Winter sports tourism has dramatically changed life in the Alps, bringing new challenges as well as more people. This is how Verbier has changed over the years
This fascinating graphic was made by Fiona Pia, a Swiss architect who specialises in alpine architecture and urban planning, plus hotel design.
Last year she published a PHD paper titled ‘Urbanizing the Swiss Alps: densification strategies for mountain towns’, focussing on the popular ski resort Verbier.
Watch Verbier grow over 80 years (in 20 seconds) | Credit: Fiona Pia
The report investigates how: “the skiing boom has driven massive urbanisation in mountain areas, primarily in locations at altitudes of 1400m or higher. For several decades this process has occurred with little to no planning, resulting in large inhabited areas comprising sparsely aggregated single-family chalets, the low density of this development model producing an urban sprawl inevitably dependent on car usage.”
Pia contends that this is a particular issue in Verbier, which is: “currently reaching saturation point, with land availability constraints, road congestion and climate stresses, quite apart from the fact that the second homes threshold has already been surpassed.”
She believes that: “second homes, which are an important economic driver in the mountains, are the crux of the issue here, regarded as the main culprit responsible for this fragmented and profligate use of land,” and advocates further densification of alpine settlements to make improved public transport networks more viable and to protect as yet unsettled areas.
The full report can be found here: https://infoscience.epfl.ch/record/222788