Published the 25 April 2014
We had all agreed on a time: 4pm at SETAM's (Société des Téléphériques Tarentaise Maurienne: Val Thorens ski lift company) mechanical room. We didn't know much about it all, except that the aim was to watch and take part in a practice evacuation of the Caron cable car.
If you've never been to Val Thorens before, let me give you a quick presentation: the Cime Caron cable car is the crème de la crème of ski lifts, able to transport 150 people at a time over a vertical incline of 900 metres, at an average speed of 10 metres per second. It takes passengers up to Cime Caron, which culminates at an altitude of 3,200 metres.
The prospect was exciting!
We met up with with Denis CHAPUIS, SETAM's technical second-in-command. Three people from Paillardet (a Savoyard company which specialises in winches) were already there. The conversation quickly took a technical turn, but we managed to grasp the key points. Of course we were going to take part in a practice evacuation, but first and foremost we were here to test a new evacuation winch: more lightweight than before and a lot faster!
Just before 5pm we set off. Around twenty people were waiting at the departure point of the Cime Caron cable car. All of them were SETAM employees ... some were in training and others had volunteered to take part in the practice. The last skiers were leaving the ski area and the evacuation was about to begin!
Everyone got into the cabin, the cable car started moving but just a few minutes later the driver stopped the engine and it came to a standstill! There were 65 metres between the ground and us.
The practice began in earnest. First step: take off the hatch in the centre of the cabin floor. A safety barrier was then placed around the hatch. The new system's turbine was fixed above the hatch.
The fibre aramid rope was attached to the turbine, and then our skis were put into a big bag. A team waiting at the bottom collected them for us. Everything went to plan. The first group set off and were on the ground in less than a minute.
Then it was our turn. A harness was put around us and made secure with a carabiner. We stepped closer to the hatch. A leash was used to attach us to the evacuation system. Four of us were attached together and we got ourselves into position above the hatch. That was the most awesome part, after that followed a gentle and actually quite enjoyable descent! We got back down to the ground with no difficulties whatsoever.
SETAM and Paillardet have achieved what they set out to do: the evacuation works well and is a lot faster than with the older systems.
As for us, we experienced an amazing adventure! I'll leave it up to Denis Chapuis to give you all of the technical info in the video...