Multi Sport

Alaïa Chalet | How Crans-Montana Is Being Transformed Into An Action Sports Mecca

Exploring the £6.5 million facility that, alongside Switzerland's first surf lagoon, looks set to change the game

Thick snowflakes are falling and it’s a whiteout on the mountain – but inside Alaïa Chalet the show must go on. A team of builders is working around-the-clock to put the finishing touches to what will become Switzerland’s biggest action sports centre. That, of course, also includes the occasional time out to ‘test’ the pump track and skate bowl at the heart of Alaïa Chalet (they’re only human after all)

“Our goal is to raise the bar of action sports in Switzerland,” says founder Adam Bonvin from the bar area overlooking the indoor skatepark at Alaïa Chalet, perched on a plateau below the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana. “The mountain already has a snow park in the winter and bike park in the summer but we want Alaïa Chalet to be a true home for action sports.”

“Our goal is to raise the bar of action sports in Switzerland”

We’re here just days before opening to check out a facility that will sprawl across 5,000sqm once the winter snow melts and the outdoor skatepark is also completed (in June). The combined footprint of this place will be larger than rival action sports centres in Laax (Freestyle Academy) and Winterthur (Skills Park). It’s kind of a big deal. 

Alaïa Chalet is designed to offer a year-round training facility for skateboarding, freestyle skiing, snowboarding and BMX – from kids trying action sports for the first time, to seasoned professionals competing at the Olympic Games. Visitors can drop-in for a two-hour session or sign-up for a week-long camp, with skateboard coaching provided by ex-professional Chany Jeanguenin and winter freeski courses split across Alaïa Chalet and Crans-Montana’s snow park, one of the largest in Switzerland (the resort also offers 140km of marked pistes).

Photo: Denis Emery

The £6.5 million facility is the brainchild of Bonvin and only one half of a two-part project which will also bring the first surf lagoon to landlocked country Switzerland when Alaïa Wave opens in Sien, 30 minutes from Crans-Montana, in 2020. “The idea is that you can come for one week and you can ski, skate and surf,” says Bonvin, who hopes to transform the Swiss region of Valais into an action sports mecca.

Bonvin continues to show us around Alaïa Chalet, with the indoor facility, sheltered from the snowstorm outside, split into two: on one half there’s a training gym with an array of trampolines and airbags, and on the other the skatepark with a pump track, bowl and kicker with an airbag landing for skaters, skiers and snowboarders. The kicker is constructed from wood – not snowflex – so Alaïa Chalet’s rental skis and boards, for use on the airbag, have skate-style wheels.

“Every single one of them skates, so when they design something, they know how they would want it for themselves”

“You’ve got two options when building a big air jump: snowflex and wood,” says Bonvin. “The problem with snowflex is that you lose speed. With this, you gain a lot of speed so you can really go high. We’ve designed it in a way so that both beginners and pro athletes can enjoy themselves here. There are lines for beginners, intermediates and experts.”

Alaïa Chalet’s outdoor skatepark will include a street plaza, three-level bowl and snake run, all of which (along with the indoor facility) has been built by California Skateparks, the team behind some of the world’s most famous skate spots, including Venice Beach in California.

Photo: Alaïa Chalet

“They are all old skaters,” says Bonvin. “When they finish work at night, they skate for an hour before going home. Every single one of them skates, so when they design something, they know how they would want it for themselves.”

The California Skateparks team is also building the first Olympic skatepark in Tokyo and Alaïa Chalet’s street plaza has been designed to replicate what will eventually be used in Japan next summer. “We are an official training centre for the Olympics, so the Swiss federation wants to come here to train,” says Bonvin.

“If the weather is bad, they can train here. If it’s good, they can go to the snow park and then come here at night”

Alaïa Chalet is also set to attract world-class freestyle skiers and snowboarders, according to Bonvin, with the French and British federations already expressing an interest. “Today you can’t really go in the snow park, it’s snowing too hard,” he says, gesturing outside as it continues to dump. “If the weather is bad, they can train here. If it’s good, they can go to the snow park and then come here at night.”

Switzerland’s national halfpipe champion, Robin Briguet, who competed for his country at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, is already a regular in Crans-Montana’s snow park having grown up on the mountain and will use Alaïa Chalet to fine-tune ever-wilder tricks.

Photo: Alaïa Chalet

“It’s pretty cool to train on a trampoline,” says the 19-year-old. “It means you know exactly where you are in the air, you have the feeling. You can try something new, go a bit bigger. Practice it again and again.”

Ultimately, however, inclusivity is at the heart of Alaïa Chalet. Bonvin sought inspiration from Camp Woodward, which offers world-renowned action sports and gymnastics summer camps in locations across the United States. While Alaïa Chalet will be open to one-time visitors, Bonvin hopes to nurture the next generation of riders through a series of camps. The facility also includes a digital media and music studio to teach video production and editing, while an 88-bed lodge is due to open across the road in September.

“The younger generation want to try these sports but they lack the infrastructure so they give up,” says Bonvin. “Even if your parents buy you a skateboard and you head to a skatepark, they will still be worried about you smoking weed or doing bad stuff.

“Or you fail, hurt yourself, throw your skateboard away and give up. It can be really hard to progress in skateboarding, freestyle skiing or snowboarding if you don’t have a really good environment. Otherwise you give up easily and start playing basketball or football.”

Bonvin hopes to expand Alaïa Chalet to include climbing facilities and an even bigger ramp. “Pro athletes ask us all the time if we can have a huge kicker to train for the big air competition,” he says.

“We want to make action sports accessible”

He also hopes to demonstrate Crans-Montana’s potential as an action sports destination to the local lift company, in order to attract further investment in the snow park and mountain bike trails. Ultimately, expansion across Switzerland is the 23-year-old’s long-term ambition.

“We want to make action sports accessible for everyone,” he says. “We want to provide the infrastructure – the facilities and coaching – so you can really progress and have a passion for these sports for the next ten or 20 years.”

Do It Yourself

Mpora flew with SWISS to Geneva (one-way fares start from £67) and took a direct train from the airport to Sierre, where a 15-minute funicular runs from the valley to Crans-Montana.

The recently-refurbished Hotel Elite is situated close to the resort centre and slopes, and provides comfortable, modern accommodation, with a bar and restaurant overlooking the Rhône valley. Rooms start from £141 per night.

Entry to Alaïa Chalet starts from 29 Swiss Francs for a two-hour, access all areas ticket (CHF 24 for aged 16 and under), with ten-visit, six-month and 12-month passes also available. A one-week skateboard camp will take place on August 10-17, with full-board accommodation, Alaïa Chalet access, coaching and a video souvenir costing CHF 1165 (CHF 1099 for aged 16 and under) For more information, visit the Alaïa Chalet website.

You May Also Like

Carnival In Lucerne | Photographing The Maddest Street Party In Switzerland

We Travelled To St. Moritz And Went Behind The Scenes At The Cresta Run


Newsletter Terms & Conditions

Please enter your email so we can keep you updated with news, features and the latest offers. If you are not interested you can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell your data and you'll only get messages from us and our partners whose products and services we think you'll enjoy.

Read our full Privacy Policy as well as Terms & Conditions.