• Caitlin Kennedy

Criterium de la Premiere Neige

The Criterium de la Premier Neige is one of the biggest events of the season, with the World’s top ski racers descending on the slopes of Val d’Isere for a key stage of the World Cup circuit. We decided to delve back into the history of the event before the main events taking place over the next two weekends. But first, a brief look at the history of ski racing as we know it today.

Pocket History of Ski Racing

Back at the beginning of the 1900s, Alpine skiing was the bad boy of the ski World, looked down at as “not a real sport” by the Nordic Ski big guns. As is evident from their names, Nordic skiing (or cross country skiing today) developed in Scandanavia, whilst Alpine skiing developed in the Alps, which generally had steeper slopes on which to let gravity do its thing. Eventually, the speed disciplines of Alpine skiing were allowed into the cool kid’s club in 1930 when Norway, Sweden, and Finland finally withdrew their resistance.

Once fully sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS) the path was paved for today’s modern Alpine events; slalom, giant slalom, supergiant slalom (super-G), and downhill—each of which is progressively faster and has fewer turns. The Super-G and downhill are known as speed events, which are contested in single runs down long, steep, fast courses featuring few and widely spaced turns. The slalom and giant slalom are known as technical events, which challenge the skier’s ability to maneuver over courses marked by closely spaced gates through which both skis must pass; winners of these events are determined by the lowest combined time in two runs on two different courses. The Alpine combined event consists of a downhill and a slalom race, with the winner having the lowest combined time.

Key moments in the History of the Criterium de la Premier Neige

1955 - With the first competitions of the season not until January, Charles Diebold and Louis Erny saw a gap and decided to introduce a new First Snow Race, three years after organising the World Championships on the Face de Bellevarde. 55 skiers took part in the first edition, with Jean Bourdaleix named as the Critérium’s first winner and local skier, Firmin Mattis, taking the lead in slalom and combined.