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Tourism geopolitics in the “back of beyond”

The territorial development of Valgaudemar
Nicolas Savelli
Cet article est une traduction de :
Géopolitique touristique d’un « bout du monde » [fr]


The Valgaudemar valley, in the French department of Hautes-Alpes, is an exception in the tourism landscape of the Alps in that it does not have a ski resort. In this isolated valley, whose “back of beyond” location has made it marginal both geographically and economically, it was decided to base territorial development on a “re-anchoring” process that strengthened local ties with the surrounding high mountains. Taking a slightly different approach and working with a network of actors from the mountain activities sector should make it possible for “outsiders”, the small, less conventional operators, to find their place in the tourism market. Geographic independence, once identified as a handicap, now seems, on the contrary, to be a generator of innovation through collective intelligence, thanks to the scope for action that the area enjoys through its independence of any established model of tourism development.

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Notes de la rédaction

Translation: Brian Keogh

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Introductory remarks

1A lost region, extremely wild and harsh, a little part of the world where human presence is rare (translation)  ”, such is the rather unflattering description of Valgaudemar on an Internet travel site1. The Valgaudemar is a glacial valley that extends from the Drac (approx. 800 m altitude) to the Bans (3669 m), where it is surrounded by some thirty summits of over 3000 metre, a few of which have earned a certain reputation among mountain climbers, such as the Olan, the Rouies, the Bans, the Pic Jocelme and the Sirac. Situated to the west of the Ecrins massif, at the edge of the Hautes-Alpes department and the Provence Alpes Côte-d’Azur (PACA) region, and accessed by the Grenoble-Gap route, the valley is perceived by outsiders as a showcase for “sustainable tourism” in the Alps because it is one of the rare valleys that does not have a ski resort. Visitors’ perceptions of the valley, however, are conflicting, oscillating between the untold beauty of surrounding high mountains with their lakes and waterfalls and a frightening harshness stemming from the character of its inhabitants and the cold and lack of sun during the winter. Given these impressions, it is perhaps not surprising therefore that somewhat perplexed visitors often ask residents whether they live there all year.

  • 2 Lionel Terray, Les conquérants de l'inutile, 1975

2The Valgaudemar valley is, then, both admired and feared, a transitional cultural area between the Dauphiné region and Provence, and in some way a “chiaroscuro”. To really understand the valley, it is important to distinguish between perceived space and experienced, or lived, space, a distinction that underpins conflicting interests: the desire for development and economic diversification versus the desire to keep the territory as an open-air museum of unspoilt nature; living from the area all year (residents) versus consuming the area as recreational and contemplative space (neighbouring city-dwellers). This dialectic between perceived and experienced space underlies not only local development policy, but also conflict with the Ecrins National Park. This conflict seems to relate to a certain “logic” (Laslaz, 2005, p. 222) that characterises those areas that are victims of a “back-of-beyond” syndrome (ibid. p. 221). The somewhat negative term was most famously used to describe the Valgaudemar by the great French climber, Lionel Terray, referring to it as “un bout du monde”: This untamed nature and rustic life in Valgaudemar gave off a harsh poetry. From the very first days, I felt deeply penetrated by the bitter taste of this land at the end of the world.”2

Figure 1. Entrance to the Valgaudemar valley, viewed from Pic Turbat (3028 m)

Figure 1. Entrance to the Valgaudemar valley, viewed from Pic Turbat (3028 m)
  • 3 This is the main issue concerning the adoption of the Park’s Charter by the municipalities situated (...)

3The economic future of the Valgaudemar valley remains an enigma. Its current economic and demographic situation is of concern to both its elected representatives and its inhabitants, with feelings sometimes bordering on resignation. During conversations with residents, it was revealed that some believed that Valgaudemar would inexorably lose its permanent residents and only exist during the summer season. Behind the geographic isolation, in the strict sense of the term, and this feeling of living in the “back-of-beyond”, these are defeatist mentalities, inherited situations, past experiences, specific socio-economic and geopolitical situations that are sometimes regretted, denounced … or used for strategic ends by elected officials during meetings, such as during negotiations on the SCOT (territorial coherence programme). For other actors, particularly in the Ecrins National Park, the Valgaudemar valley provides a model with a future, given that sooner or later the great majority of ski resorts may well have no more customers before they have no more snow, given the maturity of today’s ski market and the fact that there may not be sufficient public finances to subsidize snow-making equipment and the renewal of obsolete ski lift facilities. In this case, by considering that protection is a form of development, the Écrins National Park may be seen as a constituent element of renewal plans if a link is created between the central zone of the Park and the rest of the valley3.

