Published the 11 February 2014
Snow clearance comprises removing the snow in residential areas, outside housing, from the roads and in any area of public access. The excess snow is then carried away by lorry to snow stockpiles outside the resort.
Snow clearance in the resort is largely carried out by Val Thorens' Municipal Services.
What are the Municipal Services?
They comprise 7 year-round employees, as well as 21 additional people employed from 1st November to 12th May, including 9 road menders (who clean the roads and carry out manual snow clearance) and 10 drivers. The Municipal Services have one snow plough-gritter, seven 20 to 25 ton loaders that pile the snow up before it is carried away by the lorries, and a snow cutter (watch the video). They also have two lorries, which are also referred to as the 8*4, and which are capable of carrying up to 20 cubic metres of snow (bearing in mind that a loader excavator, with the bucket at the front, can carry between 4 to 5 cubic metres of snow).
A typical day at the snow clearance centre...
An early morning wake-up telephone call at 4am, followed by a strong coffee and a briefing meeting altogether at the centre at 4.50am. Proceedings start at 5am when everyone heads to their machine and their sector! Snow clearance takes place all day until 5pm, with a break of 1 hour at lunchtime.
Obviously if it snows every day, this schedule becomes a daily one, except on Saturdays, which is arrival day. Snowy Saturdays start at 4am and can finish at 10pm or later if necessary. «Whilst there are holidaymakers on the road we need to be present to ensure the snow clearance» says Yann Oget, head of the Municipal Services in Val Thorens.
When it isn't snowing (not very often), tasks vary between cleaning and maintaining the machines and council buildings...
Is specific training required to work as Municipal Service employee?
The 7 year-round employees and drivers must have the HGV driving licence, as well as the CACES (Certificate of Operator Safety Competency). Training courses (which initially take place in the resort car parks for safety reasons) are held at the start of the season to learn how to operate the machines.
The road surface in Val Thorens is 3 000 linear metres by 10 metres in width, totalling some 30,000 square metres. During the 2012 - 2013 season we had between 9 and 10 metres of cumulative snow, making for 280,000 cubic metres of snow in Val Thorens. This is the equivalent of 100 Olympic swimming pools, transported away by 14,000 return lorry journeys.
Machinery rules of use: Safety first and foremost!
«Working to tight deadlines doesn't mean working fast», which as Yann Oget explains, is a paradox but essential for the safety of all!
Methodology: start at the top of the sector and come back down over the snow, leaving the areas as clean as possible,
Remove all the piles of snow before Saturday.
Normally used on building sites, we mustn't forget that these machines are in resort to make it easier for both pedestrians and vehicles to get around.
Resort policy: the Municipal Services put gravel on the roads instead of salt to stop them being slippery. The ice is stripped off the road beforehand, which allows the snow to look white for longer.
An unusual story:
When he lifted a big pile of snow 4 metres up in the air, Yann Oget discovered a blue British registered Fiat Punto in the front bucket of his loader. All the passers by were gobsmacked. Yann put the car back down on the road, out of the snow. The story had a happy ending because the holidaymakers left Val Thorens that same evening, and all they had to change was a damaged wheel. That's why it pays to to use the car parks ;)
And what do the Municipal Services do in the summer?
The team of 13 employees set up and take down the sports grounds, manage the landscaping and gardening in the resort, carry out the maintenance and cleaning of the council buildings and also supervise the resort building works.
Top safety tips:
Make sure you are correctly kitted out: snow tyres and / or snow chains,
Put your car in one of the resort or tourism residence car parks,
Don't ski on the roads.