The First Ski Lifts and the Birth of a Major Resort
At the end of the war in 1945, Alpe d'Huez restarted its rapid development. Thanks to the growth in hotel capacity, skiers flocked to the resort, and its popularity grew to the point where an expansion of the lift infrastructure became necessary. The opening of the cable car in 1955 increased the maximum altitude of the ski area from 2,000m to 2,616m, taking skiers to the summit of the Petites Rousses and opening up access to new pistes with good snow cover and varying levels of difficulty. Despite this, the resort's lift capacity did not keep pace with the explosive growth in hotel capacity, with long waiting times and a number of pistes remaining undeveloped as a result. In response, the SATA lift company (Société d’Aménagement Touristique de l’Alpe d’Huez) was founded in 1958 with the objective of managing the development of the lift system.
Hoteliers, business owners and instructors in Alpe d'Huez are obliged to donate a proportion of their income to SATA, and the commune of Huez is also a shareholder in the company. SATA's first act was to purchase the cable car and take over its operation, along with the exclusive right to develop the resort's lift system, a monopoly that was intended to avoid the risk of any conflicts. Through SATA, Alpe d'Huez had created a unique indigenous business model, in which the businesses in the resort and the commune are the collective owners of the lift system. Since its formation, SATA has continuously developed the lift system, allowing Alpe d'Huez to become one of France's biggest ski resorts. The value of Alpe d'Huez as a tourist destination remains unrivalled even today.
In addition to the growth of the lift system, Alpe d'Huez's history is marked by the development of its various districts, tourist facilities and events. Some key dates:
- 1980 to 1989: Development of the Éclose district
- 1982: Creation of the Maison d'Alpe housing the tourist office, ESF ski school and lift ticket counters, and opening of the Museum of Huez and Oisans
- 1985 to 1990: Development of the Les Bergers district
- 1986: The resort celebrated its 50th anniversary with the opening of the Palais des Sports et des Congrès (sports and congress centre), the opening of the Grandes Rousses DMC (double mono cable), and the opening of the Marmottes gondola
- 1989: Launch of the VISALP lift pass based on the principle of "à la carte" holidays giving access to all the ski lifts as well as numerous activities in the resort such as swimming pool, ice rink, museums, sports and congress centre, etc.
- 1997: The first edition of the Alpe d'Huez International Comedy Film Festival