  • 4 The author is a mountain and valley area development officer for the Valgaudemar Communauté de Comm (...)

4The Écrins National Park, a preserved natural environment, a transitional area between two cultures, marked seasons, a local identity, and contradictory perceptions relating to the high mountains and the area’s geographic marginality are all constituent elements of any territorial development project for the Valgaudemar valley. The aim of this article is to describe not a strategy as seen from the outside, but the actions undertaken by a region as seen from within4.

5“The project brings the territory into a systematic approach where it is a question of learning how to manage complexity, uncertainty, large numbers of actors and even differences” (Corneloup, Mao, Bourdeau, 2007, p. 349). We adopt the perspective of numerous geographers, referring to networks, transitional areas, margins and limits “giving rise to new territorial arrangements and mesh sizes that underlie multi-faceted projects (translation)” (op. cit., p. 351). Starting from the hypothesis that the territory has numerous territorial resources (natural, cultural and human) that are currently under-exploited, the aim is to demonstrate that, in relation to other tourist areas, geographic and economic marginality can be used to explore an alternative project methodology, underpinned by a theoretical approach based on concepts of collective and territorial intelligence and expressed in actions undertaken in different projects. The Canadian philosopher, Pierre Lévy, defines collective intelligence as “the project of a varied and universally distributed intelligence that is continuously enhanced and synergised in real time, resulting in the effective mobilisation of skills” (Lévy, 1996, p. 35-36). We therefore consider that territorial intelligence is a shortened formulation of collective intelligence implemented at the territorial (local) scale, expressing “a space-territory relationship that succeeds territoriality, as a phenomenon of appropriation or re-appropriation of resources (translation)” (Bertacchini, 2007, p. 15).

Geography of an “end of the earth”

  • 5  “Despite their very different personalities, these two exceptional men were friends and mutually r (...)
  • 6 Alpes Magazine n°137, Oct-Nov 2012, le tour du Valgaudemar, un petit air d'himalaya, pp 86 to 98

6The valley is deep (2500 m at La Chapelle-en-Valgaudemar), having been gouged out by glaciers and now occupied by a fast-flowing mountain stream, the Séveraisse. Isolated from Valjouffrey by the Olan, from the Vénéon and the Vallouise by the cirques of Gioberney and Chabournéou, forming a crown, and from the Champsaur by the ‘barrier’ running from the Banc du Peyron to the Cime des Moutières, a form of natural geographic independence or self-sufficiency has developed, along with representations related to the perception of the high mountains. These have developed mainly from the writings of two of the great figures of French mountaineering in the 20th century, Gaston Rébuffat and Lionel Terray. The former spoke of the valley as a “French Himalaya”, while the latter described it as “the most Himalayan of the alpine valleys” after having stayed in the Valgaudemar at the Jeunesse et Montagne centre5, later to become the Centre Communal des Glaciers. The perception linking the Valgaudemar to the Himalayas still exists, as reflected in the most recent issue of Alpes Magazine6 in which an article is devoted to the “Refuges en Valgaudemar”, with the sub-title: “… a little bit of the Himalayas”.

Figure 2. Geographical independence of the canton of Valgaudemar

Figure 2. Geographical independence of the canton of Valgaudemar

7Mobility in the area is structured around two main routes: the national road, RN 85, (better known as the Route Napoléon) which links Grenoble to Gap by crossing the entrance to the valley in a north-south direction, and the departmental road, D 985a, which climbs the valley in a west-east direction from Saint Firmin to La Chapelle-en-Valgaudemar and the chalet-hotel of Gioberney (and its waterfall, the “Voile de la Mariée”). The main road, following the Route Napoléon, therefore crosses the territory without entering the valley. So how do you make this peripheral territory, with its natural and administrative spatial discontinuities, into an area that is more central and recognised at the scale of the Écrins massif?

