Last week, FREESKIER contributor Erin Spong was in France with the Rossignol crew checking out the impressive headquarters in Grenoble, France, and what the brand has planned for the coming seasons. Joined by Rossignol athletes Tatum Monod, Parker White and Chris Logan, this “band of tasters” is sure to get into some mischief, ski related and otherwise.
The first day of our big trip kicked off this morning at the Rossignol headquarters in Grenoble, France. Rossignol’s CEO, Vincent Wauters welcomed everyone—this is the first time in the brand’s history to have every person, from every country and every collection together all at once—with a beautiful presentation of where the brand is headed and all that it has accomplished in the last two years despite a global pandemic, energy crisis and war in Ukraine. Following the group presentation, the athletes and I got a VIP tour of the factory, located in the same building. We looked at individual core materials before watching a Rossignol employee build a ski right in front of us and we even got to put our hands on a not-yet-released, freeride-centric ski to join the ranks among the Sender and BlackOps series. After lunch our small crew, including team manager Matt Beers, snuck out of the office and ventured over to Fort de la Bastille, on the cusp of downtown Grenoble for a scenic hike and rainy, but beautiful, walk around the city. This is only day one and I’m already in love with this place. Stay tuned tomorrow, we’re headed to the trails to test out Rossignol’s electric mountain bikes.
Today was all play for the Rossignol team with an incredible mountain bike ride at Les 7 Laux, a local ski area about an hour outside of Grenoble. To make things extra fun, the crew and I tested out Rossignol’s electric (pedal-assist) mountain bikes and I may just be converted. We gained over 2,000 vertical feet without breaking a sweat and enjoyed the descents as if we were on regular, full-suspension bikes. The performance of these bikes is truly unlike anything I’ve ever been on and now I don’t know how I’m going to go back to climbing on my Rossignol Heretic…just kidding, I love that bike, too! After two and a half hours exploring the trails with the Rossignol Bikes employees, we enjoyed aprés and lunch at Le Kaktus at the base of the ski area. Reminiscent of our winter activities, it was a day full of pure fun and epic riding. The bonus being no one went OTB.
We headed back to the Rossignol headquarters for the entire day to get the lowdown on what’s to come from Rossignol on the apparel side. An added bonus was getting to watch Tatum, Chris and Parker each build their own special pair of the new freeride ski coming out from the brand in February. After the dirty work, we all washed up for a bite to eat and profile shots before Parker and Chris officially signed Rossignol’s Wall of Fame (Tatum has already left her signature on the wall of skiing icons). The day wrapped up with a company party, complete with a “snow” machine before heading back to the hotel to pack our bags and prepare for a road trip to Neveres the next day to visit the Look bindings factory and meet the geniuses behind one of the best binding brands in the world.
While most of the day was spent driving to Neveres, we did happen upon a lovely spot to stop for lunch in Mâcon. As we rolled into Neveres in the early evening, we were lucky enough to stop at the go-cart race track before checking into our hotel, which is located on the same campus as the area’s official formula one race track. I can confirm that go-carting is an absolute blast and while the turning and racing emulates skiing, drifting is a new skill I desperately need to work on.
The final day of our epic trip across southern France culminated in an extensive tour around the Look bindings factory. First, a brief history lesson was presented to give us a clear understanding of where Look bindings came from and where the brand plans to be in the future. From the presentation, we made our way to the factory facilities and walked through the entire process of making a binding. Before any pieces are assembled, a Look employee hand-checks the quality and accuracy of five percent of each shipment delivery. Once quality control is complete, the pieces go to either mass-painting or, if it’s the pivot, to the hand-painting stage. While most of the bindings are painted, special prints can also be hydro-dipped, like Tatum’s signature cheetah print, pictured above. Once every binding is painted its assigned color, the bindings find their way to various conveyor belts for hand and machine assembly where the bindings eventually end up packaged and shipped out to skiers worldwide.