We prepare your playground

May 19, 2022

Behind the scenes of the world's largest ski area

Our teams continue to actively prepare for the start of the season and have not changed their habits to make you experience moments of reunion and sharing on our wonderful ski area.

Through the portraits of Cédric and Christophe, take a behind-the-scenes look at the preparations for your winter playground.

Please could you introduce yourself?

Cédric : you could say that I’m a young old-hand: even though I’m young, I’ve been in Méribel Alpina for 17 years! Having gone to a ski lift college, I joined Méribel Alpina in 2003, and worked at the top of Saulire. Today, I’m a maintenance agent, working both in the workshops and on the ground.
Out of season, I spend most of my time in the ski area, my job consists of maintaining the equipment: checking the bearings, cables, rollers, seats etc. During the winter, when the area is in use, I return to the workshop for repairs. I also fill in for the chairlift operators throughout the resort.

Christophe : I have been a ski patroller for 22 years, and the sector manager of the Méribel-Mottaret ski area for three winters. I started by replacing a ski patroller who was off work with an injury for several weeks, and then I stayed for five winter seasons before I was offered a year-round position.

What parts of the job most interest and motivate you? What are the best bits?

Cédric : The variety, and the progression I’ve been able to make within Méribel Alpina. My job has a technical and manual side and also the personal contact with skiers, that’s what makes it so satisfying. My job also has a superb aspect: the exceptional setting of the Alps and the chance to feast my eyes over the whole ski area. I am a child of Méribel and I’ll never tire of our mountains!

Christophe : Being in the mountains, in all weathers. For example, when I find myself setting off an avalanche at the summit of Mont Vallon – around 3000m altitude – in the early hours of the morning and it is extremely cold, but a stunningly beautiful day, that’s when I’m in my element!
I also love the team spirit at the heart of our patrol service: we face some very tough times together, for example with avalanche rescue, but we stick together. We’re strong!

How do you prepare for the opening of the ski area?

Cédric : Once the annual checks have been completed, we get everything ready so we are prepared for the opening day. In concrete terms, that means we prepare the lift stations and make safe by putting up netting and padding, then we fine tune the last maintenance details on the chairlifts.

Christophe : In the autumn, we are preparing now just as we always do, by concentrating on the summits before the arrival of the snow: installing and testing the gazex and cattex equipment, setting up piste poles and markers, checking sleds and wagons that have been serviced in the summer etc. Then we ensure everything is correctly installed around the area, in particular the protective mats around the ski lift pylons and snow cannons.
There’s plenty to do: in autumn there are five of us as opposed to 29 in winter. And if the government gives us the green light, we’ll be able to open on 5th December!

Tell us a story about your experiences in Méribel…

Cédric : Some of our clients ask us questions about things they see in the resort. One day, someone asked me “What do those big tubes do?” and I replied “To vacuum up the marmots!” He believed me for a while, until I explained that it was a Gazex for setting off avalanches. We still laugh about it now, as he comes by to see me every winter. So, please do ask us questions!

Christophe : We were called to a rescue of a Bulgarian couple who got themselves stuck on a rocky cliff on Côte Brune after getting lost. During the week following their rescue, we developed a real friendship, dining together and chatting about shared passions etc. It was one of those experiences that reveals the best bits of this job, and ultimately, it’s this type of emergency service that allows us to bump into our clients again and to get to know them!

Outside work, what are your other passions?

Cédric : Skiing, obviously, ever since I was a child! I did some freeride skiing, but what I prefer is alpine skiing. Recently, I’ve discovered a new passion: downhill biking as a way of enjoying the area in summer.

Christophe : The mountains and all the activities on offer here: skiing as a family, watching my children in ski competitions, ski touring… In the springtime, my friends and I put on crampons, get out our ice axes and do the classics around here: the Gébroulaz, the Saint Pères, the Brèche de la Portetta, even the Grande Casse and the Grand Bec.
In summer, I am kept busy with my other passion: agriculture. I have a few livestock animals which give me the opportunity to share some great moments with my friends: we take the cows up in the mountains behind the Grand Bec Refuge and spend the day with the old farmers, we eat together, we sing, we laugh, well, we just have a grand old time!

If you could choose one place in the ski area which symbolises liberty for you, where would it be, and why?

Cédric : There are several! For me, two areas stand out: for a real feeling of freedom, the Pic Bleu piste with its ‘bend at the edge of the world’ offers an incredible 360-degree panorama and view over le Mont Blanc. For a sensation of freedom, there’s lots of pleasure to be found skiing the Choucas piste, whose terrain makes us feel close to the mountains…

Christophe : Mont Vallon, without hesitation. In the morning, when it opens, with fresh snow and beautiful weather. It’s a high altitude mountain environment but accessible by the lifts, and there’s plenty to keep you busy with the variety of terrain available up there. Give it a go and have fun!