The meeting was set: 16 p.m. at the technical premises of SETAM (Société des Téléphériques TArentaise Maurienne: company of ski lifts of Val Thorens). We didn't know much; the goal was to attend and participate in an evacuation exercise for the Caron cable car.

If you have never been to Val Thorens, a quick little presentation: the Cime Caron cable car, star among stars, is a ski lift that can transport 150 people and which allows you to climb 900 meters of altitude at an average speed of 10 meters per second. It gives access to Cime Caron which peaks at 3200 meters.

Caron cable car

The experience promised to be exciting!

At the meeting point, we found Denis CHAPUIS, technical assistant of SETAM. Three people from the Paillardet company were already present, a Savoyard company specializing in winches...

The discussion quickly became very technical, but we were starting to understand little by little. Of course we were going to participate in an evacuation exercise but above all test a new evacuation winch: lighter but above all faster!

As 17 p.m. approached, we set off. At the departure of the Cime Caron cable car, around twenty people were there. All SETAM employees… some were in training, the others volunteered for the exercise. The last skiers were leaving the area, the exercise was about to begin!

Everyone got into the cabin, the cable car departed, but a few minutes later, the driver cut the engine, stop! 65 meters then separate us from the ground.

The exercise begins. First step: remove the hatch located in the center of the cabin floor. Directly a safety barrier is placed around the hatch. The turbine of the new evacuation system is hung above the hatch.

The aramid fiber rope is attached to the turbine, then our skis leave, in a large bag. Downstairs a team is receiving. Everything is going as planned. The first group leaves, in less than a minute they have reached the ground.

Our turn comes. We are put on “breeches”, a harness fastened with a carabiner. We approach the trapdoor. We are attached to the evacuation system with a lanyard. There are four of us hooked up, we position ourselves above the trapdoor. The most impressive thing is then over. It’s then a fairly gentle descent… and not unpleasant! We will reach the ground without incident.

The bet of SETAM and the Paillardet company has been won: the evacuation is going well and much more quickly than with the old systems.


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