2017 Lifestyle

Staring at the same four walls every day is not for Cathy, Béranger, Franck, Stéphane or Laurent! Living in the Pyrenees, the Massif Central, the Alps and the Vosges, each one of them works outdoors, in a role that only exists in the mountains.

Cathy Breyton-Laye, ski instructor

A former speed skiing champion, Cathy Breyton-Ley lived out her passion for snowsports and the mountains not only in the Alps, but also in the USA and in Chile, before moving to the Pyrenees with her family about fifteen years ago. As soon as the school holidays arrive, she can’t wait to get her red ski instructors’ uniform on. Working for the ESF in La Mongie, le Grand-Tourmalet, Cathy is in her element on the slopes, with the Pic du Midi as her backdrop; whether it’s sunny, snowing or windy, she loves to share her snowsports secrets with skiers of all ages and all levels, taking them to discover her favourite spots in the Pyrenees’ largest ski area.

Béranger Trapenat, driver of a piste groomer

For ten winters now, Béranger Trapenat has been preparing Super-Besse’s slopes for the comfort and safety of skiers. In the silence and solitude of the night, or in the early hours of the morning, he smooths out the steepest slopes of the ski area, behind the wheel of his impressive winch cat. An experienced driver, this local boy knows the terrain like the back of his hand, groomimg both natural and cultured snow. He knows the exact spots where snow tends to accumulate and those where it may lack, causing rocks to show through. Son of a farmer, he drives a tractor for a company that carries out agricultural work during the summer, and boasts all the neccessary mechanical skills to maintain and service his groomer.

Franck Gauthier, ski patroller

After a reshuffle within the armed forces at the end of the 90’s, Franck Gauthier, who had worked in naval aviation, headed back to his hometown of Vars, in the Hautes-Alpes. A keen snowsports fan, he began a new career as chairlift operator, but upon the advice of a colleague (who had seen what a good skier he was), he soon decided to train to become a ski patroller. Today, Franck works full time for Vars slope maintenance service; in winter as a ski patroller/avalanche blaster and sector manager, and in summer as part of the bike patrol on the MTB area. He’s put his dream of becoming a ski instructor like his father well and truly behind him now! Completing different missions as the guardian angel of skiers is a very fulfilling role for him; making the slopes safe, welcoming resort visitors, giving them information and helping them in any way he can. Providing first aid to injured skiers, which is what ski patrollers are most known for, actually only takes up 5 to 10% of his time. It’s a very varied profession, one that Franck and many of his colleagues in Vars enjoy sharing with the public through their association on Monday evenings (during the French school holidays). This gives them the opportunity to offer information on risk prevention in a friendly atmosphere.

Stéphane Charlier, nivologist

Stéphane Charlier’s favourite element is snow. This ski patroller from Villard-de-Lans trained to be a nivologist (snow expert), just like three of his colleagues at the resort’s slope maintenance service. In the early hours of the morning, he studies the development of the snow mantle throughout the season, from a very precise north-facing location. From the surface to the ground, through a depth of approximately 1.5 metres, he probes the snow, measures it, takes its temperature, examines it, scrutinizes its crystals and grains, in the aim of preventing avalanche risks. From his observations and weekly summaries, Grenoble’s Météo France weather agency creates the BRA (avalanche risk bulletin). A keen sense of observation, rigour and experience are needed for this little-known specialist profession.

Laurent Cahon, mountain leader

Laurent Cahon has been living in La Bresse for almost 20 years now. Successfully climbing the career ladder in the retail sector, after several years at business school he gave it all up to become a mountain leader, encouraged by his love for nature and wide open spaces. During the winter he reveals the Vosges massif’s natural heritage to beginner and experienced snowshoers; playing the role of intermediary, Laurent introduces a curious, contemplative clientèle to the scenery and landscape that surrounds them, observing the local flora and fauna and even spending a night in an igloo. This mountain expert shares his knowledge with clever teaching skills and empathy on sessions that vary from half-day walks to hikes over several days. Thanks to his previous career, Laurent has great people skills and all the qualities required to be a mountain leader. Based out of the Hautes-Vosges Mountain Bureau, with ten or so of his colleagues, he lives from this new profession all year round, thanks to his MTB and archery qualifications, and not forgetting his sales background !

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