Vanoise National Park, Savoie, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France

The Vanoise National Park is a national park located in France in the department of the Savoie in region Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. The park is well known for its population of Alpine ibex (Capra ibex), the alpine chamois, like the ibex, spend most of the year above the tree line. They descend the snow line in early spring and late fall to enjoy the grass uncovered by the ice and snow. Alpine marmot, wolf, Eurasian lynx, mountain hare, Eurasian badger, ermine and weasel are the other mammals commonly present in Vanoise.

There are more than 100 bird species in the protected area. Birds of prey include bearded vulture, golden eagle and Eurasian eagle-owl. Other birds found in the park are black woodpeckers, rock ptarmigans, Alpine accentors, nutcrackers, choughs and black grouses. The wallcreeper is found on steep cliffs especially for nesting.

The national park extends over the Vanoise massif between the Isère valley, the Tarentaise to the north and that of the Arc, the Maurienne to the south. Following the ministerial decree of April 27, 2015 approving its charter, and with the decision of the municipalities to join or not, it is made up of a protected zone, known as the “core zone”, of 535 km, and of a membership area, without specific protection, comprising the territory of the municipalities of Peisey-Nancroix and Saint-Martin-de-Belleville. During the work of setting up the charter, in accordance with the law ofApril 14, 2006, the optimal membership area (AOA) extended over the territory of twenty-nine municipalities (former peripheral zone initially composed of 28 municipalities, plus Bozel); they were freely able to adhere to the charter constituting a project for the protection and development of the territory respectful of the environment.

On the Italian side of the border, the park is continued by the Gran Paradiso National Park. Together, these two parks cover over 1250 km², making the area the largest alpine national park.The core area of the French park and the Italian park thus form, with their 1,250 km, the most extensive protected area in Western Europe.

In 1859, some maps indicated a summit, Mount Iseran, culminating at an altitude of 4,400 m. This summit interests the English mountaineer William Mathews and his brother who go to Tignes. However, at the Col de l’Iseran, there is no trace of the summit and we must face the facts: Mount Iseran is only a legend. The year 1860 saw the ascent of the Grande Casse by the Chamonix guide Michel Croz, the Englishman William Mathews and the chamois hunter from Pralognan Étienne Favre. This prestigious summit falls on August 8, under the blows of an ax that will cut 800 steps in the ice. TheOctober 4, 1861, it is Michel Croz who arrives alone at the top of Mont Pourri. In 1862, he repeated this ascent with his brother Jean-Baptiste and the English William Mathews and TG Bonney. At the end of 1862, the two main peaks of the massif were then climbed.

The Aiguille de l’Epéna will be the last summit to be visited by Henri Mettier and his guides Séraphin Gromier and Joseph Antoine Favre, theJuly 17, 1900. They will use artificial means for this, planting iron bars and improvised ladders. The August 6, 1933, Aldo Bonacossa and Binaghi open the famous couloir des Italiens at the Grande Casse (800 m at 55/60 °). This race remains the benchmark for ice cream in the Vanoise massif.

The July 13, 1964, René Desmaison and André Bertrand open an itinerary in the magnificent north face of the Aiguille de la Vanoise. In the 1960s, ski resorts developed, notably with Tignes (1956 and expansion in 1968), La Plagne (1961), Plan Peisey (1963), Les Arcs (1968), etc. It was to protect this space and to reintroduce the ibex that in 1963, the Vanoise National Park was created. It was then the first French national park.

In the 1980s, and the appearance of modern protection techniques (bolts, expansion pitons, etc.), large rocky routes were opened in the north face of the Épéna, the Aiguille de la Vanoise and the south face. from Mount Pourri. In 1992, Savoie hosted the Winter Olympics in Albertville, which made it possible to develop road infrastructure and facilitate access to winter sports resorts and the massif.

The Vanoise massif is a mountain range in the French Alps, entirely located in Savoie. It is home to important glaciers, both in number and size.

