I was ten years old for the 1992 Olympics in Albertville. In fact, this may have been the first Olympics that I actually remember. Names like Alberto Tomba and Viktor Petrenko, and as an American, Kristi Yamaguchi, Nancy Kerrigan, and Bonnie Blair, were etched in my mind along with far-off places like Albertville and La Plagne. Today, Alberville, the Savoie’s third largest city, retains an air of Olympic gold. The Olympic Village sits a little less than two kilometers southwest of the city’s main district. Only two elements of the games remain, le Halle de Glace Olympique and L’anneau de Vitesse. The former is a large 5,500 seat arena distinctive for its futuristic and 1990s-characteristic blue metal “netting” that covered the arena. This stadium was used for figure skating and short track speed skating while the adjacent L’anneau was an outdoor arena used for speed skating, the last outdoor arena of its kind. The area of the opening and closing ceremonies consisted of temporary buildings and is now marked the former Théâtre des Cérémonies central spire. While all Olympics are historic for one reason or another, the Albertville games were extraordinarily special as the first games in a post-Soviet world. At these games, six now independent countries of the former Communist bloc competed as one team while another five new countries, both former Soviet and not, competed for the first time. In addition, 1992 saw the inclusion of several demonstration sports including curling, freestyle skiing, and the never again seen speed skiing at Les Arcs. It was also during these Olympics that China won its first winter medal at L’anneau de Vitesse and the southern hemisphere won its first in the slalom. From Albertville to Beijing, the Winter Olympics are always an event to behold.
An Alpine Dam that Rocks
High up in the Alps, at an elevation of 1,546 meters, Lac de Roselend is one of the most gorgeous in France. Not only that, but it s nestled between two climbs, the latter of which, the Cormet de Roselend, offer wonderful views of this turquoise-colored, 130-meter-deep artificial lake. Indeed, this serene environment was created by the damming of the Doron de Roselend and submerging of the Roselend hamlet by the fourth highest dam in France. The surrounding mountains, and especially the towering Rocher du Vent, give testament to this fact. The Barrage de Roselend was finished in 1962 as a triumvirate of hydro-electric dams in the area that provide enough power for 450,000 local inhabitants. The dam itself is quite spectacular with its .8-kilometer long span and combined arch-gravity and buttress engineered to hold back 187 million cubic meters of water. On one side, the dam rises 150 meters while on the lake side, it appears to only be 20 meters. The 2018 peloton will cross the dam on its way from the Col du Pre to the Cormet de Roseland. Whether riding, watching on tv, or cheering on the riders in person, the Barrage and Lac de Roselend provide an amazing backdrop to Stage 11 of the 2018 Tour de France.
The not-so-little Saint Bernard Pass
Perhaps you’ve heard of the famed Grand Saint Bernard Pass, separating Switzerland and Italy? I am here today to tell you about its little brother, the Little Saint Bernard Pass, separating France and Italy, not far from what is sure to be an explosive finish to Stage 11 at La Rosiere. From the ski resort at 1,850 meters, the border is only 6.45 kilometers as the crow flies. The pass has been a trade route since prehistoric times and as such is a wonderfully diverse place to experience a millennium of history. Whether in summer or winter, traversing the countryside from La Rosiere to the Italian village of La Thuile in the Aosta Valley is as easy as it is mind blowing. In winter, a combination of four chair and drag lifts get you to the top of Italy’s Espace Saint Bernard ski area. In summer, the ski trails turn into thrilling mountain biking trails that again offer international opportunities. The fifteen-kilometer Col du Petite-Saint-Bernard route climbs up to the Fort de la Redoute on the 2,383 meter Col du Traversette before a rapid descent to the Col du Petite Saint Bernard and a more in-depth tour of the French-Italian backcountry before heading back to La Rosiere. Looking for something a little slower? Enjoy any one of countless hikes through hills filled with wildflowers and breathtaking views of the surrounding peaks. Walk the remnants of a Roman road or discover the ancient history of the pass. With any of these, enjoy breakfast in France and lunch in Italy. There’s so much to discover in La Rosiere that this is one place not to miss along the 2018 Tour route.