8By setting up development projects focussing on the mountain resources that mobilize different categories of actors (even different territories), there is a way of developing a strategy that does away with the geographical independence and administrative divisions by building networks within the sector concerned with mountain-based activities.

Re-anchoring territorial development around ties with the high mountains

9According to a survey conducted by the Écrins National Park during the summer of 2011, the Valgaudemar valley is best known for its unspoilt natural environment. Every five years, the Park carries out a quantitative visitor survey and, by way of an experiment, the 2011 survey was combined with a qualitative survey in a test area, the Valgaudemar valley. Questionnaires were therefore placed in all tourist accommodation in the valley, at tourism information points (Tourist information offices in Saint Firmin and La Chapelle) and at the Maison du Parc de La Chapelle. A total of 1003 self-administered questionnaires (completed by visitors themselves) were obtained together with 153 questionnaires from face-to-face interviews (conducted by the planning office and National Park personnel).

10A multiple-choice, closed question was asked with a view to understanding visitor motivations. This revealed that it was the landscape, considered a preserved mountain area, that was the main reason for the visit: 79% of respondents thus came for the mountain scenery, with 31% coming especially to visit the Écrins National Park and 30% to enjoy the preserved natural environment of the valley. Only 2%, however, came to practise nature-based sports. This confirms a hypothesis formulated by socio-professional workers: the high mountains appear to have lost a part of their symbolic dimension in that they now attract visitors more as an element of the landscape than as a milieu for practising activities. The high mountains are simply perceived (or seen) space and less and less experienced space.

11Consequently, although visitors remain relatively concentrated in the upper part of the valley during the summer season, the space where activities are practised is tending to become more concentrated near the bottom of the valley, between the village of La Chapelle and the mountain refuges. Thus, visitor frequentation of refuges remains generally stable, including at those refuges that are the least accessible, such as the Olan refuge. We believe that the refuges are now no longer a stage towards “another world”, that of the high mountains, but rather an objective in themselves, since their use has tended to increase over the last five or six years. For example, at the Olan refuge, the split between mountaineers and hikers is respectively 30% and 70%, despite the hike being considered difficult. The 2011 visitor survey conducted by the Écrins N.P. also indicated that hiking was by far the most popular activity. Visitors practised an average of 1.6 nature-based activities, with hiking being mentioned by 88% and mountaineering by 10% of those surveyed.

12Another source of data is the frequentation of mountain refuges, for which figures were provided by the Club Alpin Français (CAF) in Gap. Over the past ten years, the best years have been the last four, with 8’040 nights in 2009, 7’858 nights in 2010, 7’781 nights in 2011 (despite a particularly rainy July) and 8’352 nights in 2012, a record year.

13Based on a comparison of data from the Écrins N.P. and the CAF, the Community of Communes (Inter-municipal association) reached the following conclusion, which was later incorporated in a planning document, the Convention Espace Valléen Champsaur-Valgaudemar: the perception that links the territory with the high mountains is still just as powerful, despite a trend towards the diversification of nature-based mountain activities (hiking, mountain-biking, canyoning, white-water sports) to the detriment of mountaineering, so that the practice of sports has now become more concentrated in the valley. This model of change, however, is not specific to the Valgaudemar valley, since in the Ecrins region the reinforcement of the valley’s ties with the mountains is also largely based on a diversified range of nature-related sports.

