the Slopestyle Ski World Cup in Font-Romeu (Pyrénées-Orientales) was forced to reduce the sails. Instead of taking place over three days, the competition was restricted to its finals on Saturday, January 12th. "Conditions a little complicated to manage" for skiers, admits Tess Ledeux, figurehead of the French delegation. "At the same time, we are used to getting by"continues the young woman.

Except for Olympic appointments, every four years, which puts the discipline in the spotlight, freestyle skiing is accustomed to the trouble. Acrobatic, this spectacular sport includes the slopestyle – a sort of "ski skatepark" -, the halfpipe ("halfpipe"), mogul skiing and skicross. And barely out of the shadows of his alpine counterpart.

Read also: The explanation of freestyle skiing (and other Olympic sports)

This year, Font-Romeu is the only French resort to organize a stage of the freestyle ski World Cup. However, at the beginning of the season, three of them appeared on the program of the different disciplines. But at the end of November, the International Ski Federation (FIS) canceled the opening of the Skicross World Cup in Val Thorens (7 and 8 December) due to lack of snow. As for the ski half-pipe, whose finals took place in Tignes for several years, the station announced early December it canceled the tests scheduled for late March. A " difficult decision " justified by "The loss of important historical partners. "

A dependence on sponsors

In the Savoyard resort – as often in freestyle – a private company organized the competition. The company had set up a circuit, the SFR Freestyle Tour. But last year, the red squared operator retired, replaced by another sponsor, who did not wish to extend the experience. "The organizers did not have enough budget to finalize the event, and had to cancel," regrets Fabien Bertrand, director of freestyle at the French Ski Federation (FFS).

This dependence on sponsors characterizes freestyle skiing. "Without them, we are not much, recognizes Tess Ledeux. In France, since our discipline is little known, the FFS can not put a lot of money on it. We are lucky to have sponsors who follow us, but if we are not very good or we do not have a good image, it is difficult to be followed by brands. "

"Money is the nerve of war, and unfortunately we are not the football where everyone fights to spread you," recognizes Fabien Bertrand. Aware that his sport suffers from dependence on Olympic results – "If Tess had been an Olympic medalist, it would have been completely different. His notoriety would have been multiplied by five or ten, he believes – the owner of French freestyle skiing is delighted with the arrival this year of the channel L'Equipe, which broadcasts the World Cup in clear, on TNT.

Font-Romeu has "redesigned" its snowpark

"It is by their good results that our French champions will evolve their sport"assures Fabien Bertrand, taking as an example the biathlon, greatly popularized by the results of Martin Fourcade; as well as by his passage in clear on television. "If the biathlon was stuck on Eurosport, I do not think he would have the same notoriety"concludes Bertrand.

After the abandonment of Val Thorens – lack of snow – and Tignes – lack of budget – only Font-Romeu resort resists this year. Without the necessary infrastructure to organize a high-level alpine competition, the Pyrenean resort has relied on freestyle, and "Makes investment efforts"says Pierre Dechonne, president of the Font-Romeu-Pyrénées 2000 ski club, organizer of the event. A new snowpark was born three years ago, at the initiative of the Catalan resort. "We started from the same observation with the coaches of the hope pole of Font-Rome: we lacked infrastructure, explains Jacques Alvarez, deputy director of the station. It is with them that we redesigned the snowpark. "

To qualify for the organization of a World Cup event, the Pyrénées-Orientales resort has preformed the slopestyle track in the summer, including bumps, "So as to be able to ensure the event even with little snow"continues Jacques Alvarez. In spite of the lowest snow level recorded in the Pyrenean massif for twenty-two years, the Font-Romeu snowpark is operational. And the station, which organizes this stage of the World Cup for three years, aspires to perpetuate it, which is delighted the world champion Tess Ledeux. "Having a home competition is very important for us and our disciplines, especially as we are often forced to train abroad. "

Read also Due to lack of snow, half of the ski resorts of the Pyrenees are stopped

"Always a little knife under the throat"

A state of fact due to a deficit of infrastructures in France. "Of course, we do not have enough snowparks in France, there are only one or two of them during the seasonsays La Plagnarde. But it's always been like that, so we do not even ask ourselves the question. "

In December, French Olympic ski champion Perrine Laffont synthesized the equation facing freestyle skiing in France. "Our situation is simple: no results, no budget. We always have a little knife under the throat. " This is confirmed by his counterpart of slopestyle skiing, Tess Ledeux, regretting it. "It's a bit of a vicious circle, we can not move without a budget either. But we manage as best we can. " The resourcefulness, as a hallmark of freestyle skiing.

Read the interview: Perrine Laffont: "To have successful athletes, you need a minimum budget, right? "

Clément Martel

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