A CLEAR DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY
The major phase of modernising the lifts, which began in 2004-2005, was part of the practical application of the strategic plan approved by the Board of Directors and implemented alongside the company’s business plan. The key points of the strategy are as follows:
- Urgency: lifts should be either renovated or their concession agreement extended, depending on whether they are primary or secondary.
- Skiers should be taken up to the top of the pistes via a maximum of two lifts along major routes.
- Efficient links between the ski areas should be created, in terms of both the pistes and the lifts. The final main connection would be the link between Verbier and Savoleyres-La Tzoumaz.
- The objective of spreading skiers out across the ski area is driven by both comfort and safety.
- The occupancy rates for the lifts should be based on predefined standards: lifts that do not meet them should be removed, replaced, or their throughput increased.
- Climate change should be taken into account, in terms of focusing developments at high altitude.
- Maintaining Verbier’s brand image thanks to modern lifts is a key aspect of its reputation.
- The most profitable installations should be given priority.
- Sustainability should be at the heart of all developments.
A 15-year master plan for the ski area
The company has drawn up a 15-year master plan for the ski area. The plan describes the planned development of both the ski lifts and the pistes, as well as mechanical snow production. The plan is based on a whole series of multidisciplinary studies to confirm the feasibility of projects.
The plan has been accepted by the four municipalities covered by our activities – Bagnes, Riddes, Saxon and Orsières – and amended with the aim of dealing in advance with any opposition from environmental protection organisations. Inspired directly by our development strategy, it describes the company’s major projects for at least the next 15 years.
Following the difficulties faced with regard to avalanche control standards, we partially modified our plans for installations in the Carrefour-Les Esserts. A number of people took advantage of this to lodge objections to the change to the area plan, although it had been approved by the State Council for the Canton du Valais.
The case came before the Federal Court and the project to modify the area plan filed by the municipality of Bagnes suffered a mixed fate: although four points of the objection lodged by a small group of private citizens were dismissed outright by the judges, they upheld the appeal by a simple majority on three other points.
As a result, the Federal Court asked the municipality of Bagnes to complete a traffic study and another on related effects (noise). The company was obliged to provide a justification – in terms of an amendment to the area plan already in place – for a Combimix project linking Les Esserts to Savoleyres-La Tzoumaz.
As a result, the following works will have to be completed between now and the end of 2018:
- Replacement of the Mont-Gelé cable car in summer 2017. The principle should remain unchanged, with only a marginal increase in numbers, since Mont-Gelé does not have the capacity to absorb more skiers at the same time.
- Installation of a full mechanical snow production system in areas that have not been equipped so far, namely Savoleyres-Verbier and La Tzoumaz. The same group of private individuals had also lodged objections to this project but ultimately withdrew them.
Although the company sees it as an absolute priority, the project to link the resorts of Verbier and Savoleyres via mechanical installations and on skis has therefore been delayed. The same applies to the project to extend the Le Rouge ski tow down the mountain, with an increase in traffic and easier access from rue de Ransou; additional studies are currently being carried out.
In the meantime, our technicians have also embarked on preliminary studies to replace the Médran-Ruinettes six-person cable car, and create a new chair lift above Bruson.