Chamonix’s Balme ski area can be accessed by taking the Charamillon gondola from the village of Le Tour. Now over 30 years old, the gondola is in need of a serious revamp and modernisation and different options are currently being looked at. There are two main players in the debate, the Compagnie du Mont-Blanc (CMB) who runs the ski area and the local residents. It has come down to two proposals – the first which maintains the current site of the lift station and the second which relocates it towards the bottom of the existing car park. The aim is to make the ski area more aesthetically pleasing whilst maintaining the quality of life of the Le Tour villagers.
Photo from Chamonet
The first proposal, backed by local residents, has been judged by the engineering company ENGINEERISK as low risk and well-located. Residents believe this option is more in keeping with the alpine character of the village, notably keeping the Posettes pasture land untouched. This option also has its downsides such as the traffic issue due to the steep gradient of the site and a lack of safety (the cash desk area is unsafe as it is so close to the road and there is a risk with pedestrians circulating with buses and cars). The CMB claims that this proposal would bring no significant improvement to the current situation.
The second proposal, backed by the Compagnie du Mont-Blanc, which suggests moving the lift station to the bottom of the car park would (according to the CMB) improve traffic flow as the buses would turn around at the bottom of the village, meaning fewer pedestrians passing through the car park and improve general safety. The feasibility of this site has been validated by the ‘Etudes Avalanche et Hydraulique’. The lift station would be less visible from the village and semi-buried. On the other hand the majority of the villagers oppose this project as they say that the pylons, cables and avalanche barriers will be a significant eyesore. There may also be increased noise pollution from the running of the lift station, snow cannons etc. There is also a risk of the ground becoming unstable on the slopes of the Posettes mountain upon which the lift pylons would be installed. CMB clients might be displeased if the increased sunshine on this face compared to the existing ‘home run’ means that they can ski back down to the lift station on fewer days of the season.
Over the next few months public meetings will take place so that everyone can have their say and hopefully help the decision-making process and by the end of 2018/ start of 2019 the new lift should be up and running.