Association Flainoise

2010-01-25 - Minute of the meeting with DSF (the Flaine Lift Management Company) held on the 4th of January 2010

Monday 25 January 2010 by Michael Dickinson, Regis Lardennois


For DSF : Frédéric Marion, Deputy General Manager of DSF

For Association Flainoise: Mike Dickinson, Vice-President and Régis Lardennois, Treasurer

Current Matters

 Skiing during the last week of December 2009

The events of Wednesday the 23rd of December were the result of an inaccurate forecast of the wind. The Grand Massif links were opened on the basis of the forecast, but it became necessary to stop the Grand Vans Chairlift suddenly during the day, leaving some hundreds of skiers in Flaine-Foret waiting for the means to return to the Massif. This wait amounted for some people to several hours, with the attendant problems of worry, annoyance, and those caused by the lack of toilet facilities which can easily be imagined. The Gendarmerie had to be called to calm the situation caused by the lack of public spirit shown by some. The DSF has reviewed their contingency planning for such situations, and will in future arrange transport from the bottom station of the Aup de Veran Bubble Lift (the Eggs). Here there is more space, better road access, shelter, and toilet facilities.
There has been controversy about the cost of Lift passes when only a limited ski area is open.. The current response to this by the DSF is to refer to the rules applicable to transport means and the General Conditions of Sale exhibited at each Point of Sale which specify the exact conditions under which refunds are available. DSF are nonetheless considering whether a more liberal variation of the charges should be made in the light of varying conditions in the ski area.

Very few draglifts are open due to the limited amount of snow; there is currently (4 Jan) only 11 cm of snow on the Bissac. With the arrival of snowfall, the Les Cascades run should open at the end of the week (opened on 9 Jan), and Les Lindars (in fact 11 Jan) and Gers soon. The Telecord, which has a problem due to lack of snow at the top, will also open soon (now open).

Due to the lack of snow, of 11 draglifts, only the Bissac has been opened, which contradicts the usual idea the “the drags are always open”, since the chairlifts have been working well. Had chairlifts been available, Vérêt, Lapiaz, and Grand Grenier would already be open. This throws a new light on the question of the relevant merits of chairlifts and draglifts.

The DMC currently has problems due to icing which causes problems with the closure of the doors. One night it had to be kept running overnight. Maintenance carried out during 2008 and 2009 have improved the mechanical reliability but further improvements are planned.

Since the 1st of October 2009, Mr P Tournier is Managing Director of DSF and DSG (the Lift Companies covering Flaine and Samoens and Morillon respectively). He has come from CDA in Meribel.

 Works carried out in 2009

The levelling off of the lower part of Faust used some 10,000 cu M of hard-core taken from the building sites at the Terrasses de Vérêt and the Centre d’Entretien des Routes (the site of the new Roads Maintenance Centre to be built by the Conseil Général). This is a major landscaping exercise which will allow skiing in conditions of less snow.
The new motor on the Gers draglift is performing well. There has been a considerable amount of brushwood clearance carried out on an area of about 2 hectares. This has produced a number of “escape routes” for skiers who have fallen when on the draglift, and also will allow skiing in conditions of less snow.

The new “magic carpets” such as that at Vernant.

On fixed chairlifts, which run at 2 M/sec, the “magic carpet” serves to reduce the speed difference between the skiers and the chairs.

On De-clutching Chair Lifts, the chairs are moving at 1 M/sec for loading and the purpose of the carpet is to position the skiers in the correct place for embarkation, at the point where they stop at the end of the carpet. The carpet must be accurately synchronized with the chairs, if the chairs stop, the carpet must stop and vice-versa, while controlling the braking effect to avoid falls.

We are in an acclimatization phase and there have been instances on the Vernant lift where skiers have fallen because of the fear of not stopping before the chair reaches them. Some adjustment is still required.

It is also essential that the speed of the carpet and the the friction of the snow at the point of embarkation are suited to both skiers and snowboarders.

The cost of a “magic carpet” is about €120,000, but DSF has calculated that they improve the loading by 8%, due to the better filling of seats.

On the Aup de Veran Bubble Lift (the Eggs), the new cabins with larger doors have improved the loading and unloading with an gain of about 12% in effective capacity..
DSF are to install about 100 Avalanche Protection Fences to protect the eastern end of Flaine-Foret (the Terraces de Veret and the projected Intrawest East building (planned to lie between Terraces de Veret and the bottom station of the Grand Vans chairlift.)
Public toilets should be installed at the top of the Molliets, the Chariande Express, and the Aup de Veran lifts if all goes well.

 Medium-term plans for the Platieres area

This plan is in the earliest phases of definition, but should be more clearly defined during 2010.

