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Bourg St M Town Hall, Dec 2017. Has "Architecture of XX Century" status, alongside cinema & Arc 2000 cable car station. Click on photo for more

Saturday, 2 January 2016

THE VANOISE NATIONAL PARK: 1963-2015 RIP

(My rudimentary translation taken from the Alpes Magazine editorial, Dec 2015-Jan 2016)

As we put together the latest version of this magazine, including an article taking us to a wild and secret part of the Tarentaise, far from its ski factory image....we see the majority of the 29 communes who make up the Vanoise National Park refuse to sign the new charter.  This new charter would offer a new future to this area of outstanding natural, in line with the Giran Law, adopted by Parliament in 2006.

Only the municipal councils of Peisey-Nancroix and Saint-Martin-de-Belleville voted in favour of the charter.  Old-fashioned arguments, coupled with a complete lack of political courage, are at the heart of this.  An opportunity has been lost, for utterly irrational reasons.  An opportunity to safeguard a common approach to the area's heritage, to keep a national park which is a shop window for La Savoie, and indeed for the whole of the French Alpes.

Not everyone has the opportunity to live at the gates of a national parti, a treasure in both ecological and economic terms.  

Not everyone has the opportunity to be able to safeguard, for future generations, these protected national spaces.  

Not everyone will have the opportunity to build a different type of mountain area.  One which has achieved a great balance between taking advantage of both the fabulous ski areas and the beauty of the surrounding wilderness.  

This opportunity is the one that the majority of communes in the Tarentaise and the Haute Maurienne have refused to seize - in the name of their liberty, and in fear of a "repressive" state, who isn't interested in what happens beyond Chambéry.  They are quick to forget that this same state, during the 1960s, put in place the famous "Plan Neige" which took the miserable state of the Alpine valleys as its starting point, and which dared, driven on by visionary local leaders, to allocate some of the unspoilt areas to the pursuit of winter sports.  This has allowed people from across the world to come and enjoy themselves on the slopes of Val-d;ISere, Tignes, Les Arcs, La Plagne or Courchevel.  

The ski industry flourished - it created value, employment, innovation, and enabled a whole region to develop a global reputation.  This is the reality, and it cannot be denied.  But, in 2015, this sterile debate between economic growth and environmental protection appears just as much old-fashioned as it is incomprehensible.  Surely it can be possible to work on a harmonious approach, not just one which is "sustainable" (this word has rather lost its meaning recently), but which can finally give proper respect to the fragile equilibrium of our mountain areas. 

It is high time to shake off these worrying prejudices, wherever they may come from - the developers with their cement mixers, the farmers intent on waging was against wolves and other "predators", the middle-claass intellectuals who are so well qualified to talk about the environment it actually disqualifies them...

All of the above groups should be seen as "people of the mountains".  It is only by working together that we can find a sensible way forward.  As the writer Jean Giono put it so well: "through such agreements we can develop a shared love of the mountains".


Lac de la Plagne, Summer 2014.
A 3 hour hike from the head of the Nancroix Valley, on the
Vanoise section of the GR5 long-distance path


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