Originally, the Vanoise massif was the mountainous part south of the Vanoise pass. Then, by extension, it was organized around the town of Pralognan-la-Vanoise, and Doron, the river that crosses it, as well as its tributaries, dividing it into three parts: western, northern and southern. Division involved in scientific work widely exposed by members of the French Alpine Club, in their internal publications (CAF Yearbook) or in other publications (Geography). It seems that with the rare sources of the Middle Ages, the Vanoise would come from the current valleys where the Pralognan-Termignon path is traced. Indeed, a document by Termignon from xiv th centurymentionsvallis noxia. And a document from the end of xiii th centurymentions Pralognan aSummum Vau Noysito describe the valleys of Glière and Arcellin from Fontanettes. Like many place names in the mountains, it would have migrated later, to also designate high points. The Aiguille (or Ouille) of the Vanoise should only be the ultimate territorial vestige… All the glaciers of the Vanoise are only an imposition coming from cartographers…

From now on, in the broad sense, it is delimited to the north by Isère (Tarentaise valley) and to the south by the Arc (Maurienne).

Geographically, we therefore attach, from west to east, the links of the Grand Arc (2,484 m), Lauzière (2,829 m) and Cheval Noir (2,832 m), creating a compartmentalized relief.

Around the Vanoise massif thus defined rise to the north-west the Bauges, to the north the Beaufortain and the Mont-Blanc massif, to the east the Grée Alps, to the south the Mont-Cenis, the Cerces and the Arves, and to the west Belledonne.

Natural environments and landscapes
Discover the environments existing on the different levels of vegetation…

Mountain level (from 800 to 1500 meters)
This floor, almost entirely located below the limits of the heart of the Park, is densely wooded. It is mainly made up of beech and fir forests which unite to form the beech-fir forest. Man has left his mark on the landscape by clearing and maintaining hay meadows.

Subalpine stage (from 1500 to 2000 meters)
It is the domain of moors with rhododendrons, blueberries, junipers as well as shrubs such as green alders. These moors abut the coniferous forests where larches, hook pines and stone pines thrive. Spruce is confined to the lowest altitude sectors.

Alpine stage (2000 to 3000 meters)
This is the area above the shrub line. The snow that fell in winter persists for part of the summer in the form of snowfields at the bottom of the snow caves. The space is made up of rocky areas where only lichens and a few sparse plants are able to survive. It is also occupied by vast alpine lawns, filled with flowers during the summer months.

Nival level (above 3000 meters)
At this altitude, glaciers cover the summits. Vegetation cannot therefore develop, except for rare lichens.

The Vanoise massif has a very complex geology. It is formed by a crystalline basement (mica schists, conglomerates of metamorphosed Permian sandstone, quartzite, granite, gneiss, ophiolites), depending on the sector, topped by an autochthonous sedimentary cover (example: Pralognan marbles) and thrust layers formed by schists. limestone and / or clay (example: Grande Motte aquifer, glossy schist aquifer).

Major peaks
the Grande Casse, 3,855 m, the highest point of the massif
the Pointe Mathews, 3783 m
the Mont Pourri, 3779 m
the Dent Parrachée, 3,697 m
la Grande Motte, 3,653 m
the Mont Turia, 3650 m
the Pointe de la Fournache, 3639 m
the Dôme de la Sache, 3,601 m
the Dôme de l’Arpont, 3,601 m
the Chasseforêt Dome, 3,586 m
the Grand Roc Noir, 3,582 m
the Dôme des Nants, 3,570 m
The Aiguille de Péclet 3 561 m
the Aiguille de Polset, 3,531 m
the Mount of Gébroulaz, 3,511 m
the Polset Dome, 3,501 m
the Pointes du Châtelard 3,479 m
the Dôme des Platières, 3,473 m
the Roc des Saints Pères, 3,470 m
the Pointe de la Sana, 3436 m
the Pointe de l’Échelle, 3,422 m
the Pointe du Bouchet, 3420 m
The Aiguille du St-Esprit, 3,419 m
Bellecôte, 3,417 m
the Grand Bec, 3,398 m
the Pointe du Vallonnet, 3,372 m
the Pointe Rénod, 3368 m
the Dôme des Sonnailles, 3,361 m
the Pointe de Claret, 3355 m
the Pointe de Méan Martin, 3330 m
the Dome of the Pichères, 3,319 m
the Grand Roc, 3,316 m
la Roche Chevrière, 3,281 m
the Pointe de Thorens, 3266 m
the Mont Pelve, 3261 m
the shoulder Bouchet, 3250 m
the Pointe des Buffettes, 3,233 m
the Aiguille Rouge, 3,227 m
the Pointe de la Réchasse, 3212 m
the tip of the Dart, 3206 m

