At La Grave, the cable car that divides Mecca from off-piste

Which way to take? For mountain guides, this question has taken on a new meaning in La Grave, a tiny resort in the Hautes-Alpes known as a mecca for mountaineering and off-piste skiing. People come from everywhere to experience the heights of La Meije, winter and summer, within reach of the cable car.

Since the end of the 1970s, two successive sections have taken skiers or pedestrians to an altitude of 3,200 meters. Then an antique pull-butt pulls the first ones up to 3,550 meters, from where one looks in the eyes the glacier of Girose.

For the past ten years, everyone has agreed that this ski lift must be dismantled, the operation of which accelerates the degradation of the glacier. For the future, there are two ways: its replacement by a cable car; or nothing, nothing at all.

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The town hall and the operator of the area, the Société d’Aménagement Touristique de La Grave (SATG), believe that without this third section, the very existence of the resort is in danger: the number of visitors to the area could not exceed 600 skiers. per day and the economic equilibrium would no longer be achieved. In addition, the municipality would be forced to reimburse the costs of studies already conducted, at least 200,000 euros.

Its opponents consider that this link would threaten the alternative identity of the area of ​​La Meije, by making it a potential annex of Deux-Alpes, an industrial resort within reach of skis. Conversely, devoid of any means of transport, the Girose glacier would offer a new approach to the mountains. An outpost of the tourist transition.

The guides do not decide

Faced with these contrary avenues, the office of the guides – there are thirty-one of them – de La Grave did not decide; there were too many nuances, too many disagreements, sometimes sharp. Proof that the debate is more complex than it seems; let it not be reduced to an opposition between the lovers of the ice cream parlor, up there, and those of the cash drawer, downstairs.

In La Grave, the guides carry the weight of the mountain with them. The SATG would have liked them to vote in favor of the cable car. They could not. The office’s opinion reads as follows: “There is a path to be traced between maintaining an economic activity far from any standardization, and the necessary protection of our wild and non-sanitized high mountain heritage. “ SATG does not say anything else; not everyone believes her. “We are more mountain people than commercial, them, it’s the other way around, sums up Xavier Cointeaux, co-president of the guides office. It’s hard to understand each other, even to hear their fine words. “

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