I took this photo last week on a walk around Saint Jean de Sixt. The trees are heavy with snow, glistening in the sunlight, and the fence pictured is laden to the point that the snow is warping between the posts.
In fact, the photo really doesn’t do it justice. As beautiful as the fresh snow looks when the sun comes out, the roads can be a nightmare. Keeping the roads clear of snow is a winter-long task here in the French Alps, and they’re pretty good at it around La Clusaz and Le Grand Bornand (especially compared with some other ski resorts I’ve lived in).
Even more amazing are the statistics for the entire Haute Savoie region of France. The magazine contained an article about the winter road services and how the keep traffic flowing on even the stormiest of nights.
Haute Savoie covers an area of 4,388 km². It includes the area on the French side of Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) as well as Chamonix and Mont Blanc, Annecy, and further south, almost to Albertville, and a bit further west of Annecy too. It’s a region with plenty of mountains and cities well above sea level.
Surprisingly, the department keeps the roads clear with just 144 snow clearing trucks. However, it’s quite likely that many of those are here in the tourist hot spots of the ski resorts, like the ones here in the Aravis, and that smaller villages without tourists are left with snowy roads while the remaining snow clearers cover a wider area.
In comparison, when driving through Italy’s Aosta valley on the other side of the Mont Blanc tunnel, I noticed small cars and vans with snow clearing equipment tacked on the front. They looked like private vehicles!
Meanwhile, here in Haute Savoie, I drive like a nervous Australian if the road has a few centimetres of snow on it, while some locals make the most of the situation, sliding around in car parks and pulling on their handbrakes. Everyone deals with the snow in their preferred way. Mine is a pair of skis.
A few other stats for a typical Haute Savoie winter, translated from the image above:
- 29 snow clearing centres
- 28 snow clearing storage spots
- 141 snow clearing circuits
- 445 staff
- 3,000 km of departmental (free to use) roads to be cleared of snow
- 24,000 tonnes of salt used
- on call 24/7