The “Tomorrowland winter” festival: can partying be a strategy for the future?

Dorothée Fournier, Docteure en histoire du sport, Laboratoire Sens-UFRAPS, Labex ITEM

How can one understand the tourist trend in winter sports resorts to offer activities mixing sports and festive atmosphere? It aims to ensure the sustainability of these territories subordinated to the leisure economy. This is not new; however, partying is no longer an « atmosphere » related to skiing but an offer in-itself. Should the secondary position attributed to skiing be read as an adaptive solution to climate change? The facilities reflect a search for sensation and fun experiences, like the Wetterleuchten festival (Austria), which brings together high mountains skiing and partying. The purpose of our communication is to question this hybridity between sports and celebration as an alternative strategy to skiing. We will measure the evolution of the different aspects of leisure practice from a longer historical perspective and using a special territory for support. In France, located southeast of Grenoble, Oisans, and especially the Alpe d’Huez, partly forged its fame on sports events: bobsleigh events of the 1951 World Championships, the 1968 Olympic Games, and the almost yearly unfolding of the “Tour de France” since 1976. In 2019, the territory becomes the winter theatre of a world-renowned Belgian electronic music festival: Tomorrowland. During this event, 25,000 festival-goers gather together for a week; it is a young and international clientele with high purchasing power. Tomorrowland winter materializes new considerations of space as well as new cultural aspirations, urging people to understand the contradiction between the desire for recreational excesses (hubris) and the search for naturalness. We will analyze the sociocultural heritage of events through a historical reading. We will also mobilize different types of sources (local newspapers, municipal council reports, stakeholder interviews) to take into account the evolution of representations. However, the existence of Tomorrowland winter raises a problem: the eviction of certain population groups (short-term vacationers are often preferred to secondary residents). Mountain territories have always been able to adapt, and we are going to discover their capacity to change in the light of new constraints.

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By Dorothée Fournier

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