The ski and snowboard student World Cup is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. This is the opportunity for Marie-Léa Cazaux, student at GEM and the event's international manager, to tell us how her teams attracted over 30 nationalities and 45 higher-education institutions from across the globe for the Challenge which took place March 16th – 23rd 2019 in Val d'Isère, France.
Please describe the GEM Altigliss Challenge in a nutshell
At the beginning, the event used to be called the Olympub Games and took place in several ski resorts around the Grenoble region. The first edition in 1986 welcomed around 350 participants, mainly « Sup de Co Grenoble » students. A lot has changed since then: The School became Grenoble Ecole de Management, the Olympub Games became the GEM Altigliss Challenge, and we secured a partnership with Val d’Isère. We now welcome 1000 participants but we kept the essence of the challenge: Ski competition in both an exceptional and festive environment!
Today, 60% of the students come from other institutions than GEM, arriving from other cities in France and from other countries in the world. We welcomed 19 foreign teams this year, from: UK, Australia, Canada, China, Spain, Lebanon, Mexico, Norway, Russia, Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, USA, etc.
Just like every year, they competed against each other in three main Challenges (including 5 competitions in each challenge). The Ski Challenge is for ski or snowboard enthusiasts and includes a giant slalom, tight slalom, boarder cross… The Mountain Challenge is an opportunity to discover this environment other than by skiing. On the menu: biathlon, cross-country ski, snowshoe trek and even an occasion to test avalanche rescue devices! Finally, the Village Challenge brightens the village atmosphere thanks to fun and original activities such as bubble football or the human curling challenge, for example.
What are your strengths compared to other international sporting events dedicated to students?
We deliberately limit attendance to 1000 participants in order to guarantee a top-notch quality of service by providing sleeping arrangements, meals and safety…We invest a lot in a quasi-tailored service to welcome our guests from around the world.
All the teams are taken care of from A to Z as soon as they arrive in Grenoble. We bring them by bus to Val d'Isère. Upon arrival, they get their meals (breakfast and dinner) for the entire week, keys to their accommodation, as well as their ski passes for the Tignes and Val d'Isère ski resorts.
We not only look after the teams that attend the event by word of mouth but also those we "reach out to".
For example, this year, students from Universidad Politecnica de Madrid set up their team following the advice of one of the members' brother who had participated in the event in the past. We helped them find the best solutions with regards to travelling to Grenoble, among other services we provided. They arrived at the Challenge with friends from Carlos III de Madrid.
We also visited several schools and universities to meet with students, including the Tekniktat Universitat Munchen, EPFL or HEC Lausanne. The biggest challenge for us was to convince the institutions to let their students skip one or even two weeks of classes to be able to attend our event.
What are the advantages for students and institutions participating in the Challenge?
It's a serious event. Beyond the fact that it's a real competition, the challenge offers the opportunity for participants to learn more about parasports, sustainable development or even business pitching, during a gondola lift pitch competition (l’Altistart’up), for those who want to work on their entrepreneurial aspirations.
Our business partners also offer many opportunities, with KPMG for example organizing recruitment sessions during the week.
The Challenge is also a way to promote the Schools, especially if their teams are on the winners' podium. The winning teams' achievements participate to the recognition of their institution. For some years now, HEC Lausanne is a frequent winner of the Village Challenge, whereas Polytechnique regularly wins the Mountain Challenge, and Saint Cyr, the Ski Challenge.
The GEM Altigliss Challenge can also become a key moment in the association life of other institutions, becoming a development inspiration for their own clubs. For example, the mountain association of EPFL is going to create a center dedicated to their Altigliss participants. We are currently creating an Altigliss ambassadors' network.
Participating in the GEM Altigliss Challenge is also an opportunity for inspiring exchanges with students from all backgrounds: Schools, universities, engineers, managers, athletic or not, French or foreigners.
When needed, we also put students in contact with one another when some don't have a completed team to start with. In 2019, this networking system allowed for a team to be set up with students from 5 institutions and from 4 different countries: Tekniktat Universitat Munchen (Germany), EPFL (Switzerland), HEC Lausanne (Switzerland), Queen’s University (Canada) and University College Maastricht (the Netherlands).
About the relevance of student associations in higher-education training
GEM counts 23 student associations (sports clubs, professional experience, gastronomic, events-planning, cultural or socially engaged…). Approximately 700 events are organized each year, with budgets that can reach 500,000 euros and teams with up to 60 students.
GEM was one of the first Schools in France to design the student association related track for the 2nd Year Grande Ecole Program students. After a selection process, the track lets the students work on a project every afternoon during one semester. As part of the differentiated instruction approach, this track is an essential part of their curricula and is assessed.