Main glaciers
Bellecôte glacier, 3,417 m
Gurraz glaciers
Savinaz glacier
Grande Motte glacier
Prémou glacier
Volnets glacier
Grande Casse glacier
Great Couloirs glacier
Sana glacier
Glacier des Fours
Méan Martin glacier
Vallonnet glacier
Glaciers de la Vanoise (glacier du Pelve, glacier de l’Arpont, glacier de la Mahure, glacier du Génépy)
Gébroulaz glacier
Thorens glacier
Bouchet glacier
Chavière glacier
Polset glacier
Geay glacier

Major lakes
Some lakes on the Tarentaise side of the Vanoise massif:
Plan-Séry lakes (Champagny-en-Vanoise and Peisey-Nancroix);
Lac de la Plagne (Peisey-Nancroix), at 2,144 m, halfway between Rosuel, at the bottom of the valley and the Col du Palet;
Lac de Grattaleu, just below the Col du Palet;
Lac Long, Lac de la Patinoire, Lac Blanc, Lac de la Valette (Pralognan);
lakes of Mont Coua (Méribel);
Merlet lakes (Courchevel).

On the Maurienne side:
lake Rond (Termignon);
Chasseforêt lake (Termignon);
lake of Arpont (Termignon);
Pelve lake (Termignon);
lake of Roche Ferrant (Termignon);
Lac Blanc (Bonneval-sur-Arc);
lakes Café au Lait (Modane);
lake of Chavière (Modane);
Part lake (Villarodin-Bourget).

Main passes
Col de la Vanoise, 2,547 m
Col du Palet (connecting Tignes and Lac de la Plagne), 2,652 m
Col de la Sachette, 2,713 m
Plan Séry pass, 2,609 m
Vallaisonnay pass, 2,637 m
Croix des Frêtes pass, 2,647 m
Col de Chavière, 2,796 m
Iseran pass, 2,764 m
Col de la Madeleine, 1,993 m
Col de Fresse, 2,576 m (from Tignes Val-Claret)
Col de la Leisse, 2,761 m
Col de la Grande Pierre, 2,403 m (crest of Mont Charvet)
Col de Chanrouge, 2,529 m (Saut refuge)
Col du Soufre, 2,817 m (near Lac Blanc)
Aussois pass, 2,914 m

Fauna and flora

The richness of the fauna of the Vanoise National Park is indisputable. From large ungulates to birds, insects to amphibians. Of herbivores (deer, deer, chamois and ibex… they are all very present in Vanoise), the rodent (the hare that changes delivered during the season, the marmot established mostly in the vast alpine grasslands, various voles including the snow vole, the collared mice), carnivores (the fox, the badger, the marten, the marten, the ermine), the bats (thecommon pipistrelle, northern auricle) and insectivores such as the water shrew. Among the 125 species of birds nesting in Vanoise, we find: the golden eagle, the crossed bill, the nutcracker, the Tengmalm owl, the black flycatcher, the eagle owl, the rock blackbird, the soulcie sparrow, the black grouse, the rock partridge, the ptarmigan, the black peak, the tridactyle peak (observed only in France in Savoie and Savoie) and tichodrome.

List of the main mammals
Ibex – Capra ibex: Around 2,100 individuals in the park
Snow vole – Chionomys nivalis
Chamois – Rupicapra rupicapra: About 6000 individuals in the park
Greater Horseshoe Bat – Rhinolophus ferrumequinum
Ermine – Mustela erminea
Mountain hare – Lepus timidus
Wolf – Canis lupus italicus
Eurasian lynx – Lynx lynx
Marmot – Marmota marmota: Omnipresent
Pine marten – Martes martes
Collared field mouse – Apodemus flavicollis
Water shrew – Neomys fodiens
Long – eared – Plecotus auritus
Common pipistrelle – Pipistrellus pipistrellus
Red fox – Vulpes vulpes
Brown bear – Ursus arctos: extinct since the 1930s.

