In recent years, Chamonix has been developing at an incredible pace. Every year, new cable cars are built; the old are replaced with new ones, faster and more technologically advanced.
A world-class geothermal spa complex has been built. The derelict land with a ruin, which used to lie in the very center of the town behind the casino, turned into a beautiful park with a great getaway for musicians – Maison des Artist.
The town is clearing itself of the century-old junk, such as the dilapidated barn of the bowling club, which was recently torn down, and is getting new and modern hotels, apartments, and retail stores. The historical building, which was restored after a fire, is now hosting the Museum of Chamonix Cultural Heritage that displays unique collections of photographs and has a special repository of photo and video materials. The Cosmo Jazz Festival Chamonix and the Mont Blanc Marathon have gained a reputation of annual events. At the same time, luckily, apart from local modernization and global development trends, Chamonix remains the same good old Chamonix, a town with a long history; and the peaks of the Mont Blanc mountain range, glowing like petrified flame, remain the same peaks that have for centuries inspired artists, poets, and mountaineers, the peaks that allow anyone to look down at the world, (including ourselves) from up above.
The main engine of renovation, which drives the antigravity here, is Compagnie du Mont-Blanc, the cable car company of Chamonix. Just like any successful company, it has haters and envious tongues. Just like any system-forming basis, it is always under the magnifying glass of public opinion, it is always judged and talked about. Just like any complex and dynamic structure, it cannot be one hundred percent perfect. But it is this company that is the headliner of the modern history of Chamonix. All this despite the fact that the company has recently been facing a whole number of serious challenges – in addition to solving routine tasks, it has to deal with the fury of the elements like an ice storm tearing down the cables, or a fire destroying a strategically important ski lift, or a rock crashing down on a ski slope. About this and much more we spoke to the C.E.O of the company Mathieu Dechavanne and the marketing director, Anoine Burnet.
Konstantin Bannikov (K.B.): In the Ancient Greek mythology, there is an image of Moirais, three goddesses who determine human destinies and control the spinning-wheel of the mother thread of life of every mortal from birth to death. That means that the Ancient Greeks thought of human destiny as something that looked pretty much like a ski lift. And here in Chamonix, you begin to realize just how literal this metaphor is. Your cables take us from the past into the future… Grands-Montets of the future. What will it be like?
Mathieu Dechavanne (M.D.): Oh, it will be great! In the perfect world, the beginning of your skiing day may look like this. You arrive, driving your car to the parking lot next to the cable car bottom station, wearing jeans or any other casual clothes. Then you arrive to the intermediate station, change into your skiwear in a special locker room, take your skis from the ski location, or rent a new pair of skis every day, and then ride up to the top of Grands-Montets in a modern high-speed gondola. Then you ski in what’s probably the most fantastic and unique place in the whole Alps, and then you descend to dinner in a top-class restaurant that we are also going to build.
K.B.: What will the new ski lift look like? Traditional or futuristic?
Anoine Burnet (A.B.): It will look very cool. We will not be disclosing any details now. Our main principle is environmentalism. It is very important that everything that we build be at harmony with natural environment.
K.B.: Any newsbreaks from Aiguille du Midi?
M.D.: We replaced the cable, just as the one that leads to Brevent. And we completely restored Hellbrunner.
A.B.: The gondolas are the same but the cables were replaced with new ones. And people can again make this unforgettable journey above the glaciers, forty minutes in a breathtaking 3D picture between France and Italy.
K.B.: Oh, I remember this picture! A photographer’s dream!
A.B.: And, of course, we cannot help mentioning our next big project – replacing the old ski lift at Flégère with a completely renewed one. Than is, you will see a totally new Flégère next winter.
K.B.: Yes, the picture of the future looks great indeed. Chamonix-Mont-Blanc is still the charming Chamonix and the great Mont Blanc, the old junk being replaced by state-of-the-art infrastructure.
A.B.: Exactly! Nobody used to invest too much into this because pretty much everybody was happy with what had been built before. But you can't plan your future without any serious investment. The real investment started after our company landed a contract with the town of Chamonix for forty years. This was a revolutionary breakthrough, and the results were quick to come. The strategic investment is aimed first of all to the strategically important infrastructure projects – Plan Praz, Plan Joran, Grands-Montets, Flégère, Balme, and so on.
M.D.: Compagnie du Mont-Blanc has already invested in the renovation of Chamonix’s infrastructure twice as much as all the French mountain resorts put together! Each year we build and launch new projects, and this is how it will continue in the future.
A.B.: We have the time to create the future.