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Tuesday September 11, 2018 - Email this article to a friend

The mid-station of Argentiere in the Chamonix valley has been gutted by a huge fire. How will it affect next winter? PlanetSKI reports. UPDATED




The blaze broke out in the Lognan building at the intermediate station at 1,970 metres around 2pm on Tuesday.

A major firefighting operation swung into operation but the main part of the lift station could not be saved and has been destroyed.

The mid-station of the cable car lift has been completely gutted.

The fire spread quickly through, causing severe damage to the infrastructure of the two cable cars.

Of the eight cables which equip the two sections of the cable-car, five gave way in the heat, causing one cabin at the top of Grands Montets to plunge to the ground on the glacier below and shatter.

The second cabin was stuck on its bearer cables.

Burnt out shellBurnt out shell



















An investigation is underway and a major clearing up operation is preparing to start before assessments will be made for whether the lifts can be repaired in time for next winter.

It looks highly unlikely.

In a statement the Compagnie du Mont-Blanc said, "To face up to this new ordeal, the teams at the Grands Montets with the backing of all the staff of the Compagnie du Mont-Blanc, will make every effort to permit visitors & partners to access the two cables car of the Grands Montets ski area as soon as possible."

It added the work will take "a goodly number of months".

Photo Rob Atkinson Rob Atkinson -















The key question for worried skiers and snowboarders is what can be repaired in time for next winter?

"Judging by the extent of the fire and the damage done to the cables, the buildings and some of the cabins it is very doubtful if any sort of normality will return by the beginning of next winter," said the PlanetSKI editor, James Cove, who knows the area well.

He ended his season there in early May.

"Putting in new lifts of this magnitude take considerable time, not to mention the raising of funds and stringent safety tests."

"Of greatest significance for the area is how much of the top station of the lower lift, that transports people up from the valley floor has been damaged. It is housed in the same building as the Grands Montets lift.

"It is of course too soon to tell but an investigation and assessments for next season are already underway. It looks highly unlikely though that the cable cars will be running," added James.

However skiing and snowboarding will be able to take place on the Grands Montets without the two cable cars, albeit it in a reduced fashion.

Access will be via the Plan Joran gondola with skiing on the Lognan plateau. 

The new chair-lift gives access to the new beginners' zone as well as all the trails accessible from the Bochard gondola & the Herse & Retour Pendant chair-lifts.

The two main cable car lifts that have been damaged are on the left of the piste map.

Argentiere piste mapArgentiere piste map

"Some friends have told me it would be a minor miracle to get things back to a semblance of normality for next winter. Others have despaired on the impact to the local economy and the work of instructors, guides, lift operators and those who earn their living on the mountain," said James

"Then there are the bars restaurants, hotels and shops in Argentiere that will likely see a significant drop in guests."

'However there have been plans to re-develop the Grands Montets area and the fire may accelerate that process in the medium term, even though not everyone was in favour of the changes," he added.

The fire started in the attic space as a result of sealing work.

Fortunately the lift station was closed to the public at the time when the fire started.

Chalets lying under the cables have had to be evacuated and cables have fallen.

The restaurant inside the building has had considerable damage.

Around 50 firefighters were fighting the fire on site.

@koid9a chamonixPhoto credit @Koid9a Chamonix




















There has been much reaction over on the PlanetSKI facebook page:

Facebook reactionFacebook reaction

Robert Petitt: Their season is toast. Anyone who thinks this is fixable in less than two summers is crazy.‬

Stephanie Ritchie: Devastating ‬

Bridget Clyde: Looks a disaster‬

Irene Fraser: Terrible!!!!! ‬

Philip Gold: Today's news reckons it will be a year to fix.‬

Thore Hansen: Really sad. This affects the whole Grands Montets experience, when the major off piste areas and some legendary runs will be unavailable. Let's hope the businesses of Argentiere and Chamonix don't suffer too much, and that a new cable car will be up and running as soon as possible.‬

‪News of the fire comes at a bad time for the Compagnie du Mont Blanc.

The famed Aiguille du Midi cable car has been out of action twice since spring due to 'unforseen maintenance.'

It means Chamonix has two of its main lifts in limbo for the coming winter season.

A PlanetSKI reader sent us this photo shortly after the blaze started, describing the lift as "well and truly on fire".

Fire at Lognan mid stationFire at Grands Montets
















Helicopter dropping water on the Chamonix cable car fire - Mont Blanc liveHelicopter dropping water on the Chamonix cable car fire - Mont Blanc Live



















Laurent Arkeos shared this video on Facebook, which shows the extent of the blaze.

The British mountain guide, James Thacker, made this comment on Twitter:

Meanwhile Chamonix resort management has released a statement regarding another technical problems affecting the top section of the Aiguille du Midi cable car.

The tractor cable needs replacing.

"As a result, we must inform you that access to the summit of the Aiguille du Midi is closed to the public throughout this autumn in order to permit all work necessary to change the cable," the report reads.

"At the present moment with the elements of the diagnosis in our possession, the reopening is planned for December 2018.

"The first cable-car between Chamonix & the Plan de l'Aiguille will remain open until further notice."

The Mont Blanc viewpoint can be accessed by the Flégère cable-car in Le Praz, now opened to serve this area - Le Praz is located 2km from Chamonix town centre, in the direction of Argentière, Col des Montets (Switzerland).

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the mountains.

For the Spirit of the Mountains - PlanetSKI: Number One for ski news.

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