List of main birds
Golden eagle – Aquila chrysaetos
Speckled Nutcracker – Nucifraga caryocatactes
Yellow-billed Chickweed – Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax
Great-Owl – Bubo bubo
Bearded vulture – Gypaetus barbatus
Rock Ptarmigan – Lagopus mutus
Alpine Niverolle – Montifringilla nivalis
Tengmalm’s Owl – Aegolius funereus
Partridge bartavelle – Alectoris graeca
Black Grouse – Tetrao tetrix
Echelette Tichodrome – Tichodroma muraria

List of the main reptiles and amphibians
Aesculapius snake – Elaphe longissima
Smooth Coronella – Coronella austriaca
Common frog – Rana temporaria
Viviparous lizard – Zootoca vivipara
Alpine newt – Triturus alpestris
Asp viper – V. aspis atra Meisner

The flora
A third of the flora of France in Vanoise. The last synthesis on the flora of France “Flora Gallica”, published in 2014, lists around 5000 species of vascular plants (ferns and allied plants, conifers and flowering plants) in metropolitan France. The Vanoise massif alone brings together 1,700 species. This exceptional diversity is explained by the variety of environments present, which can be linked to the large altitudinal gradient, to the range of exposures, to the strong differences in the chemical composition of rocks and soils. The geographical location of the Vanoise during the last glaciations and the history of the colonization of the massif by vegetation for 12,000 years are at the origin of the presence of an original flora known as arctico-alpine. These species nowadays have a disjointed range between the northern regions and the high mountains of temperate regions. In France, it is in Vanoise that the most important processions of arctico-alpine plants are found, with species such as the glacier sedge, the arctic rush and the boreal tofieldie.

List of main softwoods
Common spruce – Picea abies
Common Juniper – Juniperus communis
European larch – Larix decidua
Mountain pine – Pinus uncinata
Swiss pine locally called Arolle – Pinus cembra
Scots pine – Pinus silvestris
Silver fir – Abies alba

List of the main protected flowers
Androsace of the Alps – Androsace alpina
Herbaceous heather – Erica herbacea
Cinder Heather – Erica cinerea
Alpine blue thistle – Eryngium alpinum
Edelweiss – Leontopodium alpinum
Génépi – Artemisia
Gentian utriculosa – Gentiana utriculosa
Linnea borealis – Linnaea borealis
Matthiole from Valais – Matthiola valesiaca
Haller’s Pulsatilla – Pulsatilla halleri
Venus’s Hoof – Cypripedium calceolusi
Haller’s groundsel – Jacobaea uniflora
Rock clover – Trifolium saxatile

The Park
The Vanoise National Park is a large discovery area open to all. One of its missions is to welcome, educate and inform all audiences. To do this, the Park makes places, people and resources available to all.

Creation of the National Park
Although nature reserves already existed in France, the Vanoise is the first French national park; it was created in 1963. The main reason for its creation is the virtual disappearance of the ibex in the Vanoise massif. Indeed, it was still present on the heights of the southern slope of the massif in Maurienne, territory difficult to access, because of higher average altitude and steeper, forming a pocket of survivors of their species. This mammal with long curved horns was exterminated as soon as firearms appeared. In the neighboring Grand-Paradis massif, in Italy, there were still a hundred animals when in 1823 hunting was prohibited. King Victor Emmanuel II created a “royal reserve” there in 1856, which became the Grand-Paradis national park in 1922.

In France, a nature reserve was created in Vanoise in 1943 under the leadership of the French Alpine Club, the Touring-Club de France and hunters. Among them, in particular, Marcel Couturier (1897-1973), doctor, mountaineer (he gives his name to one of the corridors of the Aiguille verte) and great ibex hunter, who campaigns for the creation of a nature reserve in order to protect game, which would allow the ibex of Grand Paradis to repopulate the French side. However, for various reasons (including a conviction for poaching, which tarnishes its image), Couturier did not participate in the actual establishment of the park. Besides Couturier, Gilbert André(1927-2018), elected mayor of Bonneval-sur-Arc in 1956 (a mandate he kept for several decades), campaigned for the creation of a “cultural park”, intended to protect the local populations and their traditions.

He submitted a report for the creation of such a park in 1955 to the National Council for the Protection of Nature, founded a committee of parks in France with the help of Vincent Planque to which several ministers and academics joined, and manages to convince the General Council of Savoy to vote unanimously, in December 1955, a wish in favor of the creation of such a park, gathering around him Pierre Dumas (UNR), Joseph Fontanet (MRP) and Pierre Cot (related PCF). Gilbert André is marked by the writings of George Duhamel, Gustave Thibon, Alexis Carrel as well as Lanza del Vasto (he frequented one of the first communities of L’Arche).

