The 2010/10/04 at 14:53
Alexandre T. Analis
A graduate in business law from the University of Aix-en-Provence and in business management from the Faculty of Economic Sciences of the University of Geneva, Pascal Vie, 44 years old, started his career in a multidisciplinary Swiss group before being hired by SPTV in 1992 as a representative. Since 2000, he has been Financial Manager and Board Member at S3V.
Commerce International: Could you briefly introduce S3V?
Pascal Vie: “When the department of Savoie created the Coucheval ski resort in 1946, it also founded a public entity, the SPTV. This became the Société des 3 Vallées (S3V) in 2000; it is 58% owned by public capital and the rest is divided between local financial establishments (Banque Populaire des Alpes, Banque de Savoie, Caisse d’Épargne Rhône-Alpes, Crédit Agricole des Savoies, Dexia…), staff members and private shareholders. The mission of S3V is to develop and manage the ski areas of Courchevel, Méribel-Mottaret and La Tania within the world’s largest ski area: the 3 Vallées. In all, S3V employs 670 persons and last year achieved a turnover of 58 million euros.”
What is the role of the company Sommital within S3V?
P.V.: “S3V is the mother company which created Sommital in 2008. The objective was to make Sommital a tool for the development of the strategy of S3V in terms of innovation and to commercialise the Magnestick product throughout the world – the first product trials took place in 2007.”
What exactly does Magnestick consist of?
P.V.: “Magnestick is a security system for children made up of two elements. The first is a brightly coloured back protector resembling a vest weighing less than 200 g. It protects the child’s back in case of a fall and makes the child easier to see for other skiers to prevent collision risks. This protection is officially recognised and certified (European norm: EN 1621-2). It is made up of a thin and light metal plate in a special stainless steel that does not rust. The second element is a set of three magnets specifically developed for these needs. They are placed in the back of the chairlift and as soon as the metal plate of the back protector is stuck to the magnets, the child can no longer fall. He cannot slip underneath the restraining bar and remains safe, even when the bar is lifted. The back protector can equip children measuring up to 1.45 m and exists in two sizes: small and medium.”
How did the idea to develop this product come about?
P.V.: “It should be pointed out that from a regulatory point of view, a child measuring under 1.25 m cannot take a chairlift without being accompanied by an adult. Magnestick not only offers real security for children, but also serves to reassure their parents, ski monitors or even strangers who may find themselves in the chairlift and whose responsibility may be engaged in the case of an accident. This is important to specify, for fewer and fewer adults agree to look after children they do not know in chairlifts.”
In what circumstances did the Magnestick develop?
P.V.: “To be clear about the matter, the ski market is a market that matured after twenty, even thirty years of growth. In client surveys carried out by S3V in recent years, it emerged that a feeling of insecurity existed amongst parents. As there is always choice between various tourist destinations, some parents prefer not to go skiing with their children for fear of accidents. It is because we were conscious of responding to a real need that we developed Magnestick. The French national union of ski monitors (ESF) was also enthusiastic and partially financed the project, via a partnership agreement signed in 2008 for a twenty-year period. We also have partnerships in the insurance world with Gras Savoy and Mondial Assistance, whose action is situated on the prevention terrain. Magnestick obtained a prize from the magazine Bref Rhône-Alpes in 2008 and in 2009, the international ISPO Award for innovation in Munich, which helped spread its renown.”
So the child cannot fall during the chairlift ride up the mountain. And what happens once he is at the top of the summit?
P.V.: “The three magnets are permanent magnets, that is they function without electricity. In concrete terms, the magnets are kept in a module and linked by an
electric wire (24 volts) to a contactor at the top of the seat (hanger). As soon as the child sets his skis on the snow, the top of the seat sets off an electric impulse via a wire which will neutralise the magnets over a specified zone and space of time. Thanks to this system that is both efficient and simple to put in place, the child is automatically ‘set free’, in full security.”
What do you hope in terms of sales of Magnestick?
P.V.: “In coming years, the back protector will, in my opinion, reach the same level of development as the helmet for children. The Magnestick trademark has been registered worldwide. It is the only children’s security product which is universal: it can be set up on chairlifts of all brands, old or new, fixed or high speed slow boarding. There are already seven resorts in France that are equipped with the Magnestick system: Courchevel, Gourette, La Tania, Megève, Méribel-Mottaret, Peyragudes and Valfréjus. Overseas, we have equip-ped the Arcalis resort (Andorra). In view of the 2010-2011 winter season, we are equipping the Alpine Meadows resort in the United States. The US market is so promising that we are thinking of setting up a subsidiary there. We are also prospecting for clients in Spain, Italy and Switzerland, and already have contacts for setting up in Australia, South Korea and Japan from next year onwards.”
Who manufactures the Magnestick back protector?
P.V.: “The back protector is manufactured by Rossignol or Degré 7 on the basis of specifications that we provide them. It is available in sports stores, for sale or hire. It can also be obtained on our web site. We look after the installation of magnets on the chairlifts.”
What effects do the magnets have on health, watches, mobile phones, credit cards…?
P.V.: “We have verified the conformity of the system with regard to the effects of magnetism according to the European recommendation 1999-519-CE and the European directive 89/336/CE, both relating to the limitation of the exposure of the public to electromagnetic fields.”
What does the development of Magnestick represent for Courchevel and S3V?
P.V.: “While maintaining a very high quality ski area, S3V is developing a strategy for catalysts for growth to bring in ex-tra income. For us, Magnestick is not a type of diversification. As we have our own assets (renown of Courchevel, financial position, technical skills…), we outsource research and work on our two major catalysts for growth which are innovation – to offer more security, to bring in extra income and to promote the resort – and real estate – to have more ‘warm beds’, thus more rentals and ski pass sales.”
More information on www.magnestick.net and www.s3v.com.