Slow progress on Chamonix’s Grands Montets

24th November 2020, by Chris Gill

Mid-mountain on the Grands Montets at dawn today

Mid-mountain on the Grands Montets at dawn today

It’s over two years since the cable car to the top of Chamonix’s iconic, glacial Grands Montets ski area was destroyed by fire. We now hear that the lift company ‘hopes’ to have the replacement completed three years from now – though it’s worth noting that ‘the precise timeline is still dependent on negotiations with one of the three insurance companies involved’. Hmmm.

The fire took out the lower cable car from the valley to the mid-mountain station of Lognan at 1965m, as well as the famously queue-prone cable car to 3275m accessing the glaciers. Fortunately the main access lift, the Plan Joran gondola, was unaffected, as were the other major lifts on the upper mountain – the Herse chair-lift and the Bochard gondola to 2765m, for the moment the top of the lift system.

The project to replace the lifts, which will involve a complete redesign of the Lognan area, has been placed in the hands of the famous Italian architect Renzo Piano, designer of the Shard in London; he also had a hand in the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris. So no expense spared; perhaps that third insurance company is right to be dragging its feet.

The new lift from the valley will be another cable car, with its base station ‘in a better location for public transport users, to include a direct access to and from Argentière village and train station’. Whether this means it will be walkable in ski boots from the village remains to be seen.

The upper lift will ‘probably’ be a 3-cable gondola; but don’t get too excited about an end to the queues – we’re told that the hourly capacity will be only ‘moderately’ increased, according to the lift company. (This may be eco-political spin, though: other sources suggest the new lift will carry 1800/hour, more than double the very modest 700/hour capacity of the old lift.)

So: ski tourers have at least three more seasons to enjoy the Grands Montets in peace. Enjoy it while you may.

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