The forest at the heart of Les 3 Vallées
Les 3 Vallées forest extends over 4,000 hectares. One third of its surface area is made up of private plots, the rest is municipally owned forestland.
A MONITORED FOREST
The forest is mostly made up of spruce trees. You’ll also find other varieties: larch, fir, pine… There are deciduous trees too, including green alder and ash in the area above Brides-les-Bains, as well as beech and even aspen. “Sustainable management of the forest is entrusted to the ONF (National Forest Office), who organises the supply of quality lumber. This year, Les Allues sawmill produced over 200m3 of local timber, which was used for building structures and other construction work around
the resort. The organisation’s employees also fulfil the role of watchkeepers, to preserve the environment. It’s a regulated site. In Les 3 Vallées, the forest has a range of uses in summer and winter. Activities (skiing, treetop adventure trails, paintball…) are regulated, in association with the landowner, by which we mean the local commune. We try to make people aware of the mosaic of habitats that makes up each of the forest’s zones,” explains Véronique De Righi, manager of Moûtiers Territorial Unit at the ONF.
ENSURING ECOLOGICAL CONTINUITY
“Our major preoccupation is ensuring ecological continuity, in association with the ski lift operators. When an area is cleared beneath a chair lift, or to build a ski run, it can break up the natural habitat. Scattering the animal population leads to an erosion in biodiversity. The ONF wants to stay one step ahead of building work. One solution is to build on existing runs or
to carry out joint projects, for example, a cross-country ski trail might double up as a forest access road. Les 3 Vallées is hometo specific zones, such as the Dent du Villard biological reserve.It’s a remarkable site, with a mountain pine grove growing on gypsum. The summit features several dissolution sinkholes with microclimates. In the spring, the forest is carpeted in lady’sslipper orchids,” adds Véronique De Righi.
ANOTHER REMARKABLE SITE
In Méribel, the Tuéda nature reserve was created for the protection of the Swiss Pine and Black Grouse. The reserve has existed since 1990, as a compensatory measure from the skiarea, with the specific aim of protecting the forestland aroundthe lake, which is a habitat for wood grouse. “It extends over 1,112 hectares between altitudes of 1,700 and 3,200 metres,from Lac de Tuéda to the foot of Gébroulaz glacier. Lots of different activities take place there: cross-country skiing,
skiing on the Ours run, hiking along the footpaths and marked snowshoeing itineraries, including those leading to Le Saut mountain refuge. Of course, to protect animals from disturbance, you can’t just wander around anywhere. We recorded around sixty crowing cockerels in the Méribel Valley. An eagle nests
in the reserve, where there are also around thirty ibexes and
a large population of chamois goats,” explains Nicolas Gomezfrom the Vanoise National Park and custodian of the Plan de Tuéda nature reserve in Les Allues.
LES 3 VALLÉES IS TAKING PART IN THE EUROPEAN “BIRDSKI” PROJECT, SUPPORTED BY THE VANOISE NATIONAL PARK IN PARTNERSHIP WITH ASTERS CONSERVATORY OF NATURAL SPACE IN THE HAUTE-SAVOIE DEPARTMENT AND THE MOUNTAIN LANDFOWL OBSERVATORY (OGM)
“OUR MAJOR PREOCCUPATION IS ENSURING ECOLOGICAL CONTINUITY, IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE SKI LIFT OPERATORS.”
PROTECTING THE SKI AREA’S BIRDS
Les 3 Vallées is taking part in the European “Birdski” project, supported by the Vanoise National Park in partnership with Asters Conservatory of Natural Space in the Haute-Savoie department and the Mountain Landfowl Observatory (OGM), until December 2022. The project aims to protect large raptors (bearded vulture, golden eagle) and mountain landfowl (black grouse, rock ptarmigan). Ski areas can have an impact on birdlife: fragmenting territories, death by cable collision, disturbing key phases of life… A number of steps have been taken: quiet zones have been created in ski areas for black grouse in collaboration with local stakeholders, certain ski lift cables have been equipped with “Birdmark” flight diverters to lower the rate of collision, and the measures are regularly monitored to evaluate their impact. With the same goal, black grouse have been fitted with GPS to follow their movements and behaviour in the ski area. The birds are briefly captured by specially trained park teams, before being fitted with a miniature GPS beacon and released.
Discover the forest and its inhabitants
“Entering the forest is like walking into a house, you have to make sure you don’t disturb the inhabitants and show respect for such a fragile natural habitat. There are animal species nesting on the ground and at low heights. Ski blades can slice through the tops of young tree shoots poking out of the snow. To avoid that, you need to stick to the marked itineraries and runs,” advises Véronique De Righi.
To find out more: on foot, follow the Piste des Animaux in Méribel (starting from the Altiport). Visit the timber industry exhibition at the sawmill, and Les Allues watermill. Go for a walk with family or friends in the Tuéda nature reserve, and try your hand at the Explor Game with its flecked nutcracker mascot. Still on the shores of Lac de Tuéda, don’t hesitate to step inside the Maison de la Réserve, which has some special surprises in store for children this winter.
Please do not disturb
In winter, landfowl are vulnerable. Black grouse need peace and quiet to hibernate. They can be disturbed by the constant flow of people going by, which forces them to run away. That’s when they’re in danger, because they expend too much energy running away through the snow (with scarce food supplies) and are left exposed to predators. Black grouse are considered an “umbrella species”. By protecting them, we’re simultaneously protecting other animals that occupy the same ground: mountain hares, hoofed mammals…