Interviews

Saving the Front de Neige

I’ve lived in Morzine for 14 years and during that time I’ve seen the village change in many wonderful ways. That said, I also read your comments and concerns about the overdevelopment of Morzine, and also Les Gets, to an extent. Can Morzine continue to be the authentic, Savoyarde village that we all know and love while new apartment residences pop up around us? Is there a way to blend the old with the new?

While Morzine grapples with the bigger issue of harmonious expansion and development, Eric Muffat established the Association Front de Neige, a local not for profit organisation established to protect the snow front in Morzine. The snow front is a specific feature in most ski resorts across the Alps. It’s the area at the bottom of the ski lifts, adjacent to the village and is usually reserved for sledging, games and snowball fights. Its significance in terms of a tourist destination cannot be overstated. Here Eric explains in his own words what his organisation is doing to protect our snow front.

*** For clarity, and in the interests of balanced reporting, we did contact the company developing the site of the Aubergade hotel and invited them to make a contribution to this article. They graciously declined.

What is the objective of the Association Front de Neige?

Our objective is to protect and enhance the front de neige in Morzine. The goal is to monitor all new projects concerning the snow front, in collaboration with elected officials and the local ski lift operator, both in winter and summer. We also need to take climate change into account and start offering alternative activities on the front de neige, due to the lack of snow in the village.

Why is a snow front important for the future of Morzine? And for tourists…

A lively snow front is very important for families, because it represents the showcase of Morzine. It’s usually the first thing holiday makers see when they arrive in our village. They are looking for activities in winter and summer and they want to enjoy greenery and mountain landscapes. This is the reason why we must stop adding new concrete structures to the snow front, in order to preserve the white and green spaces of our village.

What activities would you like to see on a snow front in the future?

We must think about making a synthetic ski slope, allowing visitors to learn to ski, whatever the season. We must create a space dedicated entirely to sledging; a space which is snow-covered all winter and well-lit in order to energise the lower part of Pleney. Creating an end-of-day entertainment space for families in winter and summer is another objective. We’d also like to create new ski lift capacity on the beginner slopes of the front de neige, at the Mas Verjus sector, to relieve congestion on the Pleney cable car, especially during school holiday periods. We need to relaunch activities on the snow front in summer, such as Dévalkart or Trotin’herbes. We need to build a new all-season toboggan run, like in Les Gets. We can create a play area for children made entirely of wood, just as you’ll see on the Dérèches, or at Lac de Montriond. We could place picnic tables below the paraglider landing area to make the place friendly and allow people to eat facing the Pointe de Nyon. In short, there are plenty of possibilities to improve this space, which currently is not at all up to the standard of a renowned resort like Morzine.

The new property development on the site of the former Aubergade hotel removes a significant volume of snow front space from public use. Why is that a problem?

This is a problem because the plans involve concreting the snow front with a major real estate development, instead of using the space for underground parking, which is sorely lacking on Avenue de Joux Plane. Instead of enhancing the snow front, this development will in fact split it in two. The developers responsible for this project enrich themselves by disfiguring Morzine. We have been able to preserve the seafront of our country with the coastal law, but unfortunately we have not been able to preserve enough of the snow fronts with the mountain law. Morzine’s town hall has understood the issue and the remaining snow front is now blocked in a natural zone.

Is there a simple way for you to summarise the current situation on the snow front? How did we get to this problem?

Fortunately our association shines a light on the current problems we see on the snow front: intensive concreting and no current showcase for Morzine due to a lack of desire. The snow front does not generate any direct revenues for a ski lift operator, but it is very important in terms of a window display. From a commercial point of view, you need a beautiful showcase to attract holiday makers and bring life to an entire village. Morzine has obtained the “Famille plus” accreditation, so everything should be done to offer families a wide range of activities and to build their loyalty. Morzine must not become a ‘dormitory station’ and the Avenue de Joux Plane must not become the avenue of developers and an access road to Avoriaz. Climate change is fast approaching and our association is already working on this development.

What activations has the Association Front de Neige undertaken against this development?

Through our environmental lawyer, we are trying to block the Aubergade construction site and we’re assisting the town hall to oppose the real estate project, even though the demolition of the old building has already taken place. As long as the building is not built, there is still hope for us.

A big demonstration took place in Morzine on 7th October 2023, we brought together 300 demonstrators. This is a strong sign to defend our ideas. We have also submitted to our elected officials, on several occasions, projects to enhance the snow front in the future, as explained above. We are also planning an event every summer on the snow front; live music concerts, games for families, refreshments, a bar, to celebrate and understand the importance of this area of our village. We’ve also communicated in the press to make our association known and raise public awareness of our movement.

Do you think there will be a resolution? Or is it too late?

We will try everything to preserve our village, or at least what remains of it, and we will communicate our actions through our Facebook page; over 1000 subscribers follow us there. We still feel popular support from Morzinois and also from the tourists who love our village. The problem is that the developers are very well organised with specialised lawyers to defend them. It’s not an easy fight, but we will resist until the end of the fight.

What else can we do to protect Morzine’s heritage?

We must create a Morzine Citizens Collective, which would give more weight to protecting our heritage and the life of a mountain village. It is not the role of our association, which is above all to defend the snow front.

How can people follow your campaign?

They can follow us on Facebook and they can also join the association with a contribution of €15 for individuals and €100 for socio-professionals. They will access the association’s WhatsApp group, where we share our ideas.

Saving the Front de Neige
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