14Strategically, it is therefore important to strengthen the active representations while at the same time re-launching high mountain activities for their role as the territory’s showcase attraction given the importance of cultural determinants, related to perceptions, in organising relations between the mountains and those who use them (Bozonnet, 1992). The action plan, annexed to the Convention Espace Valléen, aims to implement a number of different projects to make Valgaudemar a new “Gateway to the High Mountains” in the Ecrins massif by persuading visitors from the North (Grenoble, Lyon, Chambéry) and the South (Aix-Marseille, Toulon) that travelling to the area is no more difficult than travelling respectively to La Bérarde or Ailefroide. The sine qua non for success in this endeavour is to change the perception of the time-distance relationship with the Valgaudemar for the population catchment areas cited above, since the “back-of-beyond” perception is linked to this relationship and, therefore, to road access. It is important to emphasize that travel time is much the same between Chambéry and Bonneval sur Arc as between Chambéry and La Chapelle, or between Grenoble and La Bérarde as between Grenoble and La Chapelle.

… and the mountains in winter

15The winter season is a strategic keystone for renewing the area’s ties with the mountains. Perceptions relating to the Valgaudemar have emphasized the cold and the lack of sun, with a predominantly negative connotation. This perception, however, is not at all coherent with the communication from the Comité Départemental du Tourisme des Hautes-Alpes which until 2011 promoted (without success given the results observed since) the formula: downhill skiing + guaranteed sunshine = Hautes-Alpes.

16The shortcomings of the winter tourism product have been pointed out by both the inter-municipal association (Communauté de Communes) of Valgaudemar, which manages the Nordic activities area, and the municipality of La Chapelle. Thus, although the area provides opportunities for practising cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice climbing, the sites for these activities are not well publicised and, above all, there is no organised, coherent tourism product. Until the winter of 2011-2012, there was no bar, hotel or holiday centre open between October and April in the upper part of the valley.

  • 7  The Communauté de Communes (inter-municipal association) has drawn up an agreement with the PACA R (...)

17Four measures have been implemented as part of public policies to improve the situation in the area7:

18 - complete re-organisation of the Nordic activities area with the support of the Hautes-Alpes cross-country skiing association: organisation, communication, exploitation of ski area over a limited length of trails so as to favour quality over quantity, acquisition of ski trail grooming equipment and upgrading of trails;

19- organisation of a reception centre and the possibility of accommodation and catering on a daily basis or for stays in La Chapelle at the Glaciers municipal centre;

20 - programme for implementation of the Manifesto of the Conference on Mountaineering;

21 - diversification of winter activities by focussing in particular on developing sled sports (ski-joëring with a dog or horse, dog sled), organising events, and making the Nordic activities area available for the mushers of Champsaur-Valgaudemar to train their dogs.

  • 8  The municipality was attributed the label “Alpes du Sud village resort” by the PACA Regional Touri (...)

22The main potential for economic development in the Valgaudemar is outside the summer season. La Chapelle could be classified as a winter/summer mountain village-resort8, but it differs in relation to more conventional downhill ski resorts in that the turnover of those working in tourism in the winter season is negligible compared with that of the summer season. In the Valgaudemar valley, the highest visitor rates are in the summer. It is therefore necessary to develop the winter tourism product so as to open up accommodation and get shops to stay open all year. The only outdoor activity at the moment does not concern skiing but another outdoor nature-based pursuit, hiking, which is just as dependent on weather conditions as skiing. It is therefore important to develop other tourist “products”, particularly cultural, to attract visitors to the area. The majority of visitors are concentrated at one site at the end of the valley, the Gioberney cirque, and it is therefore vital to take steps to enable the rest of the area to exploit visitor flows and generate direct economic benefits.

23Similarly, there is also considerable potential for developing transit tourism, particularly at the entrance to the Valgaudemar valley, based on the flows of vehicles along the Route Napoléon. Relations with neighbouring tourist areas (Corps region, Champsaur, Gap region, Écrins National Park) represent another major issue in developing the tourism product in the Valgaudemar.

Collective intelligence: a basis for local action

24Collective intelligence results in the interaction of people’s cognitive capabilities within a given spatial unit, such as a territory. The latter “is not only a functional support but also constitutes a system of relations within which the issues of structuring and coordinating territorial intelligence become reinforced (translation)”, where territorial intelligence is defined as “a device for mediation and participative, learning and reflective governance, which associates in a more or less formal manner the public and private actors and operators in a territory, as well as the sectors relating to the elaboration and projection into the future of shared skills and experiences, an identity, solidarity and an ethic (translation)” (Bourdeau, 2009, p. 30).

