15.01
2018 Lifestyle

Christelle Combépine is the owner of Téléski de la Turche in Les Gets.
 
I run one of the last independent ski lifts left in France, and the very last one in Les Gets. I was working in finance in Switzerland but gave it all up to do this. It’s a fight to preserve the heritage we have here, the mountain spirit from another time, but it’s a hugely important one for me and my family.
 
The Téléski de la Turche was set up in 1946 by my grandparents Georges and Denise Combépine; it’s still in our family. When I was a baby my crib was in the ski lift office. I spent my childhood playing in the mountains, while my grandparents took care of the ski lift.
 
Romance surrounds this lift and mountain. It’s what makes the place special.
My grandfather would pair up the skiers waiting in the singles line to ride the lift, then his booming voice would echo over the speakers: “Gentlemen, kiss your riders!” It was essentially a primitive form of speed-dating! Lots of people find love here. New relationships are formed and old ones nourished.
 
Skiers discover this amazing place straight out of a black and white film. It’s frozen in time and loaded with history from the days when there were so much authenticity and passion for the glide.
 
 
We get around 1000 skiers a day through La Turche and they all use the original paper ticket system which was in place when the lift first opened. People love that connection to the history of the lift. Apart from a few updates, the lift looks as it did all those years ago. You get a real sense of nostalgia as you ski into the area.
 
The ski lift is emblematic of the district of La Turche. But its fame goes far beyond its borders. You often see guides from the Portes du Soleil and their groups take a refreshing break here, welcomed by the lively 80s music and a small glass of white wine.
My grandfather also established the Ski School in Les Gets and he let locals and school members ride the lift for free. We’ve always tried to maintain that closeness with the community. I love to see the familiar and not so familiar faces day to day.
 
One thing not to miss if you visit Les Gets is the Musee de la Musique Mecanique. They have wonderfully complex artworks on display there. My favourite is the thin, wooden swallows carved by the hands of mountaineers.
Or at the other end of the scale, you can go to the top of Mont Chery, where you can gaze across at the amazing face of Mont Blanc.
 
The area around Les Gets has been my family’s home for over 70 years. We have used the resources the mountains provided to build a sustainable life over three generations. My father Pierre, my sister Virginie and I fought to preserve the lift and its heritage so the adventure could continue.
Lots of people find love here. New relationships are formed and old ones nourished.

Photos : Alexander J Collins

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