At the foot of the Luchon-Superbagnères cable car, February 17, 2020. At the top, the station is in the fog. - Nicolas Stival / 20 Minutes
- Friday and Saturday, snow was helicoptered from the top of the Pyrenean ski resort of Superbagnères to the children's area.
- This operation sparked controversy to the top of the state.
- On the spot, at the heart of an economically difficult season, the decision is rather welcomed.
In the radius of the polemics of the weekend, the "helicogate" of Superbagnères did not supplant the Griveaux affair. But the snow transport, Friday and Saturday, from the top of the Haut-Garonnaise ski area, at 2,100 m, to the plateau which hosts the ski school, at 1,850 m, still made a lot of noise. beyond the Pyrenees. The minister of ecological transition Elisabeth Borne has thus tweeted her disapproval, to indicate that "snowing ski resorts by helicopter is not a possible route".
This Monday, far from the political and media turmoil, the skiers of Superbagnères have many other concerns in mind. Like avoiding their fellows who run down the six open slopes (out of 28) in the area, where "white gold" is scarce, as in most of the massif. Because a thick fog, worst enemy of the mountaineer on boards tied with the plate of ice, was invited for the day.
What about this helicopter story? "Of course, there is the ecological aspect, but economically, people need to work," observes Arnaud, 45-year-old from Nantes, who comes down from a chairlift with his teenage son. And then families often make sacrifices to bring the children to ski. It's surprising, yes, but there are much more shocking things. "
The "Piou Piou", treasures of the resort
A few meters away, we can see through the "smog" a dozen kids of four or five years in close ranks behind their instructor. The snow conveyed by the air was precisely intended for these “Piou Piou” (in ESF language, the French ski school), who discover the gliding under the eyes and the smartphones of their parents.
Among these spectators, Florent, 31, used to the place even if he lives in Le Havre, 1,000 km further north. "People have told me:" you are going to Superbagnères, where they helicoptered snow ", laughs the Norman, disembarked on Saturday in tribe (five adults and two children) for a week of holidays, a priori without flakes to wait from the sky. But they did not do that to make tracks, only for the children's area. We enrolled our little one, who is going to celebrate his four years, last summer at the ESF. He is happy to learn to ski. "
In this family resort, the "Baby Renard" space is a treasure to pamper and whitewash. Especially for the February holidays, the economic highlight of the winter season. Because who says children in ski lessons says parents or grandparents who accompany them and who consume, even when the weather would rather invite them to stay by the fire with a good book.
Among the traders on the plateau, we are not necessarily surprised by the controversy. But it is difficult to understand the magnitude, for a few round trips of the helicopter over a short distance, in order to move "50 cubic meters of snow" at a cost of about 5,000 euros, according to the Departmental Council of Haute- Garonne, manager of Superbagnères.
Limit breakage for traders
“This decision is a breath of fresh air, what has been done is remarkable, salutes Claire Darnaud, owner since last year of Super-G, a restaurant-bar located at the foot of the slopes. It didn't cost much and it will bring in around 80,000 euros. Because the restaurateur has done her accounts. “I have eight full-time and five part-time employees. In January, I have more payroll than turnover. "
No matter what the season may be, it will not be wonderful. But the "heliconeige" operation should at least make it possible to limit breakage, especially after "the 400,000 euros invested last year," says Claire Darnaud. “We are aware that we have to evolve in a four-season resort, but in an emergency, we are forced to make these types of decisions. "
Jean-Claude Bordes then entered the Super-G. “I come from another restaurant where everyone is delighted, points out the mayor of Saint-Aventin, the town where Superbagnères is located. The people who criticize this decision, for me, it is a nursery of experts of all kinds, they are good everywhere! "
The irony pierces behind the words of the 77-year-old elected official, who becomes serious again when he talks about the jobs he believes preserved by the snow transport, between restaurateurs, seasonal workers and ski instructors. “The Grand Hotel is full, there are 400 people! "
"A largely balanced carbon footprint"
Beyond the economic aspect, Jean-Claude Bordes also insists on "a largely balanced carbon footprint", despite the use of the helicopter. “We don't spin water cannons, so we don't use water, and no electricity. And we don't use the fuel from the snow groomers! "We will have to adapt to climate change, with the four-season activity [mountain biking, hiking, paragliding ...] but the snow activity, I really believe in it," asserts the councilor.
A bit like Philippe, in his sixties coming with children and grandchildren from Mayenne, crossed paths near the “Baby Renard” space: “It's controversial, but you have to be logical: the people who come here are for skiing. "
Pyrenees: In lack of snow, the ski resort of Luchon-Superbagnères is delivered by helicopter
Pyrenees: Snow delivery by helicopter cringes to the government
This is the last time
"This is an absolutely exceptional intervention, undertaken as a last resort, and which is not intended to happen again," said Georges Méric (PS), chairman of the Haute-Garonne departmental council on Monday. , as such, from the Haute-Garonne mountain joint union. The elected official understands the negative reactions that the image of the helicopter could have aroused - and its "two 1½ hour flights" - but accepts the decision: "This action," he says, "aims to save fifty emergency people direct jobs and several hundred indirect jobs in a territory already heavily impacted by the territorial divide ”.