Today I completed my project/target of riding on all the lifts by taking a ride on the Tramway du Mont Blanc, to ski at Les Houches. This completes the task I set myself in December.
I suppose some purists might want to know what I mean by “all the lifts in the Chamonix valley”. Does this include Les Bossons or Plaine Joux? What about lifts that are closed? Please allow me to clarify. I have taken my target to be all the lifts available on the Mont Blanc Unlimited lift pass. I have not been able to use two nursery slope lifts (Vormaine 3 and Petit Chosalet) because they have never been open when I have been there, even though the Compagnie du Mont Blanc (the company that runs the lifts) website said they were open.
So, in meeting my target, I have ridden on 67 different devices, 23 drag or button lifts, 8 cable cars, 2 magic carpets (there are actually three in the valley but one is reserved for ski school), 24 chair lifts, 2 drag ropes, 2 railways and 6 telecabins.
Today was a lovely day to finish the collection off. There had been fresh snow overnight, after the piste bashers had been out, so there was fresh unpisted snow to ski on and the sun was out, at least for some of the time. The views were dramatic with the low cloud appearing now and again.
The Tramway du Mont Blanc runs from Le Fayet-St Gervais les Bains up to Bellevue (1794m). It provides a glorious viewing platform for the Bionassay valley and glacier. In the summer it goes higher to Nid d’Aigle (2372m) and is the highest rack and pinion railway in France. But in the winter snow prevents it going beyond Bellevue. The railway line is now electrified, but originally used steam locomotives and, later, diesel. It has a maximum gradient of 24%. It was built in 1907 following approval for the development up to Col de Voza in 1905. In 1909 the tramway was fully operational but only managed to take an average of 103 passengers per day; a rate that covered less than half of the running costs. A postcard from 1920 shows a steam train on the line on its way to Nid d’Aigle
We have travelled on the Tramway several times before and always taken note of the name of the engine, Jeanne, Marie or Anne. These were apparently the names of the daughters of the tramway owner when it was electrified in 1956.