25Does the opportunity for Valgaudemar therefore lie in its capacity to adopt a position that truly differentiates it from other valleys by mobilising the perceptions based on unspoilt nature and high mountain scenery? “Valgaudemar, the real mountains”. The valley’s slogan in the 1990s clearly evoked its attraction of being “between-two” worlds, based on the “entre-deux” concept developed by Daniel Sibony (1991). For Philippe Bourdeau (2007), “the “between-two” concept appears to be a particularly creative means for exploring and translating the many socio-spatial and socio-territorial relational structures that are characterised by dualities, ambiguities or hybridizations where differences are played out again and frontiers become blurred in a way that is characteristic of territorial post-modernity: touristic/non-touristic place, town/mountain, resort/outside of resort, sport/heritage, holiday stay/residence, summer/winter, protection/development”.

26The “between-two” concept is also geo-cultural for Valgaudemar, which historically has had close links with the Dauphiné region. This link was expressed, for example, in mountaineering activities with visits by the Société des Touristes du Dauphiné (STD) before the Grenoble climbers began to turn more toward La Grave and La Bérarde at the expense of Valgaudemar. Today, Valgaudemar finds itself culturally and administratively cut off from the North and oriented more towards Gap and even further south to Marseille and Toulon. The geographic discontinuity formed by the administrative limit between the regions of Rhône-Alpes and Provence Alpes Côte-d’Azur, on the one hand, and between the departments of Isère and Hautes Alpes on the other, has gradually become a cultural frontier, a frontier that even applies to the practice of mountain activities, despite the fact that travel time between Grenoble and La Chapelle is roughly the same as that between Grenoble and La Bérarde.

Local implementation of the “Manifesto” of the Conference on Mountaineering

  • 9  The “Coordination Montagne” project brings together all the institutions representing both enthusi (...)
  • 10  Face Sud Production is an association that brings together high-mountain guides and video professi (...)
  • 11  Le Fonds d’aide au cinéma de montagne (FODACIM) is a special organisation to provide financial su (...)

27The history of mountaineering in the Valgaudemar valley, from the early pioneers to the present day, is the first part of the programme detailed earlier and entitled “implementation of the Manifesto of the Conference on Mountaineering”, stemming from a national meeting of the different actors involved in mountain activities that resulted in a structure that brought these actors together, the “Coordination Montagne9“. This was a film produced by an association whose members are, for some, representative of mountaineering in the Valgaudemar, people who are from the valley such as the guide, Joël Vincent, who opened up the “Mafia”, the valley’s mythical route on the south face of Mount Rouies. The aim of the film, made by Face Sud Production10 and backed by the FODACIM11, was to shine the spotlight on the valley’s mountain culture by exploring the story of an activity whose role is economically marginal, but symbolically essential.

28The second part of the programme examines the theme of “Young People and the Mountains” (Jeunes et Montagne). An experiment relating to this theme was conducted from 27 to 31 August 2012. A mountain camp, based on the principle of the Piolets Jeunes12, was organised in La Chapelle-en-Valgaudemar thanks to a partnership between the Groupe de Haute Montagne (GHM), the Gap-Champsaur-Valgaudemar mountain guides office and the inter-municipal association of Valgaudemar, with financial backing from the PACA Region.

29Finally, a third part focused on the creation of a “mountaineering school”, in the form of a four-seasons artificial climbing structure in La Chapelle. The school had a number of aims: to enable young people to try out mountain activities in complete safety, to make up for the current lack of facilities (because of rocks falling on the village’s former training site from the upper slopes), to have a climbing school in the upper part of the valley, and, above all, to introduce enthusiasts to the climbing techniques used in the high mountains, and particularly to the concept of safety during movement and to traditional climbing by placing their own moveable protective devices on the rock face. In short, the objective here is to create the conditions for local enthusiasts as well as visitors to acquire the necessary skills in the valley before then progressing to the high mountain slopes.

