I have met lots of people with stressful jobs, but for responsibility I have yet to meet anyone whose job beats that of Pascal Charles, the Chef Des Pistes for Morzine.

He has a passion for his job – that goes without saying as, during the season, he is on duty for around 12 hours a day. 

I met him in his office behind the Pleney telecabine, at the end of a busy day when there had been heavy overnight snow.

 

With his 40 staff, Pascal is responsible for the safety of everyone on ‘his’ mountain. His unit open the slopes, make sure all are properly signed and decide which are safe to be open.

They get injured skiers and boarders off the slopes, coordinating medical care. Pascal organises the snowmaking, pistebashing and avalanche blasting.

He says: " Everyday there is at least one person injured. In busy periods, we have had 20 a day. The nearest lift controller teleophones a call centre and they assess how to access the inured person.

"If it is steep, the ski patrollers ski to them. If it is flat, they use a skidoo. An ambulance meets them down at Pleney or, if it is a bad accident, a helicopter with a doctor on board is called."

 

There are 20 patrollers on duty each day with 13 sledges, but you won’t see many over the age of 40 – by then, says Pascal, either backs and knees can no longer take the strain or the lure of an all-year-round job proves too great.

His favourite days are those which involve plenty of snow – and the avalanche blasting that goes with it. "That is the most interesting because it doesn’t happen every day. The whole safely of the ski area is my responsibility and, if we don’t monitor the snow, an avalanche could see people dead or injured, and, don’t forget, that includes my staff."

 

The day we met, the TS de Chamossiere lift had been closed and, earlier in the morning, it had taken a long time for the lifts to open in Avoriaz. All the holiday skiers, keen to sample the powder, were champing at the bit, but probably would have been a bit more patient had they known why.

Pascal explained: "The previous day there was a lot of rain, then the temperature fell and the water in the cable of the lifts froze. We can’t open the lifts until it has all thawed as it causes the wire to expand and could cause it to jump off when travelling over the wheels."

He has been doing the job for 12 years. "It is a passion. I love working outdoors all the time, although I am getting more and more paperwork. I have skied since the age of four and love the fact that there are so many different aspects to my job, although I guess not many people would want the responsibility!’