Developments for the Balacha draglifts

The developments here pose considerable problems: Nature Conservation in the woods (the pine species involved) and avalanche risk. However, a chairlift and the removal of the tunnels would allow space and scope for an improvement in the pistes. DSF is considering the replacement of the two long Balacha draglifts with a chairlift starting from a point near the Grand Vans bottom station.

The Platieres

Significant modernisation is being considered for the Diamant Noir and the Perdrix chairlifts and the DMC, but not in the near future.

High-capacity uplift to replace the Perdrix, Diamant Noir and possibly the Platé chairlifts is a possibility. Different options for the track and location of the top stations are being looked at. In particular, one of the lifts is expected to lead to near the top of the DMC, to allow access to Mephisto Superieur. This line would require many pylons to follow the contours (as does the Chariande Express) but would have the advantage of conforming better to the topography.

One worry is the question of visual intrusiveness. Similarly, the new chalet at the top of the Diamant Noir chairlift is much more noticeable than the previous one.

High-level water supplies for artificial snowmaking.

Studies are on-going on this subject with a number of options for sources (springs, groundwater, Lac de Flaine . . .) and holding facilities for which the volumes depend to a large extent on the levels of replenishment. Thus the Morillon reservoir which has a capacity of 30,000 M cu is refilled 3 times during the season (mainly by rain, a point not much enjoyed by skiers!) Early season snowmaking drains the reservoir, but it is refilling.

Some comparisons between draglifts with spring reels and draglifts with fixed poles.

Spring Reel draglifts are unfashionable in France. They are only to be found on the glaciers and in Flaine (Gers, Grand Grenier, Lapiaz, Coloney). They have the advantage that they are not influenced by the snow level. The Petit Balacha draglift has two sets of poles of differing length. Those currently fitted are the longer poles. Fixed-pole draglifts are more suited to tracks with turns; compare the Balachas with the turns on the Grand Grenier tow with their very complex sets of guidance wheels.

Spring Reel draglifts are more tolerant of skiers leaving the lift en route. This is a problem particularly on the Stade lift. The problem is that early release allows the pole to de-clutch from the wire which in turn can derail the wire and also increases wear. The return wire of a Spring Reel draglift is also higher and reduced the risk of skiers being hit by descending poles.

The Grand Grenier lift is in the process of being fitted up. The team can only fit about 40 reels per day because of the adjustment which is required.

Spring Reel draglifts are more expensive to install and require more maintenance. The Flaine Spring Reel draglifts are manufactured by Doppelmayer, who produce high quality but expensive material. DSF are proposing to replace the Stade draglift with a Spring Reel draglift in due course.

Front de Neige

It is planned to remove all bar 3 tennis courts. It is proposed to use hard-core and the topsoil (which is of very good quality) from the Sibuet project. The Pre chairlift could be replaced by a moving carpet.

The Flaine-Foret departure zone

A major re-arrangement is being considered for this area, with a zone reserved for beginners, major levelling to make place for the Foret chairlift (which was planned for this year but has been postponed) and a future Balacha chairlift. The Grand Vans queue could be reoriented along the axis of the lift.

DSF feels that the meeting arrangements for the Ski Schools must evolve to take account of the urban development in the area.

The Gerats area with the Foret chairlift would be well suited for beginners. This lift has been continually delayed due to the delay in the development. Thus Intrawest, who had an option until 2009 on the land for the next phases of their development, have not exercised this option.

 Annecy 2018 – Bid for the Winter Olympics

DSF is planning to use the existing Calcite piste and the Stade, together with a Half-Pipe to the left of the Stade looking uphill. The lift to be used would be the Stade draglift, whether or not it has been modified.

The Tête des Verds chairlift could continue to be available.

Annecy 2018 has revitalized the Major Uplift Project (a Cable Car from Magland, via Les Carroz and the Col Pierre Carre, to Flaine), with the support of both Communes. This project, with a possible mid-station at the Pierre Carre col, would have a major impact on the access to the Refuge de Golf and the Hameau, and would improve the return from Flaine to Les Carroz using the Lac chairlift at Vernant.


Shuttles (will) serve the Refuge de Golf and the upper parts of the Hameau. There is a continuing problem due to the lack of a representative interlocutor for the Hameau. The developers of the Refuge de Golf did not consider this service. The project has been in difficulties but has now been taken on by another developer. There is much to be done.
The public shuttles are organized by the SIF and DSF covers 80% of the cost, despite the fact that the Gerats zone has been established. The cost is €140,000 for a single bus during the day and a second vehicle between 1600 and 1830. During holiday periods a second bus is required which can be that belonging to the SIF or brought up from Les Carroz (belonging to the same contractor).

In general private buses present a problem of the use of the stops: who are authorized to use these (and in particular those who are coming to the resort to occupy a flat)?