Finally, Jean Eyheralde (1922-2008), parish priest of Argentière, who set up an alpine garden at the Col des Montetsand long chaired the association of Friends of the Vanoise National Park, as well as Gilbert Amigues (1929-), a forester who worked for a long time at the DDA, participate in these efforts. However, the respective projects clash somewhat. Marcel Couturier thus favors the protection of wild fauna; Gilbert André, who supports this, also wants to protect local traditions; Gilbert Amigues wants to limit the influence of man, which he considers harmful on the environment, while Jean Eyheralde wants to open nature to the eyes of men in order to awaken their consciousness… In addition, G. André, which combines the defense of heritage and the environment, opposes the division of the park into a central and peripheral zone, wishing on the contrary that everything be protected,.

The territory project is entrusted to the architect-urban planner Denys Pradelle who defines a central protected zone (fauna, flora, natural space…) where, in particular, all hunting is prohibited, and a peripheral zone rather intended for tourist development.

After many hesitations about its surface or the priorities given to nature and people, the national park was born in 1963, the first French national park. The park was created by Decree n 63-651 of July 6, 1963.

Vanoise info points
The Park are present in 6 points-info Vanoise throughout the summer season. They will advise you to organize your discovery of the National Park: Information on walks and the Park; Information and registration for activities offered by the Park; Sale of products from the Park shop. The Vanoise Info Points are also temporary or permanent exhibition venues, some with audiovisual and conference spaces. You will find free documentation there to prepare your stay (hiking files, Park journal, naturalist files, etc.).

The Park house in Pralognan-la-Vanoise
Permanent exhibition of the Maison de la Vanoise, a building restructured in 2013. The house offers: a reception-information point (hostesses of the Vanoise National Park);a space for temporary exhibitions; a themed permanent exhibition (the Salt Route); an entertainment room (entertainment offered by the Vanoise National Park). Accessibility has been particularly studied in order to offer everyone an interesting and easy visit. The ergonomics of all the devices have been worked on: the furniture, but also the graphics have been the subject of special attention with character sizes and contrasts pleasant for all. Visitors with disabilities will be welcomed in individual public (family) with the installation of support tools for the accompanying person offered at the reception or directly on the furniture to facilitate the sharing of information within the family.

The national park attracts many tourists who love wilderness and mountain recreation. Hikes over several days are possible thanks to the possibilities of accommodation in the refuges. La Vanoise is considered the kingdom of alpine skiing in France. It is home to some of the largest areas in the field, thanks to the junction of many stations, themselves bringing together several municipalities. Apart from the sportsmen practicing cross-country skiing, the vocation of the heart of the national park is rather linked to summer tourism turned towards the discovery of nature.

The beech-fir forest
Heavy precipitation and cloudiness maintain a favorable climate for the establishment of the forest. The beech-fir forest is the most widespread forest on the mountain level. Beech and fir appreciate humidity and fear the cold that reigns on the upper floors. These two trees take part in the constitution of a soil rich in humus. The sabot de Vénus is the most spectacular wild orchid in France. After having aroused much envy, it disappeared from several French regions. It has been protected on national territory since 1982. In Vanoise, it is still very present in beech-fir forests, but also sometimes in pine forests such as in Maurienne, always with a preference for limestone substrates.

Coniferous forests
Conifers are found above deciduous trees, as far as elevation is concerned. The needles of these trees, which are in fact transformed leaves, reduce the surface in contact with the air and therefore with the cold. In the French Alps, only larch loses its needles each year, the others (spruces, hook pines, arolles, etc.) renew only part of their foliage each year.

The stone pine is one of the first trees to grow below the limits of the moor, exposing it head on to harsh climatic conditions and making its growth very slow. The hundred-year-old trees often take the form of a candlestick: certain branches detach laterally from the trunk to rise vertically at its sides. The cembro pine, also called “arolle”, is used by the sculptors because its wood is soft and does not crack. This tree can be recognized by its needles grouped by five. Dedicated to Linnaeus, father of the classification of living beings, the boreal linnea occupies both a vast circumpolar range and an alpine domain of which the Vanoise constitutes the extreme western limit. The Vanoise stations are the only ones in France of this protected species. It thrives in moss, in the shade of arolles or spruces.

