La Grave, France is one of, if not the most, extreme ski area in the world. It is unlike anything in North America since their cable car drops you in a rugged mountain environment full of steep faces and glaciated terrain.
The handful of ski patrollers who work this area are some of the most skilled skiers and rescuers on the planet. Here is their story.
“The area from the Meije valleys to La Grave is unique in the world. Up high, a small ski lift serves a piste on the glacier. Apart from that, there is nothing or close to nothing… the only things are off-piste, ski-touring routes on the glacier, valleys, couloirs and forest — almost 2000 vertical meters of pure mountain. Here, outside the only marked trail, there is no ski patrol and the area is not secured. Skiers accept their own responsibility. Keeping with the image of the area, the system established by La Grave is, to our knowledge, the only one like it in the world. We are four patrollers employed by the municipality. Our role is to keep an eye on the security situation in the area, to play a role of light prevention for the clients and an advisory role to the municipality for the opening or closure of the cable car.”