The lifeblood of the off-piste paradise of La Grave is a creaky old cable car in the shadow of La Meije mountain (3,984 meters) in France's Ecrins National Park.
The quirky lift, more than 40 years old, rises from the 12th-century village at 1,480 meters and trundles, via two intermediary stations, to a high point of 3,200 meters amid a wild and tumbling mountainscape of glaciers, cliffs and crevasses. There's only one rudimentary run up here, and no ski patrol. This is skiing "sauvage." Anyone venturing from the cable car station must trust their skills and their mountain guide to get home safely.
"La Grave is just an incredibly unique area, and a special place, one of the least explored places in the Alps," says Pelle Lang of La Grave's Skiers' Lodge.
Did you know? The old cable car's days could be numbered. In the summer of 2017 a new 30-year lease was awarded to the Alpe d'Huez lift company with instructions to modernise where necessary. A new gondola will also replace the drag lift to the top of the ski area at 3,600 meters. www.la-grave.com