The cliffs
Rocks and cliffs are mineral environments whose steep, even vertical slope prevents the deposition of even a thin film of earth. The cracks and other crevices constitute the only support for the installation of the plants. Only mosses and lichens are able to grow on the rock. La Vanoise has the particularity of bringing together practically all types of substratum: from the softest and most soluble like gypsum, to the hardest like quartzites. As a result, the landscapes of Vanoise are extremely diverse: from the ample caps to the steepest cliffs, passing through the unstable benches and scree of glossy schist.

Dry lawns
The dry lawns are located at the bottom of the southern slopes of the valleys (on the adrets at 1300 meters maximum). Aridity is the major ecological criterion of these short lawns. These lawns are short formations, installed on soils poor in nutrients, not or poorly fertilized. They are not very productive – unlike hay meadows – and can be recognized by the dense tufts of grasses such as the pinnate stipe and Valais fescue, which alternate with small patches of bare soil. Aridity is the major ecological criterion of these lawns.

This aridity is the consequence of the climate of continental affinity typical of the great intra-alpine valleys such as Maurienne or Valais in Switzerland. It is characterized by a marked summer drought and strong daily and annual temperature variations. The sunshine, the wind and the skeletal soil accentuate the aridity of these places. The flora must resist drought. The plants that are found on these lawns illustrate various strategies selected during evolution by living beings to resist drought. These plants germinate, develop, flower and bear fruit before the summer period, which they will pass through only in the form of seeds. Various morphological adaptations help to limit the water losses of plants, which remain visible all year round.

Hay meadows
For thousands of years, man has cleared the mountain to make hay meadows to feed his cattle. Located on the mountainous level but also at lower altitude, these areas are home to numerous animal and plant species dependent on regular human activity which, nowadays, tends to decrease. The blue thistle of the Alps or queen of the Alps has nothing to do with a thistle. It is actually a plant from the same family as carrot or parsley. He likes hay meadows but also avalanche corridors, sometimes small grassy ledges at the foot of cliffs. It is scattered throughout the Alpine Arc and protected in Europe. Genetic studies are underway to better understand the diversity of different populations.

The Landes
Located between the upper limit of the forest and the alpine lawns, the moors see the development of many shrubs which are protected in winter by the snowpack. The branches are flexible enough to bend under the weight of the snow. Most of these shrubs belong to the botanical family of Ericaceae which includes bilberries, bilberries, etc. Sometimes colonizing large swaths of mountain, the rhododendron is adorned with dark pink flowers from June. The buds were already ready to hatch last fall. In Vanoise and Savoy only the ferruginous rhododendron grows so named because of the small rusty-brown scales that cover the underside of the leaves.

The high water requirements of green alder limit it to the edges of streams, in avalanche corridors and preferably on slopes facing north. It is a very colonizing pioneer species. The roots of the arcross (Savoyard name for green alder) associate with soil bacteria to fix atmospheric nitrogen, thus enriching the substrate. Its multiple branches which lie down under the weight of the snow form a thicket that is difficult to cross and serves as a refuge for many animals. In the commune of Champagny en Vanoise, we find some of the largest and most representative alder groves in Europe.

Alpine lawns
The alpine lawn forms a dense vegetal carpet on the gentle slopes of the mountains. It is made up of multiple herbs and abounds in quantity of flowers as soon as spring arrives. The latter are adorned with vibrant colors and generous scents that attract pollinating insects. The Arnica likes Acid lawns. From a central rosette is born a stem bearing small opposite leaves and a head of golden flowers. This plant is used in herbal medicine to relieve the effects of strokes, rheumatism, insect bites, etc. The vanilla orchis, as its name suggests, is a small orchid with reddish-brown flowers that exudes a scent of vanilla.

Lakes and peat bogs
Natural high-altitude lakes most often owe their origin to depressions carved out by glaciers, as well as to the moraine deposits generated by their retreat. They undergo an annual cycle (winter, ice and snow deprive its waters for 6 to 9 months of oxygen). Polar lakes are young lakes less than 50 years old: particles in suspension make them white and unsuitable for aquatic life. Separated over the centuries from the glacier that gave birth to them, they become cold lakes with clear water, sheltering larvae and fish introduced by man. The cold lakes are surrounded, a few thousand years later, by rushes, sedges and aquatic plants. Fish can acclimatize in these ” lawn lakes “. Finally after 10,000 years, sediments and vegetation slowly fill the lakes. A great biodiversity reigns in this environment. But in the long term, the peat lakes end up becoming “plagnes” or fossil lakes and are completely filled.

