Les Houches to remain closed for the 08/09 Season?

The contracts to run the ski domain of both SEPP (Bellevue lift) and the LHSG company that runs the Prarion lift (Compagnie du Mont Blanc + Cachat family) have been recommended to be cancelled by the government commission at the tribunal of Grenoble, potentially making it legally impossible to open Les Houches for skiing this winter.

The Les Houches ski area has had concessionary issues with its ski domain for many years. The current situation is that the ski area sits between two communes, Chamonix and St Gervais, and two main families (Hottegindres of SEPP and Cachat of LHSG) one of whom (LHSG) has a principal partner/investor based in Chamonix (The Compagnie du Mont Blanc).

Each year disagreements on the division of revenues has resulted in delays in knowing when, if and how the Les Houches ski passes would be available to clients, often until nearly opening day. The director of the Office of Tourism in Les Houches, Didier Josephe, laments this situation, saying that it makes it impossible to do pre-season promotions and advertising aimed at clients. This reduces the potential winter revenues for everyone involved with the ski area.

This year SEPP (Bellevue lift) did not allow LHSG, which runs the Prarion lift, to cross any of its land to reach LHSG pistes, effectively stopping LHSG from operating. The Compagnie du Mont Blanc were aware of this tactic last Spring and have already thrown in the towel, telling clients that Les Houches would not be on the ski pass for this season. Instead they have struck a deal with Verbier in Switzerland to allow Mont Blanc Unlimited season pass holders unlimited ski days at Verbier as compensation. They are also continuing to develop relations with the Courmayeur ski area in Italy.

Now, the contract to run the ski domain of SEPP (Bellvue lift) has been recommended to be cancelled by the government commission at the Grenoble Administrative Court. Normally the conclusion of the commision is followed by judges, therefore we await the contracts of both groups to be officially annulled, and this would lead to the impossibility under French law to have enough time to renegotiate the contracts before the start of the winter season, effectively closing the hill for both lifts.

The Mayor of St Gervais was interviewed on Radio Mt Blanc saying he had asked the Prefecture what sort of help they were going to give to the towns since they have basically taken away their livelihood in this move ...

The Dauphiné Libéré has speculated that the Compagnie du Mont Blanc and LHSG have actually welcomed this action because although it will be bad for this winter, it seems to bode well for the future.

In the Dauphiné Libéré, they suggest this will lead to the formation of a Sivu (Syndicat a vocation unique or Union into a single operator). A Sivu is thought by many to be a more practical legal body for the ski domain, allowing the communes to have one authority to deal with running the domains.

Further Information

SEPP’s view of events - link in French

Posted by on Tuesday, 23 September, 2008 at 03:58 PM

Les Houches will more than likely be open despite the complex issues involved. Imagine the legal comback from all involved parties and those whose livelihoods depend on the opening of the slopes (ie: businesses in the village and on the slopes and the 2 concession holders & all of the employees). Mr Dole states in his press release of September 08 that they (the Mairie) has the legal means to ensure that the resort will open for skiing this Winter.

It is not only local ski clubs that are affected, but businesses, suppliers, employees of local businesses (including those lovely restaurants which Firechick mentions - which are worth bringing clients to) which would be seriously affected as they can’t just up and relocate elsewhere in the valley.

It does take a little longer to drive to Courmayeur from Argentiere than to Les Houches. From the roundabout at Chamonix which leads to the tunnel, you have restricted speed through the actual tunnel itself. By the time you go through the tunnel (not accounting for the time in queues during holiday season), you would be parking your car in Les Houches!

Fingers crossed things work out so that we can support local businesses and keep it practical (& logical!) for clients.

Posted by  on  Monday, 13 October, 2008  at 08:15 PM

I’m buying my season pass this evening over the internet and the Unlimited pass is advertising that Les Houches is included in the pass.

I presume that this is confirmation that the resort will open this year!?

Posted by  on  Wednesday, 26 November, 2008  at 12:45 PM

Not sure where you are looking on that vast ‘internet’ thingy but the Mont Blanc Unlimited pass most certainly does not advertise on the Compagnie du Mont Blanc site that Les Houches is included. It is definitely NOT included. Some old chalet websites still have not been updated to state this but do NOT trust any site about lift passes except the ones actually selling them - eg the Compagnie du Mont Blanc or the SEPP sites.

I have just verified this now, and clearly the zone marked for the Unlimited pass does not include Les Houches (it still includes the Tramway du Mont Blanc which goes from St Gervais to Nid d’Aigle but this long train ride could hardly be considered a ski lift - it’s basically a tourism or mountaineer train).

Les Houches is open this year but by a further recent bizarre court decision that did not follow the recommendation of the committee, the courts have ruled that the Company of Mont Blanc cannot even offer the single Prarion lift (ie no pistes, just the lift) so there is NO access to Les Houches except by purchasing a separate Les Houches lift ticket (or by purchasing a very expensive seasons pass for the whole of the region of Mont Blanc for 1200 euros called ‘Pays du Mont Blanc’ ... which costs more than buying separately both a season’s pass for Chamonix and Les Houches ...  ). I do not believe this pass is available as a weekly type of pass for tourists - only a season’s pass.

The SEPP concession has been allowed to continue for this season (and I am not entirely clear on exactly WHO profits from the newly refurbished Prarion lift, but currently it is only available on the Les Houches lift pass, not the Compagnie du Mont Blanc ones). Also, the towns of Les Houches and St Gervais have been reprimanded by the courts and strongly suggested to reconfigure their concessions in future.

In addition, the way the court decision was rendered, without even allowing a hearing of arguments from the LHSG side at all, has many in the area thinking that a further round of legal appeals will occur after the winter is over.

The sale price for a season’s skiing in Les Houches goes until November 30 and is reasonably priced—under 300 Euros I believe ... useful if you do ski there often.

Posted by  on  Friday, 28 November, 2008  at 01:02 AM

Oh and there is this posted to the Compagnie du Mont Blanc website in regards to being denied by the courts the ability to run the Prarion lift.http://www.compagniedumontblanc.fr/docs/AVERTISSEMENT_MBU_TC_PRARION.PDF

OK I have lived here for a few years, and thought my French was OK, but to me the English translation of this seems to NOT agree with the French in tone ... the French seems to be cheeky at the end of the announcement saying ‘go on over to the Les Houches sales desks and see what they are going to do about it’ and the English makes it sound like something *will* be done about it. To me the fact that they don’t know what will be done about it seems to indicate that this is in fact a cheeky suggestion and the English is simply mis-translated. Or is my French really that crap (it could well be ??).

Posted by  on  Friday, 28 November, 2008  at 01:23 AM

I was looking at the Compagnie du Mont Blanc site on the vast ‘internet’ thingy but looks like I made a mistake which is a pain in the behind as I’ve just baught the Unlimited Pass :(

How much do the season passes for Les Houches cost after the 30th? We are staying in Les Houches so it would be nice for us to have the option of riding there.


Posted by  on  Friday, 28 November, 2008  at 10:28 AM
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