In a move that is sure to ignite the fury of snowboarders across the world, the French resort of Courchevel has announced it is considering banning snowboarding on its slopes from the start of the 2011/12 season.
The plan, which would turn the clock back 30 years to a time when riders were routinely barred from using the lifts on skier-owned mountains, is aimed at attracting a more 'exclusive' clientele to the already pricey resort.
"Courchevel enjoys a worldwide reputation for luxury and Alpine tradition," explained the town premiere, M. Avril, in today's press release. "The reality is that our target market is almost 100% skiers, so we think it is now time to embrace this fact and say non to surf le neige. We are sure that it would be a popular change with our regular visitors, who include David Beckham and President Putin, and that our pistes can be a safer and more beautiful place next winter."
The local snowboard community is united in its anger and has launched a Facebook campaign, "C'est une blague!" aimed at persuading the resort to change its mind or ultimately even challenging the decision in court. Further complicating the issue is the fact that Courcheval sits within the massive '3 Valleys' lift system. Under the current plans, visitors purchasing an all-areas pass would be expected to declare their method of sliding at the ticket desk; an automated car-park style barrier at the top of runs into Courcheval would then ensure that only those with the new LiberSKI passes are allowed through. Anyone suspected of using splitboards to circumnavigate the restrictions would be liable to a strip search (it was unclear, however, whether monoboarding is to be included in the ban).
"It's total bullshit," says A. Jocaire, owner of Courcheval's biggest snowboard store. "Basically I have two choices: I can sell the lease to the fur shop next door or... pfff! I go bankrupt."
Jake Burton, whose snowboards are sold in Jocaire's store, is understood to be backing the rider resistance and has already added Courcheval to the list of targets for his company's 'Poachers' campaign, which encourages snowboarders to illegally score runs at the few resorts which still ban the sport (namely Alta and Deer Valley in Utah, and Mad River Glen in Vermont).
Other resorts in the Alps will be watching developments with interest, and if Courcheval's proposed bold move pays off it seems likely that more lift systems could follow. The snowboard community, meanwhile, will be hoping that tomorrow brings better news.
UPDATE (2 April): Yes of course this story was an April Fools! Can't believe how many of you fell for it though! C'mon, the clues were there - "premiere... Avril", "A. Jocaire" etc. :) Courchevel will NOT be banning surf le neige any time soon so there's no need to join the "C'est une blague" ("This is a joke!") Facebook group after all... - Ed