Figure 3. The project “Implementing the manifesto of the Conference on Mountaineering”

Figure 3. The project “Implementing the manifesto of the Conference on Mountaineering”

30These three parts, focusing on communication, the teaching of young climbers, and development, result from a common strategy. By mobilizing different partners, they are helping to set up a network of actors and thus to create a pool of collective skills and intelligence in the local area. This involves identifying a path for Valgaudemar to follow by working on the “conditions in which a mountain territory, confronted by the uncertainty of change, can mobilize its historical, patrimonial, cultural, social and political resources to take charge of the construction of an identity and a vision for the future that are shared within the area and, at the same time, recognised outside it (translation)” (Bourdeau, 2009).

  • 13  L’Association Nationale des Centres Et Foyers de Ski de Fond et de Montagne (ANCEF, see http://www (...)

31The objective of such actions is to prepare the future local system of tourism in La Chapelle-en-Valgaudemar by working on the culture and the perceptions related to the high mountains as well as on the infrastructures that will help construct a quality tourist centre coherent with both the “label” and the territory of the Ecrins National Park. The process will also be based on compatibility and complementarity with the alpine skiing product in the resorts of the Champsaur valley. The renovation of municipal tourist facilities (the Mélèzes gîte and the Glaciers holiday centre) and the associated construction project were the subject of a study conducted by the ANCEF13 from July to November 2012. The aim of the project was to construct a truly “local tourism system” (François et Marcelpoil, 2007) anchored on nature-based outdoor recreational activities reflecting the values of the local territory, and it was the capacity to adhere to this aim and meet the requirements of such a complex task that governed the choice of service provider.


32As Olivier Zara (2011) summed it up, “that which is complex is the territory of collective intelligence”. The latter is built up through networks. The Valgaudemar valley thus adopted, through the agreement “Espace Valléen Champsaur-Valgaudemar” signed in 2011, a clear strategic position, deciding on territorial development based on the strengthening of its ties with the high mountains and winter activities.

33Thus, the public policies of the massif leave the territories free to define their own projects based on a bottom-up approach, unlike the “old” development policies of the top-down type that tried to prevent “self-development”, a criticism that was levelled against the Ecrins National Park. It is in the context of this freedom given to territories to each define their development strategy within the framework of the massif’s public policies, combined with geographical independence implying a differentiated response, that the origin of Valgaudemar’s territorial strategy lies.

34By refusing to allow the installation of heavy facilities for downhill skiing, such as those imagined for a resort in the Vallon de Navette (1955), which was well before the arrival of the Ecrins National Park, the Valgaudemar valley has preserved a valuable asset, that of the freedom to still choose its development path. It can thus avoid the problems that face many alpine ski resorts, stemming from colossal investments and operating costs on account of heavy infrastructures (ski lifts, leisure centres, aquacentres, sports complexes, tourist accommodation with risks of low occupancy rates, etc).

35Against a background of reform in territorial authorities, and consequently a redefinition of territories, the solution of collective intelligence as a strategy for innovative local action is a possible response to the problems of developing an isolated, non-mechanised, rural, mountain “back-of-beyond” locality. With the “gear change in standards (translation)” (Bourdeau, 2009) governing the so-called peripheral territories (given their geographically and culturally marginal position in the tourism market), such areas now have far greater freedom to innovate outside the standards that govern the economy of the centre (Giraut, 2009), that of the major tourist attractions and alpine ski resorts. Geographical independence, which in the beginning was considered a major handicap and even the main cause of the “non-development” of the Valgaudemar valley, now seems to us, on the contrary, a generator of innovation through collective intelligence, thanks to the latitude for action that the territory now enjoys. Between permanent cultural characteristics and structural changes, the territorial project must enable an outsider (Bourdeau, 2009b), in the shape of the small, less conventional operator, to find cause for hope thanks to the area’s ambition to become an experimental territory or “territoire-école” (Gumuchian, 2006).

