By Robin Ecoeur
Christian Blugeon isn’t like any of the other local characters you’ll read about in this issue of Source Magazine. You won’t seem him hanging out in bars, and he certainly doesn’t enjoy regaling crowds with this thrilling tales. He’s a quiet, private man but he’s widely regarded as the best helicopter pilot in the Alps with over 30 years of experience and more than 30,000 hours of flying under his belt. Awarded the Legion of Honor to acknowledge his distinguished civil merits, Monsieur Blugeon is slowly handing his helicopter business over to his sons.
“There’s no typical day in the life of a helicopter pilot in the Alps, every day is a new story” Christian’s son Hugo explains. “We do a wide range of different activities, such as carrying supplies or even whole sections of buildings to construction sites in Morzine, before stocking up a mountain-top refuge on Mont-Blanc with supplies”. I particularly enjoyed watching a whole chalet float through the skies over Morzine last summer, dangling precariously beneath a Blugeon helicopter. “The higher you get the less you can carry. But usually, if a chalet is small, we can carry the whole thing to a new home”.
With their three helicopters, based just below the Fys chairlift in Morzine, this is a true family business. Hugo’s brother Sebastian is also an accomplished pilot and between them they’re known for lifting heavy loads between 1.4 and 5 tonnes with high precision.
During the summer months, when new ski lifts are constructed across the area, you’re likely to see a Blugeon helicopter unwinding cable or winching in enormous pylons, but their work also takes them much further afield. “I was in Lille the other day to uncoil an optical fibre network and in Cannes the week before for a similar operation. Yes, these distances seem far away, but Cannes is only one and a half hours from Morzine by helicopter!” Any local lottery winners should take note.
Perhaps the most intense part of a helicopter pilot’s job comes when the team is called to assist in a rescue mission during the winter season. “Very often we’ll get a call from ski patrol and we’ll all work together to analyse a situation as it unfolds. Very quickly we’ll organise a rescue, often calling to pick up a doctor and first aid worker en-route. If there’s been an accident, we aim to get there as quickly as possible to transport the injured person to a medical centre, or to the nearest hospital if it’s needed. Rescuing people is a very rewarding part of our job. But everything we do is interesting”.
‘Preventive avalanche release’ is the official term used to describe those big bangs that come from nowhere while you’re enjoying your chalet breakfast the morning after a big snowfall. Avalanche blasting is a highly skilled job that requires local knowledge and coordination. During the winter season Christian and his team work alongside piste security to keep the area safe for skiers and snowboarders. “We also take people to other ski resorts for the day. It’s different, but we know it helps the development of new or smaller resorts, so we’re offering new ways to discover the area”. It’s heli-skiing, but not as you know it.
So how does it feel to follow in the footsteps of your father when he’s known locally as ‘the god of the mountain’? “My Dad’s a self-made man and I’m very proud of what he’s achieved. He’s the son of a countryman and he’s managed to create a great business living off his passion for flying. Having said that, my Dad is a very humble person and he never brags about his job. He is here to help the resort and he does it every day to the best of his ability. My passion for helicopters comes from him, I’ve been riding in them all my life!”
For more information on Blugeon Helicopters and the services they offer, check out their website www.blugeon-helicopteres.com