Snow combes
the snow valleys are located in the alpine level from 2000 to 3000 meters, Snow caves are basins where snow accumulates and melts very late. Plants living in these environments only have a few weeks to develop, flower and ensure the survival of the species before the first flakes of fall. To bloom as soon as possible its bells with fringed petals, the soldanelle begins to develop under the snow and pierces the thin film. The herbaceous willow, whose size hardly exceeds 2 centimeters (it is the smallest tree in the world), lines the bottom of the depressions. The dwarfism of this plant allows it to protect itself from the cold. Two small opposite leaves surround a male or female kitten depending on the individual.

The Vanoise National Park has an exceptional cultural heritage. High-altitude architecture, fortifications, agricultural heritage, popular arts, rock art…

Stone art
Erratic boulders and open-air rocky outcrops have served as a medium for the expression of human thoughts and concerns since the end of prehistoric times. The Maurienne valley is exceptionally rich in this heritage, some spectacular rocks of which have been classified as Historical Monuments since the 19th century, such as the Roche aux Pieds and the Pierre de Chantelouve in Lanslevillard… Today, there are more than 1000 engraved rocks which have been identified and studied… and a heart of the Vanoise National Park which remains potentially rich in other sites in non prospected areas. The rock engravings are mainly located in the Maurienne valley up to Bonneval-sur-Arc, in the area of permanent human settlement (valley bottom) up to the mountain pastures. Between 2000 and 2800 m of altitude, the engraved rocks are found in great abundance on the slightly sloping grounds and favorable to the temporary installation for the practice of pastoral activities or the exploitation of the raw materials.

Their concentration is in correspondence with the sites of ancient human occupation, burials or settlements installed near the passageways, at the outlet of the alpine passes leading into the neighboring Tarentaise valley and into Italy. Their distribution is also determined by the existence of a favorable bedrock. The supports were abundant but the erratic blocks of sandstone phyllitous limestones and calcschists, as well as large outcrops of marble polished by the glaciers, particularly favorable to the engraving, because they let themselves be staked without bursting, were privileged.

The salt road
The salt road is an integral part of the cultural heritage of Vanoise. An emblematic route that has been present since the Bronze Age, it crosses all types of landscapes and activities in the territory and highlights the vernacular riches of the Vanoise. Come and follow in the footsteps of thousands of years.

Traditional uses of water
The National Park is expanding its knowledge of traditional water uses in the territory through a study, the result of a year of survey and 130 interviews. For centuries, the inhabitants of Vanoise have collected water from torrents thanks to an important network of canals, wooden aqueducts and ditches. The traditional uses of water as well as the associated techniques and know-how are an important component of the cultural heritage of the Vanoise National Park. Today, this heritage is hardly used any more and is gradually disappearing. Studies to better understand these uses.

In 2005, a first inventory of the irrigation canals was carried out in all the municipalities of Vanoise. In 2012, the Park commissioned, in partnership with the National Museum of Natural History, a study entitled “icon traditional uses of water in Vanoise”, partly funded by the Rhône Alpes Regional Council. This report is the result of the first concerted study on traditional irrigation in Savoy, resulting in an inventory and a description of the functioning and role of irrigation canals in the traditional agro-pastoral economy of the Vanoise Massif. It presents an inventory totaling almost 300 main canals listed and mapped in the massif. The whole competes with the infrastructure of the canals traditionally arranged in the Aosta Valley and in the Valais, the latter being currently under consideration for a candidature for the World Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO.

The mountain pasture
The Vanoise National Park has more than 350 buildings in its core area… Roofs in slate, in tavaillons, walls in lime stone, dry stone walls, engraved stones, pierced stones, plastered with greya… The inventory, commissioned by the Park, has identified and precisely described all the constructions that are all treasures of local ingenuity, know-how, adaptation to the mountain environment.

Outdoor activities
The resorts and villages in the membership area offer you a range of sporting and discovery activities in all seasons: downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, climbing, via-ferrata, tennis, horse riding, canoeing, ski tours or on horseback for one or more days, as well as themed walks. Of cultural activities, workshops, festivals, animation programs are offered by different local authorities or associations. The exhibitions, the museums are open to visitors, as well as centers in which are presented to the public the products of local crafts.