36This will require taking a clear position in the ongoing construction of territories, whether this be the territory and the “brand” of the Écrins National Park (charter projects relating to the 2006 Act plus the European Charter on Sustainable Tourism) and/or the Champsaur-Valgaudemar territory (project to merge the inter-municipal associations of Champsaur, Haut Champsaur and Valgaudemar). Both projects question the values with which Valgaudemar wishes to be associated, and are generating tensions. The Park project is coming up against the “cost” of the constraints imposed on the economic development of the territory that would be in the Park in relation to the benefits of the Park’s brand image on tourist numbers. As for the Champsaur-Valgaudemar area, it is still not a political reality (failure of inter-municipal associations to merge in November 2012) and remains an intellectual construction in people’s perceptions and inoperative from a tourism point of view. Indeed, the Champsaur-Valgaudemar Tourism Office does not recognise the role that the village-resort of La Chapelle plays as the focal point for tourism in the Valgaudemar valley (it considers village-resort equivalent to a small downhill ski resort, whereas La Chapelle is only a Nordic sports centre), thus killing off any vague desires for winter tourism development in the Valgaudemar, given that the valley is no longer identified as a visitor destination by its potential clients. The current response therefore rests on implementing collective intelligence within the mountain sports sector around an a-territorial project with the associations Coordination Montagne and ANCEF. The aim of this approach is to make up for lost time in structuring the valley’s tourism sector, while at the same time taking care not to detract from the necessity of combining it with at least one territorial construction project.

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2 Lionel Terray, Les conquérants de l'inutile, 1975

3 This is the main issue concerning the adoption of the Park’s Charter by the municipalities situated in the peripheral zone.

4 The author is a mountain and valley area development officer for the Valgaudemar Communauté de Communes.

5  “Despite their very different personalities, these two exceptional men were friends and mutually respected one another. Both followed a training course to become climbing team leaders at the training centre (Centre-Ecole de Jeunesse et Montagne) in la Chapelle en Valgaudemar. After the tough 5-week course, Lionel came out first in the technical exercises and second in the overall classification, the first being Rébuffat(source:

6 Alpes Magazine n°137, Oct-Nov 2012, le tour du Valgaudemar, un petit air d'himalaya, pp 86 to 98

7  The Communauté de Communes (inter-municipal association) has drawn up an agreement with the PACA Region on programmes concerning the “Nordic activities area”, “nature-based activities”, and the “espace valléen Champsaur-Valgaudemar” that enables the first two programmes to benefit from regional funding and the second from Region-State-Europe co-funding (via the Programme Opérationnel Interrégional du massif des Alpes -POIA-).

8  The municipality was attributed the label “Alpes du Sud village resort” by the PACA Regional Tourism Committee.

9  The “Coordination Montagne” project brings together all the institutions representing both enthusiasts and professionals engaged in mountain sports activities in areas where there has been little or no development of facilities, as well as a certain number of institutions that promote these activities. See

10  Face Sud Production is an association that brings together high-mountain guides and video professionals, its aim being to use films to promote the cultural and natural heritage of mountain areas.

11  Le Fonds d’aide au cinéma de montagne (FODACIM) is a special organisation to provide financial support for mountain film projects” set up by the municipality of Grenoble with different partners engaged in mountain activities. See

12, under heading “Piolets jeunes”

13  L’Association Nationale des Centres Et Foyers de Ski de Fond et de Montagne (ANCEF, see has an engineering activity in its subsidiary “Montagne Concept”

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1. Entrance to the Valgaudemar valley, viewed from Pic Turbat (3028 m)
Fichier image/jpeg, 2,8M
Titre Figure 2. Geographical independence of the canton of Valgaudemar
Fichier image/jpeg, 2,0M
Titre Figure 3. The project “Implementing the manifesto of the Conference on Mountaineering”
Fichier image/jpeg, 727k
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Référence électronique

Nicolas Savelli, « Tourism geopolitics in the “back of beyond” »Journal of Alpine Research | Revue de géographie alpine [En ligne], 100-2 | 2012, mis en ligne le 28 décembre 2012, consulté le 30 janvier 2023. URL : ; DOI :

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Nicolas Savelli

Agent de développement montagne et espace valléen, Communauté de Communes du Valgaudemar, Maison de Pays - Pont des Richards, 05800 SAINT FIRMIN

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