Ski Lease Breathes New Life into La Grave

Lift company agrees to take on 30-year lease for iconic steep skiing zone

Chad Sayers in the shadow of La Meije. PHOTO: Mattias Fredriksson

After facing an unknown future for the last three years, it appears that lift-accessed skiing in La Grave will be preserved for another 30.

According to Alpedhueznet, a French booking and travel site, a lift operations company known as SATA will take over the lease to run La Grave’s single telepherique. Initial reactions are positive. Pelle Lang, owner of the Skier’s Lodge and IFMGA-certified guide who’s been skiing in La Grave since 1989, said Tuesday that the lease provides security for the future. Under the new lease, plans call for an extension of the lift, which Lang said “will be good for La Grave.”

The lift, which rises 7,000 vertical feet and provides access to some of the most renowned steep-skiing terrain in the world, was built in 1987 and soon came to be known among elite ski alpinists as an underground version of Chamonix. For years, it was known simply as “Valley X,” an attempt by some skiers to keep its location secret. Owned by the town, the lift’s operation was leased to Telepherique des Glaciers de la Meije (TGM). Due to liability and other concerns, TGM opted not to renew the lease, set to expire in June 2017. This threw the future of skiing in La Grave into uncertainty, and time was running out.

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Concerned that a corporate owner would take over and instigate unwanted changes, locals started a crowdfunding campaign last year to secure the lease. That effort was eventually rejected, leaving two companies in the running to take it over. Last week, one of those companies, Compagnie de Alpes—a large corporate player in Europe that owns or operates 15 ski resorts in the Alps, including Val d’Isere, Tignes, and Chamonix—dropped out of negotiations, leaving SATA as the sole entity, according to the news site.

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The report adds that SATA, the main lift operator for Alpe d’Huez, a large ski resort outside of Grenoble, plans to build a third-stage cable car to the top of the Dome de la Lauze, as well as increase operating times. The proposals will cost roughly 10 million euros and subsidies are being sought to help the effort.

SATA, which takes over the operations on June 15, expects to keep lift ticket price close to the current 49 euros for a single day, according to the report.

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