LIFTS OF DELIGHT
17th January 2019 | Alf Alderson, Les Arcs
Our correspondent Alf Alderson is a Les Arcs â€˜ambassador’. Here’s what’s going down at the Ambassador’s Residence this week.
Pretty much everywhere you look around these parts a ski lift of some sort will catch your attention.
I guess it would be nice if it were possible to pursue our skiing obsession without this rather intrusive form of uphill transport.
But for downhill skiers, ski lifts are, like Brexit and Piers Morgan, regrettably unavoidable constituents of modern life.
So my view is let’s learn to appreciate them – ski lifts, that is, not Brexit and Piers Morgan.
Of course, purists will argue that we could all skin up the mountains and earn our turns.
But the reality is that this is just never going to happen, so I’ll move swiftly on from that discussion…
Personally, I find the simple, utilitarian design and construction of ski lifts to be aesthetically quite pleasing.
Perhaps I should form a Ski Lift Appreciation Society – I understand a similar geekish enterprise operates in the UK in praise of electricity pylons – seriously.
The clean line of a row of pylons, or the simple but effective winding mechanism of a chairlift, gondola, cable car or T-bar are classic examples of something that is made to do a job efficiently and without fuss.
And here in Les Arcs we even have one that warms your bum and has free Wi-Fi- the Pre St. Esprit chair.
Along with the new Comborciere chair that opened this winter and accesses both great skiing and marvellous mountain views.
Fair enough, the long straight line of pylons of, for example, the Arcabulle and Plagnettes lifts above Arcs 2000 are hardly at one with their mountain environment,
But since they’re there to stay why not revel in what they achieve?
And that is the swift, smooth transport of thousands of skiers a day to an altitude of 2600 metres in what is, when you think about it, a minor feat of engineering.
We take ski lifts for granted but imagine the work that goes in to putting over a kilometre of pylons in place.
Then maintaining them safely and efficiently in the harsh environments of the high Alps year-round.
And these lifts are neither here nor there on a global scale.
Look at the mighty Vanoise Express between Les Arcs and La Plagne, or the spectacular Aiguille de Midi cable car above Chamonix, for instance.
Amazing engineering feats that despite their relatively inconsequential task of taking people up hills so they can slide back down them again are nevertheless highly impressive.
Even the noise of a ski lift at work sits well with me.
I used to work as a lift operator.
Ever since the sound of a winding mechanism, or a chair clanking and rattling past a pylon has reminded me of skiing.
Along with a number of other more appropriate noises too, I should add, including silence.
Indeed, for skiers you could almost say that the sound of a ski lift is the music of the mountains – not the loveliest symphony, I grant, but one that has its merits all the same.
And with that I’ll head off to a transport of delight on the little three-person Replat chair out of Le Pre whilst the eco-warriors hurl abuse in my general direction…
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