 Usage of the Flaine ski-area

The Flaine ski-area consists of two distinct parts: Vernant and Flaine itself.

On the Vernant slopes 80% of the skiers come from the Massif and 20% from Flaine. On the Flaine slopes excluding Vernant, 80% of the skiers come from Flaine and 20% from the Massif. These figures do vary as a function of the snow cover.

The majority of the skiers from the village resorts do not pass the Grand Vans. The excellent snow conditions in 2009 meant that the Massif skiers mainly stayed within the Massif. The majority of passes sold in Flaine are Grand Massif passes.


This is a much-appreciated return route for skiers from Samoëns / Morillon. For the Flainois, the return has been made much more convenient by the new Chariande Express. Up to 2,300 persons per day use Cascades. This has a significant impact on the use of the Grand Vans chairlift for the return to the Giffre valley.

The new Molliets chairlift has also relieved the pressure on the Corbalanche chairlift, a fixed-drive 4-seater, for the return to Morillon. The new arrangements at Cupoire (top of the Molliets chairlift) have also improved the flow.

In January 2009 DSF counted up to 31,000 skiers with passes on the slopes at one time. At the moment it is about 20,000.

The Grand Massif area has about 55,000 beds of which 10,000 are in Flaine (6,000 beds in Residences and 4,000 in private hands), 20,000 in Samoëns of which 7,000 are private and 13,000 in residences. At the weekend there are approximately an extra 15% of skiers who come in from outside, and up to 20% in Flaine. This represents a not inconsiderable clientele for DSF. Generally speaking these external skiers access the area at low altitude due to the limited parking facilities higher up (the limit is about 1,000 skiers).

 Adapting the ski area to the increasing number of skiers

Many pistes are underutilized: Celestine, Lapiaz, Jade, Belzebuth/Cristal, Topaze, Diablotin. DSF is working to produce a better distribution within the skiing area.
Avoriaz, with 19,000 beds, practically twice as many as Flaine, has a similar ski area available.

 Management of the ski area

The safety team consist of 32 ski rescue operatives, of whom 27 are patrollers and 3 are dog handlers. Rescues are carried out by teams of 2 to increase the levels of safety. In addition some pistes are long and difficult to reach. There are 5 First Aid bases and two ski patrollers (in yellow surcoats) who clear stones from the pistes.

Work is going on to develop a multi-purpose helmet which can also be used for working on the pylons and when deployed on Skidoos as well as while skiing. All members of the team carry a pneumatic splint.

Piste grooming is carried out by two teams: one works from 1700 to 0100 or 0200 and the second from 0200 to 0900. The grooming team currently cover the pistes by day to check and prepare for the following night’s work. This considerably improves the quality of the snow on the pistes.

A number of skiers do not comply with the accepted standards of behaviour on the pistes. DSF has no enforcement powers (such as withdrawal of a lift-pass) but is concerned about this problem. There is a demand from clients for increased levels of safety on the pistes.

 Comments by the Association Flainoise

  • We are pleased to note that the DSF is actively studying the development of the “Platières”, from the Balacha to Diamant Noir, and eagerly await the detailed plan and its execution, as this part of the skiing area is in need of major modernization.
  • We always much appreciate information about the working methods and the skills brought to bear on the operation of the Skiing area, which allows a better understanding of the difficulties which sometimes arise, difficulties which seem to have been more frequent at the start of this season.
  • DSF bases its development studies on a careful analysis of the activities and the expectations of skiers in the area, and clearly with a very professional attitude. This attitude definitely leads to a better use of the pistes and the existing infrastructure.
    We are sadly not surprised by the views on the development of transport within the resort, the only hopeful aspect being the resurrection of the planned Major Uplift Project between Magland and Flaine, with a mid-station at the Col de Pierre Carre.
  • This project is by no means certain to come to fruition and we would like to confirm our support for a high-quality shuttle-bus service open to all, thus public. This situation is in the hands of the SIF and should include the inclined lifts.
  • A means of skiing to the upper levels of the Hameau and the Refuge de Golf is also of the utmost importance.
  • Finally the new lift installed during 2009 (Molliets and the Charinde Express) have greatly improved movement within the Massif, but the routes from Les Carroz towards Flaine, by way of the Airon, Gentianes, or La Lanche chairlifts, lag behind and we hope that SOREMAC do not forget to develop this part of the ski area.
  • We are well aware of the links between the development of the Flaine ski area and the buildings being erected on land sold by SAG, a subsidiary of DSF. We are and will continue to take careful note that these developments are for the benefit of the whole community and believe that in the case of current projects this should be the case.

Régis Lardennois et Mike Dickinson

Translated by Mike Dickinson

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