Chat with President and Co-Director Mountain Wilderness

What do you think about the situation in La Grave (new owner, new lease,…) ?

We were really concerned by the way La Grave town hall handled the communication around the new lease. It was impossible to know what was going on. By not communicating La Grave town hall created this “drama” atmosphere where crazy rumours were flying around.

A couple of weeks before officially announcing the new lift operator, the town hall team invited us for a meeting. We were all positively surprised by the quality of the exchange and the sincere desire to protect La Grave’s spirit as it is. La Grave is an open gate to the high mountain, glaciers and adventurous terrain. As it is right now, nothing is lost and La Grave can remain wild and unique.

How do we keep it unique then ?

Today 99% of the ski resorts based all their strategy, their development and their budget on ski slopes, lift or snow guns. This used to work 40 or 50 years ago but it doesn’t work anymore. Ski resorts sell less and less ski tickets and visitors not come to the mountains to hit the slopes.

Everything that will connect tourism with territory unicity is what you need to develop. La Grave town hall shared some numbers with us, 60% of the village revenue is being made in summer. Why not focusing on summer activities and create something different ?

Is there any resorts doing a good job at involving local economy and helping local sustainable projects ?

Set up by a group of young people, a new association – Boutch à Boutch - has been formed in Chamonix in 2013.

The intentions of the youngsters are simple: to organise, gather and engage with the citizens of the Chamonix valley. Moreover, this group wishes to meet with the local boutches, meaning ‘young bull’ in the local slang or as they describe in their own words, “someone who has little to say or… the courage to express themselves”.

Each autumn, an event is organised in the town where the locals are welcome to propose new initiatives for the valley. With an attendance of

between 200-300 people, proposals are welcome under three main themes: improvements to everyday life, relations between inhabitants and, the environment. At the end of the meeting, the proposals with the highest number of votes are selected. These proposals are then put to the general assembly and one will be implemented the following year.

The first project undertaken by the association, “Le Potager de mon pote âgé”, began in Spring 2014. This simple concept aimed to connect local landowners, with gardeners lacking the space to cultivate. The aim was to increase the number of vegetable gardens in the valley, but also to

produce local and organic fruits and vegetables.

We work on a proposal to run La Grave gondola on renewable energy. Is it something you encourage ?

Definitely. Taking what look at first a disadvantage and turning it into something positive is the way to go. In that case you have an iconic low debit gondola that consumes way less energy than a classic 6 chairs lift. A solar powered solution would make a lot of sense.

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