Mix ‘n’ Match

Ski at the Sept Laux above the alpine capital of Grenoble and you may see a rather odd site. A lift where chairs and bubbles are mixed on the same cable. No you’ve not drunk too much vin chaud at lunch, it is a new prototype lift, one of only two in France, called a telecombi.

It’s a chairlift, it’s a cabin, no it’s a telecombi!

High-speed chairlifts present difficulties for beginners, both skiers and snowboarders. They are also inconvenient for walkers, particularly snowshoers. With around a third of visitors to ski resorts being non-skiers this is an important market. Second tier resorts such as the Sept Laux attract a lot of beginners, particularly school groups. Higher capacity cabins enable instructors to group their charges, particularly children, who for safety reasons may be too small to use the chairs on their own.

The new telecombi replaces the old Grand Cerf chair. Built by Doppelmayr it has a capacity of 2100 skiers per hour and has a mix of a quarter 8 person cabins, three quarters 6 seat chairs. The cabins can even be garaged when they are not needed. The 551 meters climb is covered in 5 minutes. The new lifts represent a significant investment for the resort of over €5 million.

The Sept Laux was born during the years of French Snow Plans and the quest for white gold. The logic was obvious. Equip a series of bowls on both sides of the mountain to give skiing on various slopes, both tree lined and higher altitude. Normally the resort opens with the first snows of winter until after Easter. Built close to the major population centre of Grenoble in the affluent Rhône-Alpes region the future seemed sure. In the dim past there were even talks of extending the skiing to the Belle Etoile and onto the glacier of the Rocher Blanc to create a summer ski area.

With aging and limited accommodation and the vagaries of climate change such thoughts are long forgotten. The Isère region council commissioned the consulting group Dianeige to study the department’s ski stations and the Sept Laux is one of privileged group scheduled for investment.  Martine Carretero, the director of communications told PisteHors.com that the lift is part of the resort’s new philosophy. It replaces two aging chairlifts, which would have required €570,000 of investment, their lift stations and 12 pylons. The result is lower visual impact on the mountain. The cabins also fulfil a requirement to offer disabled access to the ski area as well as enabling the resort to develop summer activities.

jas de lievres
Away from it all, ski tourers picnicing near the 7 Laux yesterday

Other unsightly surface lifts have also disappeared. In a gesture of solidarity the resort gave one to the tiny ski area of la Motte d’Aveillans to replace their old diesel driven lift that had died after 29 years loyal service. The policy is no further expansion of the ski area but to improve the quality of the current offering. This was sweet music to the ski mountaineers we spoke to on the summit of the 2325 meter Jas de Lièvres on Sunday. The ski pistes are clearly visible below the summit of this popular ski touring route but they certainly don’t impact on the beauty of the spot. Indeed the resort wants to offer something for everyone. From the summit of the Pouta it is possible to scramble half an hour to ski the still virgin Cime de la Jasse before climbing with skins to return to the resort via the Combe de Bédina. Other peaks, including the Belle Etoile and Dent du Pra await.  The resort offers a surprising variety of skiing which belies the 120km of pistes. There are steep blacks, bump runs and for freeriders the unpisted Vallons du Pra and Combe de Bedina. The Cime de la Jasse also passes through a superb back bowl.


The North facing bowl of the Vallons du Pra is avalanche prone in winter. Skiers and borders wishing to tour in the area should ideally employ a guide. Freeriders should wait for the piste security to control and open the run before skiing it, even if there are already tracks.

Web site: [url=http://www.les7laux.com]http://www.les7laux.com[/url]

Posted by davidof on Monday, 17 January, 2005 at 08:45 PM

I’d be interested to see how that works, I guess there are 2 entrances to the lift, one where you keep your Ski’s/Board on and one you take them off otherwise it would be chaos.

Posted by  on  Friday, 21 January, 2005  at 12:28 AM

There is a single queue for ticket control then it forks, left for the chairs or round the back to the cabins. But it does still cause some confusion as people have to make a decision and the lifties have to work quite hard to get the lifts full.

French lift manufacturer Poma are selling a similar system under the brand name Telemix®.

Posted by davidof on  Friday, 21 January, 2005  at 12:02 PM
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