The Spirit of La Grave

Following a judgment by the administrative court in Marseille in which the commune of La Grave was found responsible for the lack of signposting which lead to the death of a young snowboarder, has asked the Téléphérique des Glaciers de la Meije (TGM SA) for their comments.

PH: Do you think this case will result in new restrictions on off-piste skiing in France?
LG: We don’t think the case will have any consequences in terms of signposting currently in place at La Grave.  Since the accident we have take a number of initiatives including training, preventative measures, information and discrete but well positioned signs.

In relation to that, we are also the first lift company in France to have purchased, in partnership with Mammut / Barryvox a permanent training center for searching victims of avalanches based at the 2400 station and mobile centers based at 3200 and la Grave.

PH: What changes have you made since the tragic accident?
LG: There were no direct, overnight consequences but a constant evolution of the information targeted and appropriate to our guests and off-piste users.  There are now marker ropes at the bottom traverse of the Chancel, at the entrance of the Trifide couloirs and at the entrance of the glacier itineraries.

PH: We’ve heard that you intend to appeal the recent decision in the Marseille court?
LG: The community is currently considering whether it is possible to appeal the decision. We believe that skiers who follow tracks without knowing where they lead also have a responsibility.

PH: You’ve commented that you need better visitor numbers during the week, are there any financial concerns?
LG: No, TGM SA has sound and balanced accounts

PH: There is a rumour that Les Deux Alpes would like to buy La Grave to enlarge their own ski domain…
LG: We keep hearing this rumour every couple of years but we don’t know where it comes from and it is not true. Les Deux Alpes are partners with La Grave and the domains are linked.  They don’t want to buy La Grave and the lift company TGM SA doesn’t want to sell.

PH: Is there a real desire to keep the La Grave sector as it is today?
LG: The desire to preserve La Grave is stronger than ever.  We have a unique off-piste domain in France, different from any other place.  The area and our guests wouldn’t stand a big increase in numbers followed by a loss of identity for La Grave. The spirit of la Grave and the environment are really the two paramount considerations.

PH: We were surprised by the judgment because we always assumed off-piste travel was at the skier’s own risk and peril
LG: It is the second time that the commune has been found responsible for an error of information.  For some time now we have tried to give our guests the information we think they need on the risks they face at a given moment.

PH: Do you envisage your clients signing waivers when they buy a lift ticket?
LG: In France one thing you can’t delegate is responsibility… a ski domain is always under the responsibility of the community. Asking our guests to sign a ‘waiver’ has no legal value apart from showing they were aware of the risks they faced.

PH: Given the Mont de Lans case law(see: Serious Judgement for La Grave) what implications do you see for the Chancel and Vallons itineraries
LG: At present there are no implications for the classic itineraries, which remain high-mountain routes.

PH: Denis Creissels is considered a hero by the backcountry community for saving La Grave, do you know his position with regards to the Marseille judgement?
LG: It is a decision that has affected everyone here at La Grave but I would like to make clear that the court did not question the operations of the lift company.

PH: Thank you for your time?
LG: We hope that this has answered your questions.

La Grave has a mailing list with regular updates of the conditions. A 24 hour telephone information line can be called on: +33 (0) 476 79 91 09

Posted by davidof on Friday, 16 April, 2004 at 08:54 AM

The nervous, exciting anticpation of skiing La Grave for the first time is something most people will always remember. I’m very reassured on reading this that it will remain a special place.

Posted by  on  Friday, 16 April, 2004  at 12:01 PM
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