The CMB (compagnie du mont blanc) has decided to replace the Plan Joran chairlift (26 years old) very shortly. The new lift has a single span between Argentière and the top of the current Marmottons lift.
The construction involves transporting material, metal, concrete and machinery up the mountain.
To achieve this the CMB wants to open a route through the forest at Lavancher, passing through the the pastures of the Pendant and up to the Croix de Lognan, within an area which is entirely their own concession.
The residents of Lavancher, when told of this plan, came out firmly against it and are very worried about it.
On 5th June they descended en masse (50 of them) to the Chamonix mairie to meet the mayor and the directors of the CMB. The atmosphere was agitated and tense. The director of the Grands Montets concession presented the plan, which was titled “Renewal of the road through the forest at Lavancher”.
Here there’s an awkward point : The title is misleading because at the moment there isn’t a road through these forest slopes, just a logging track 3 metres wide which ends at the Pendant plateau. From there, across the pasture there is only a footpath, so any sort of vehicular route there would be a new one. The footpath eventually rejoins the existing dirt road which links the bottom station of the “Retour Pendant” to the “Croix de Lognan”.
Translator’s note- the CMB is being accused fo spin.
The new road will be 4m wide and rocks will be carted up to stabilise the embankment. The profile of the route will be modified to offer a regular slope of 25%. You can imagine the huge scale of the deforestation and and terracing that’ll have to be done. The director didn’t indicate how they’d manage the hairpin bend where the route crosses the Chapeau.
The director general of the CMB, who’d been listening till then, justified these works using the absolute requirement for safety.
He said it was dangerous to carry the loads up the mountain under the Lognan cable car as has always been done previously to develop the site.
This method has worked perfectly well during the development of the site, as has the service lift alongside the Pierre à Ric. There hasn’t been a single accident caused by these methods so far, so why the sudden concern for safety now?
The directors didn’t say anything, but didn’t deny several pithy comments by the inhabitants that the new road would in the end become a permanent service road which would be used particularly for transporting the tons of diesel needed by the piste bashers.
The inhabitants expressed their disquiet, with good reason, over the disruption that would ensue in their village with the transit of lots of heavy goods vehicles. The road up is narrow and in many places is single track only for cars. There are many children. The houses are right on the road and the locals were worried about damage from vibrations. It would be the kiss of death to their peace and tranquility. They were also very worried about the the consequences of opening this new road on the protected forest in their area.
If the deforestation was significant it could change the trace of the “Verte” avalanche which could threaten some of the lower houses.
The Pendant pastures, a magic place over which the dome of the Verte towers, would be slashed by the new road, an insult unacceptable to this site of outstanding natural beauty.
The representative of the Office National des Forets thought this new road would have nothing but advantages and would allow better exploitation of the forest.
The mayor seemed to remain neutral. He underlined the importance of the renovation of the ski lifts to the economy of our valley. He advocated “the best solution” but he didn’t directly argue against the plans of the CMB.
So, what are the other solutions?
There’s always the helicopter. The director general scorned the 2000 return trips necessary for the works which would be an “insupportable nuisance to the inhabitants of Argentière”.
The Pierre à Ric ski slope? It was too steep, so only caterpillar tracked vehicles could climb it, explained the directors before a very sceptical audience.
The service lift? It didn’t have the power or capacity necessary.
For the CMB the choice was clear. It must be the new road, which would be 600,000 to 800,000 euros cheaper than the helicopter. To the villagers this sum looked insignificant compared to the total cost.
The response to all this is simple:- In a valley which wants to be eco-friendly and where the politicians pontificate at length about sustainable development, the plan against climate change and the quality of life the only reasonable solution is to use existing construction methods, not open up new roads.
Whatever the commercial disadvantages the CMB needs to continue to use the same working methods that have worked so well for it for the last 50 years.
The village of Lavancher must remain a haven of peace and the forest needs to be left alone. It can all be exploited with the existing tracks or by cable. The pasture of the Pendant needs to keep its pastoral nature and its reign of silence.
There needs to be another meeting, planned for 3 weeks time.
Translator’s note:- Mr Lasserre has not come out against the new ski lift, just the destructive construction methods being planned.
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