Safeguard the Isenau ski area
Letter to the Vaudois State Council
Safeguard the Isenau ski slopes and maintain the transport link between Les Diablerets and Isenau
Comments to supporters:
**This letter is now closed for signatures. It will be presented to the <<chancellerie de Lausanne>> on Wednesday 10th August, with just over 4,500 single signatures on-line and on paper.
We thank you for your time and involvement in the efforts to date to maintain the ski slopes and transport link between Les Diablerets and Isenau.**
- The deadline for this letter has been extended to 10th August due to a change of meeting dates. The more signatures we get, the stronger our voice so please pass on the word, call and email your friends and all those who are concerned with the fate of Isenau.
- 12 copies of this letter are currently in circulation in Ormont-Dessus
- The original letter will be sent on the 10th August, accompanied by a list of signatures collected in support of the cause and a photograph album.
- Please add your name to the list of signatories at the end of the letter and specify your link with Les Diablerets (inhabitant, regular or occasional guest in Les Diablerets, owner of a primary or secondary residence, locally employed, etc.)
- The original letter in French is also in circulation on-line; the signatures from the two petitions will be combined before they are sent to the State Council in August 2011. Duplicate signatures will be removed.
State Council of the Canton of Vaud
Place du Château 4
Ormont-Dessus, July 2011
Regarding: Safeguard the Isenau ski slopes and surrounding pastures
To the President of the State Council, and the State Councillors,
Having learned that the continued existence of the Isenau cable car is in danger, the population of Ormont-Dessus and the numerous people affected by this change have decided to send you this letter. This is an independent step, linked neither to the d’Ormont-Dessus authorities nor the company Télédiablerets; instead it is the response of a variety of individuals (primary residents, local businesses, secondary residents, regular tourists, etc.) who all share the objective of maintaining a cable car between Les Diablerets and Isenau.
We believe that the closure of this means of transport would be catastrophic for our town for multiple reasons, as detailed below:
Since the 1930s, the need to provide the ever-increasing number of skiers with a form of transport to mountain resorts has been clear; the installation of ski lifts and cable cars were a further step in the development of winter tourism. These investments have a crucial economic impact in all mountain regions, providing employment to the local population, thereby preventing an exodus to the valley. Les Diablerets are not immune to this pressure. The first ski lift was built in 1942 in Vioz. A few years later, in 1953, due to the efforts of locals who devoted their heart and soul to the initiative, the southern face and the region of Isenau were made accessible with the construction of a 2-seat cable car which led to a restaurant with a beautiful terrace, as well as pleasant and sunny ski slopes. The original cars were replaced in 1974 with 4-seat cars, in order to increase the flow of skiers. As and when needed, new features were added or renovated on the surrounding slopes, thereby offering a variety of levels of difficulty in a magnificent setting.
Thanks to the ski lifts, multitudes have been able to access an Alpine gallery, enjoying an exceptional view of the surrounding mountains and, in particular, the Massif des Diablerets. People with limited mobility aren’t confined to the village, but can also enjoy the view and the fresh air. Hikers also have quick access to a variety of different walks, either heading higher towards the summits and mountain passes or towards Lake Retaud or the Pillon Pass, or across the « Traverses » path through numerous authentic mountain pasture hamlets. As well as these, the high altitude restaurant and sleeping areas, together with several refreshment areas, are further attractions of the area. Numerous school trips, summer camps, family or group outings make use of the cable car, often combining this with a walk. The area has even been featured on the programme “Passe moi les Jumelles” on TSR, which recommended a winter trek making use of the ski lift facilities in Isenau. It’s also worth mentioning the fact that Les Diablerets is easy to access by public transport (the train from Aigle or the post bus from Gstaad), which is yet another attraction of the “overall tourist offering”, fitting in perfectly with environmentally sustainable tourism. Both the canton of Vaud and the federal state are actively trying to promote low-impact tourism, so it would be paradoxical if the opportunities in Les Diablerets, which are already in place, were restricted, while elsewhere big efforts are being made to create exactly this kind of tourism. An end of this means of transport would also directly increase vehicle traffic between the Pillon Pass, Lake Retaud and Isenau, which is clearly undesirable.
For four years, the Isenau cable car has also formed part of a number of deals offered by the Villars-Gryon region and Les Diablerets through the “Free Access Card” to guests and residents. If the Isenau cable car were no longer available, it would have a massively negative impact on the efforts made by the entire region to come together to offer a complementary infrastructure and a variety of activities. The cable car is, by the way, the most successful service in Les Diablerets. The numbers transported amounted to 16,040 in summer 2006; 40,437 in summer 2008; and 41,909 in summer 2010.
