Architecture of Snow

Amalfi Coast
The rise in popularity of skiing around the world warrants a look at urbanism and ski resort architecture. Because the white sport, like all tourist activities, should be experienced and enjoyed like the unforgettable experience that it is.

The current managers of ski resorts are aware of the fact that the masses aren’t coming for winter sports as much as they’re coming for a winter vacation. The activity itself isn’t what attracts people, but instead a beautiful mountain vacation. Consequently, we are seeing how ski resorts are transforming little by little into snowy theme parks. And Formigal has been perhaps the first ski resort to understand that, thanks to talented and renowned manager, Antonio Gericó, who in 2015 was named General Director of the Aramón Group, Aragon Mountains.

It’s clear that Formigal-Panticosa has benefitted from recent special public investment that has transformed it into the largest and most modern resort in Spain. But it must be noted that this investment was no miracle. Gericó, before attaining his current position, worked in the hotel sector. He knew very well the difficulties of mountain lodging as he ran of the most luxurious establishments at Formigal, the Hotel Saliecho. While everyone else was homebound, Gericó was taking a page from the book of emblematic North American resorts, like Canada’s Whistler, and he was able to adapt these ideas to local tastes with the heart of a skier and the wisdom of a manager.

Free ski areas, children’s zones, half pipes for surfers, snowcat skiing, cafeterias, sky dining restaurants, local and international competitions such as the Junior World Ski Championship held in 2008. Toño Gericó knows all too well what the next challenge will be for the Aragonian resorts, if not resorts worldwide. Sensory architecture. Why has the winter tourism tradition always meant the reproduction of a Tyrolean chimney, carved wooden roofs, botanical frescos lining the walls and nativity scenes?

In the ski resorts managed by Intrawest, the Canadian winter resort multinational, you can see for yourself how an inspired idea of sensory architecture has transformed the greater part of the business into the highest expression of luxury in the 21st century; balanced, efficient and authentic. When Intrawest took over the management of Whistler, Canada, its analysts had meticulously documented the rationale behind the colorful homes of the Italian Amalfi coast and they copied that horizon, making theirs just as colorful and distinctive. They had discovered that the fishermen of Sorrento and Amalfi got their bearings way out in the ocean from their colorful and easily distinguishable roofs.

What does this have to do with the snow? Any ski aficionado is aware of the difficulty involved in finding the last run with a hotel and apartment buildings in the way. Many times, a misjudgment means getting back on the slope in poor light which can result in discomfort and injury after a full day of skiing. It is precisely for this reason that the managers of Intrawest applied what they learned in the Amalfi Coast and painted their resorts’ building in bright and easily visible colors.

Fernando Gallardo |

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