LA ROUTE DU SEL museography
Discover the history of the salt road, from Pralognan-la-Vanoise to Termignon, through the ages. In the 13th century, the passage through the Col de la Vanoise (today in the heart of the Park) was the shortest way to transport the salt from the Moûtiers salt flats to Italy. Thus was born the salt road. A road that has also seen many hawkers, pilgrims, traders, soldiers, then mountaineers and hikers… The exhibition takes place on a large aerial map 8 m long. The route is punctuated by 11 stations each focused on a particular point in the life of this route, such as chapels, chalets, fauna or flora… The tactile model of a mountain, with various figurines to be placed, and suitable for children also allows family play. Local personalities testify on videos of their experience and their jobs, in connection with the salt road. For those who want to know more, focus sheets detail the themes of the exhibition. And, thanks to display cases welcoming naturalized species, everyone can see what a ptarmigan, a black grouse, a marmot or a mountain hare look like up close.

Nothing beats the mountain to discover what makes it authentic and character. It is necessary to properly prepare your hike. No one is immune to natural risks (rock falls, landslides, etc.) and weather conditions (storms, excessive sunshine): in the mountains, freedom rhymes with responsibility. Please note, the bivouac is only possible in the heart of the National Park near certain refuges and it is also necessary to book with the wardens. A hike cannot be improvised.

Refuge experience.
Nestled in the hollow of the green valleys, the refuges of the Vanoise National Park are accessible to all nature lovers. You can discover them on foot, with a light mind, following the marked routes that wind through the alpine lawns. The shelters tell the story of the life of men at altitude, between mountain pastures and summits: they constitute a hiking goal in themselves. They are a stopover lodge for seasoned mountaineers but also pleasant bucolic chalets for families and walkers of all levels. We discover an exceptional view of the surrounding peaks, especially at sunrise and sunset. Nearby, the hissing of a groundhog. Around, herds of tarine cows and abundance graze, unperturbed. In the distance, the roar of a waterfall or a torrent. The senses awaken in contact with a nature teeming with flowers and butterflies. Initiated by the guardian of the refuge, a few walkers grab binoculars and scan the horizon in search of the bearded vulture. At nightfall, the sky is revealed pure and immense, studded with stars. In the fullness of the great outdoors, the refuges invite contemplation. We reconnect with the present moment, simplicity and nature.

Ambassador of a wild and fragile nature, the caretaker patiently ensures the maintenance and preservation of the refuge in order to welcome visitors. In a grandiose but sometimes hostile environment, he brings his knowledge of the environment, transmits the values of his profession, shares his wonder for the mountains, advises, assists, ensures safety and comforts. With humility and enthusiasm, he helps enrich the experience of visitors and facilitates their discoveries, whether they are neophytes or seasoned mountaineers. At the refuge, the occupants meet and fraternize in the common room. Books, games, cards and optical equipment can be made available. Large tables encourage exchanges. In a good mood, everyone takes part in the organization: it is customary to put or clear the cutlery together, to wipe the table with a sponge. Help from each facilitates cohabitation! In addition to being a cook and manager of the premises, the caretaker can also prove to be a skilful storyteller, a fine connoisseur of alpine fauna or an astronomy enthusiast. The night in a refuge then takes on a dimension of initiatory discovery.

In winter the resorts linked to the park or those adjacent to it offer many accommodation possibilities:
Aussois – ski resort (alpine and nordic)
Bramans – Nordic skiing
Bessans – Nordic skiing
Bonneval-sur-Arc – downhill and Nordic skiing
Courchevel – downhill skiing
Lanslebourg-Mont-Cenis and Lanslevillard – Val Cenis resort (downhill skiing)
Les Allues – alpine and nordic skiing
Les Menuires – downhill skiing
Peisey-Nancroix – alpine and nordic skiing
Pralognan-la-Vanoise – alpine and nordic skiing
Sainte-Foy-Tarentaise – Alpine and Nordic skiing
Saint-Martin-de-Belleville – downhill and Nordic skiing
Sollières-Sardières – Nordic skiing
Termignon – alpine and nordic skiing
Tignes – alpine skiing
Val-d’Isère – alpine and nordic skiing
Val Thorens – alpine skiing