The death of Éric Boissonnas on the 28th of February, 2005 probably went unnoticed by many but he had a profound impact on the development of skiing in France. His vision continues to shock even today. Boissannas was a member of the Mirabaud and Schlumberger banking families, he was also a protestant with his roots in the Alsace region and this, as much as anything, seems to be the part of the controversy.
In the late 50s Boissonnas, who was heavily influenced by his time in America, was contacted by Réne Martens and Gérard Chervas, two Swiss skier tourers based in Geneva. They had “discovered” a bowl high in the Chablais mountains and thought it would make an ideal area for a ski resort. Eric, and his brother Remi were looking for a site to develop in the American style. Brash modern architecture juxtaposed against a mountain background would be perfect for them.
The development of Flaine, which Boissonnas described as an “open air museum” in his grandly titled book: “Flaine The Creation”, would be fraught with problems. He fell out with Maurice Michaud, at the time “Mr Plan Neige” and had difficulties with the locals. Michaud went on to describe him as “a poet suffering from having 40 billion Francs”. Flaine lost the talented architects of Laurent Chappis, and Denys Pradelle who had worked on Courchevel. The project would end up costing his family hundreds of millions of Francs.
Flaine’s Bahaus architecture, designed by Marcel Breuer, continues to shock. Boissonnas succeeded in his aim of creating a cultural adventure. Just look at the fireplace in the Hotel des Lindars or the Mur Pignon on Flaine Forum or the works of art by Picasso and Dubuffet. If you do not care for the buildings there are always the pistes, beautifully laid out by Emile Allais.