Les Houches, France

The ski resort of Les Houches is located in the Mont-Blanc area of the Haute-Savoie . It is gradually becoming part of the Chamonix ski domain, being partially owned by two independent families and partially owned by the Compagnie du Mont Blanc. In 2006/07 the Les Houches lift pass was, for the first time, included on the Chamonix Mont Blanc lift passes. The ski area extends from 1000 meters to 1900 metres with 55 km of ski pistes and a further 15 km of cross country trails. Les Houches is also home to the legendary men?s world cup downhill, and one of the most famous pistes in the world.

The Les Houches Prarion lift has been replaced for the 2006/7 winter season with an eight seater high speed gondola. The new lift takes only seven minutes, as opposed twelve minutes for the old lift, to whisk the skier over 800m of vertical. The entire project was 6 years in the planning and the result of eighteen months construction with the longest cable in the world at 5,240m long and weighing in at an impressive 60 tonnes.

The cost of the Prarion bubble was 9 million Euros and was the biggest investment in the French Alps during the 2006/7 winter season. However, its opening was nearly delayed by a series of legal actions. This time it was not Federation Rhone-Alps for the protection of nature or Mountain Wilderness who objected to the new gondola, but a local lift operator.

For historic reasons the ski lifts at les Houches are run by two rival companies: the LHSG (Les Houches Saint Gervais) and SEPP. SEPP launched a series of legal challenges against the new lift in the Bonneville courts, waiting until construction of the lift was underway before filing their claims. The motive behind these moves was, as usual, monetary. The new Prarion bubble is nearly four times quicker than the old lift and as the income generated by sales of Les Houches ski passes is split according to which lift people take, either Bellvue or Prarion, then significant business will be taken away from the Bellevue lift. Fortunately the Haute Savoie Prefect ordered an arret declinatoire de competence, in essence saying that the Bonneville courts were not competent to judge the legal actions. This meant that the works on the new lift could be completed in time for the new ski season.