The International Festival de Pyrotechniques has been held in Courchevel for 17 years spanning three weeks during February and March. I remember watching it from Chris and Carole’s room in 18,50 eight years ago, however it is somewhat more extensive now. Six events are held in different centres of the resort over this period, with ‘desambulations’ through the villages by pirates (this year’s theme) earlier in the day. A torchlight descent by ESF instructors and various champions open the evening proceedings followed by the fireworks display by companies from Brazil, GB, Italy and France.
We had attended the first display in Village at 15,50 and whilst the fireworks were impressive the transport provision for around 2000 people was dire. No additional buses to bring people in from the surrounding area. There were so many bodies crammed into the patch at the bottom of the piste that we didn’t even attempt to fight our way through for the complementary vin chaud. We chose to view the 18,50 event from outside our building which looks up towards their hillside. This didn’t transpire to be an effective decision as most of the show took place behind the trees which were silhouetted in a range of colours, but not quite the display we anticipated.
This week’s venue was here in 16,50 at the top of the main lift, 3km up the hill. This seemed a little strange if the same numbers were expected as the 8 person cabins were some what restricted in their load transport. We presumed that the organisers knew what they were doing but still walked down the piste to avoid the congestion on the 2 escalators from street level. Leaving a good half an hour to allow for queues we arrived at the top in time to have 2 cups of vin chaud before the torchlit descent began.
The fireworks were delayed for 10-15 minutes to allow for more people to arrive via the cabins before we were entertained by a 15 minute display from Italy which lit up the surrounding hillside beautifully. The accompanying music was very ‘piratey’ but the fireworks were just fireworks. I’m unsure of the connection and failed to discern a head of Jack Sparrow, but enjoyed the spectacle.
We stood towards the back of the crowd at the top of the descending slope, ready for a quick getaway when the hoard made for the lifts at the end, and it as well we did. As the final rockets exploded their multi-coloured cordite across the skies and the rainbow smoke hung above the trees we turned and tried to run towards the entrance with several hundred other people.
As we filled the extensive hanger Roger could see that the lift wasn’t even moving! Fortunately someone saw fit to switch on the lights so the crowd weren’t squashed in the dark but I still couldn’t resist an awareness of a massive safety issue if there had been any kind of fire or just panic. We were hemmed in on all sides and another lift had stunk of burning rubber when we’d alighted a couple of weeks ago.
Fortunately the lift clunked into life, and then stopped. Roger’s ankle trouble prevented us from opting to walk 3km down the piste, not that we could have extracted ourselves from the mass. Then the lift began again. 5 cabins a minute with 8 people in each. 50 minutes would be the fastest time clear the crowd, assuming it worked continuously, and that all cabins were full which they frequently aren’t as people chose to sit together but block the entrance for 1s and 2s to occupy the empty seats. Despite being nearer the back of the audience and consequently towards the front of the queue, it still took half an hour before we alighted our transport. Not the best laid plan, hopefully, never to be repeated and someone given the title of ‘supreme idiot’. Or perhaps the organisers considered this acceptable, even after the fire of 18,50 earlier in the season which claimed 2 lives and put many in hospital with serious spinal injuries!!