Chamonix has unveiled plans for the replacement of the Grands Montets lifts above Argentière. The existing lifts were destroyed by a fire in September 2018 which has severely impacted access to the area, and deprived skiers of lift access to glacier skiing previously reached via the currently-closed top Grands Montets station at 3300m.
Currently the only solution for reaching the Grands Montets glacier at present, is to “skin up” from the summit of the Bochard or Herse lifts (300m elevation).
“It would be fair to say that this option has encouraged many skiers to discover the joys and rewards of ski touring, but it is not a long-term solution,” said a Compagnie du Mont lift company spokesperson.
The Compagnie du Mont-Blanc has entrusted the new Grands Montets project to the famous Italian architect Renzo Piano. For those who don’t know him, his notable buildings, amongst many, include The Shard in London, the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.
The project is a very big one and its delivery will take some years, currently aiming for completion by the 2023/24 season, although that’s not yet a fixed date.
“Renzo Piano is passionate about this ambitious challenge and has worked on a global project including not only the reconstruction of the cable cars, but also a reconfiguration of the departure station in Argentière,” said a Chamonix spokesperson.
The current building, will be replaced by a more compact cable car station in a better location for public transport users, to include direct access to and from Argentière village and train station.
Given that the Plan Joran gondola is already the main lift for transporting skiers from Argentière to the mid-station of Lognan (1965m), the additional lift for this section will be a cable car. The redesign of the mid station of Lognan will considerably free up space on the snow front and improve customer flow management by making it easier for skiers to bypass stations.
For the second section, a mechanical lift with detachable cabins for ease of boarding and disembarking, type 3S installation (large cabins supported by two cables for greater capacity and stability), is a probability. These cabins will offer a more comfortable journey to the summit station and, compared to the old cable car, hourly transport capacity will be moderately increased. The architecture of the summit station will reflect the mineral and crystalline environment so present on the site at 3300m altitude.
The aim is that this project will ultimately offer a “four seasons” access to an exceptional high-mountain location, whether it be for mountain professionals, hikers or sight-seers. The essence of the Grands Montets will be preserved.
“The Compagnie du Mont-Blanc is working with determination and passion to imagine and carry out a fully integrated future project for the Grands Montets site. This large-scale project must respond to the challenges of ecological transition by collectively imagining mechanism for the next fifty years. It is with this in mind that we work and will keep you informed of the progress of the project,” the Chamonix spokesperson said.
These are the main lines of the reconstruction project, which The Compagnie du Mont-Blanc hope will be completed for the winter 2023/24 season. However they say that the precise timeline is still dependent on negotiations with one of the three insurance companies involved.