Denying summer hikers such easy access to the mountain pastures would be extremely detrimental to summer tourism and would drastically cut one of the most attractive options, right at the time when we are trying to develop “four seasons” tourism. Abolishing the cable car would go right against the efforts to diversify tourism, as laid out in the “Tourism Strategy for the Vaudois Alps” report by SEREC in December 2005.
As in summer, the cable car allows easy access to Isenau, to skiers, hikers, snow-shoe walkers and to people hoping to enjoy the view from the restaurant terrace or to teach their children to ski. Isenau’s slopes are blessed with exceptional sunshine, right from December, which is not the case in the Meilleret area, in front of Isenau. They’re particularly popular with families, since they offer a wide variety of levels of difficulty, suiting both beginners to skilled skiers, yet another plus that is very difficult to find in other ski resorts.
Snow-shoe walkers and cross-country skiers also have easy access for their walks, towards Lake Retaud, or towards the village on safe and well-signposted paths. It’s not just skiers who use the cable car – there are a whole range of winter tourists in Les Diablerets who make use of the lift.
Les Diablerets’ ski school relies greatly on Isenau. Being able to offer closed cable cars is a real advantage, as these are safe even for very young children, while the sunny slopes are perfect for teaching skiing and boardsports. Making the most of these advantages, the majority of the group courses and private courses run by the ski and snowboard school take place in Isenau and it is not conceivable to move them to Meilleret. In fact, Meilleret’s slopes would not be at all suitable for classes at level 1 and 2, and would be very difficult for level 3 (which makes up three fifths of the students). Numerous ski camps from Suisse Romande and abroad organise their lessons in Isenau for the same reasons, and it is clear that for many of these groups, the disappearance of Isenau would oblige them to move to another ski resort entirely. Mr. Pierre Pfefferlé, who regularly organises beginner ski courses in Les Diablerets on behalf of the Sports Department of the University of Lausanne, confirmed there is indeed reason to be concerned about this danger.
Isenau also benefits from a microclimate which creates an exceptional quality of snow despite its south-facing orientation and this without the need for artificial snow. When it is, on occasion, not possible to ski the entire distance to the village, skiers can make use of the cable car instead. In 1963-64, a winter without snow, it was still possible to ski in Isenau; this same situation has occurred time and again, even as recently as winter 2010-11, when Isenau still had a remarkable quantity and quality of snow. In winter 2008-09, Isenau’s ski lifts operated 119 days, in 2009-10, 108 days and in 2010-11, also 108 days.
Since being built over fifty years ago, the cable car to Isenau and the surrounding mountain pastures has been a central feature of the landscape of Vaudois tourism. Les Diablerets itself is inseparable from the area served by the cable car; the abolition of which would significantly alter the image of this mountain resort. So many people who are used to the region and its unique features would find it difficult to understand and accept how this feature could be abandoned. The choice to spend your holidays in one place or another is undoubtedly affected by the range of services on offer, such as the cable car, but also by the natural features and local buildings the cable car helps tourists to access. Denying direct access from the village would be to deny visitors the enjoyment of local heritage. How does it reflect on our generation if we fail to safeguard and develop something which was put in place over 60 years ago through the enthusiasm and intelligence of our forebears?
Apart from tourism losing one of its most essential links, the disappearance of the cable car would have very negative consequences for the local economy. Forty jobs directly linked to running the ski lifts and managing the restaurant would disappear; the snack areas on the summit, many of which are open in winter and provide significant supplementary income for local farmers, would no longer be sustainable. Finally, the Swiss ski school would have to let go thirty of its instructors for the entire season and twenty more during February, as it would not be possible to relocate a large number of its ski lessons.
The image of Les Diablerets, widely known for its ski facilities, would be significantly damaged by reducing services by such an extent, while its attractiveness would be reduced in turn. Tourists can easily change their holiday destination if the image of the resort becomes negative and it loses one of its main attractions.
The local economy would be negatively affected, without a doubt, for businesses, hotels, restaurants, tourist service providers, not to mention for the entire construction sector, the reduction in tourist numbers would be extremely serious, if not fatal. This development would go against the wishes of the local authorities and the local population, who are attempting to retain a young population with local jobs.
With the hope that you will be receptive to the various arguments we have outlined and choose to take the right decision in relation to the future of Isenau’s ski slopes and pastures, please accept, Mr. President of the State Council, and the State Councillors, our best regards.
The attached list of signatories
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