ICAR 2018 Chamonix | International Commission for Alpine Rescue

Organising committee

This year’s annual congress is being organised by the French members of ICAR, with representatives from ENSA, ANENA, La Chamoniarde, the FFME, and the Mountain Rescue Group, which comprises rescue workers and doctors from the PGHM (gendarmes), the CRS (police), the GMSP (fire and rescue service) and helicopter crews from the Gendarmerie Nationale and the Sécurité Civile.


École Nationale des Sports de Montagne - National School for Mountain Sports

The ENSM was created in 2010 and placed under the responsibility of the ministry for sport. It is the only school in France authorised to train mountain sports professionals ie. cross-country and alpine ski instructors, ski patrollers, high mountain guides, hiking leaders, para/hang gliding instructors, and elite cross-country ski competitors. It plays a central role in overseeing the management of mountain sports at a national level. It consists of two separate structures: the National School of Skiing and Alpinism (ENSA) which has been based in Chamonix since 1945, and the National Centre for Nordic Skiing and Mid-Mountain Sports (CNSNM) which is based in Prémanon in the Jura mountains. 

The ENSM’s main roles include the training of mountain sports professionals, the diffusion of its teaching methods, the coaching and socio-professional monitoring of elite athletes, research, consultancy, information management and the promotion of international relations.

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Association Nationale pour l’Etude de la Neige et des Avalanches - National Association for the Study of Snow and Avalanches

ANENA was created in 1976 and recognised as being of public utility the same year. Its main role is to further snow and avalanche safety through preventative measures. It currently has almost 1000 members, including individuals and private and public organisations. 150 of these are from outside France. All are involved in avalanche-related issues. ANENA has three principal objectives: 

    • to train snow and avalanche professionals. These are people who work in avalanche safety, or in a winter environment.

    • to educate winter sports enthusiasts. ANENA offers avalanche courses at all levels, from beginner to autonomous.

    • to inform and educate the public. ANENA publishes a number of documents including training booklets, leaflets, a website and a tri-monthly review. It also organises conferences and other events.

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Société de Prévention et de Secours en Montagne - Non profit organization for mountain rescue and risk prevention

La Chamoniarde brings together all the main elements of mountain rescue in the Mont Blanc area, and contributes to mountain safety by sharing the expertise and experience of each one.

It exercises its role daily through the Office de Haute Montagne and the Pôle Montagne Risk (information services located in the centre of Chamonix), and by offering training courses for amateur climbers and skiers. La Chamoniarde has played an important role in the Chamonix valley for many decades. It manages a radio network dedicated to mountain rescue (SAMB), organises simulated avalanche exercises with the PGHM and rescue organisations from neighbouring countries, and collaborates with the PGHM to develop equipment and techniques. La Chamoniarde rescue team comprises amateur climbers and professional mountain guides and ski patrollers. They can be called in to support the professional rescue team and provide first-aid cover at mountain events.

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Peloton de Gendarmerie de Haute Montagne - Gendarmerie mountain rescue team 

The Chamonix PGHM, created in 1958, was the first unit of the Gendarmerie Nationale dedicated to mountain rescue. There are now 20 different PGHM units throughout the French mountains.

Their roles include centralising rescue alerts, managing rescue operations, participating in rescues, and investigating the causes of accidents. They are not only a crucial element of the rescue response, but are also involved in safety commissions, enforcing mountain legislation, and providing expertise for public surveys on mountain issues. 

The PGHM are also involved in accident prevention, mostly notably alongside La Chamoniarde in the Mont Blanc range. Since 1958 the Haute Savoie PGHM has carried out over 39,200 rescue missions. The Chamonix unit conducts around 850 rescues each year in the Mont Blanc range alone.

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CRS mountain rescue team (police)

The CRS have had specialist mountain units since the end of the second world war, when they were tasked with monitoring the border zones of the Alps and the Pyrenees. At that time, they would assist in terrestrial rescues and collaborated with rescue associations such as La Chamoniarde. In 1955, they created a mountain training school (CNEAS), and in 1958 were officially given the role of providing a public mountain rescue service alongside the PGHM. 

There are currently 190 police officers involved in mountain rescue, including two women, 70 mountain guides, and 68 operational chiefs. The Alpine division of the CRS has bases in Grenoble, Albertville, Briançon and Nice, while the Pyrenees division is based in Lannemezan and Perpignan.

In 2017, they rescued 2400 people, and also took part in judicial investigations.

The CNEAS is located in Chamonix and is responsible for dispensing the mountain rescue training programme. They also train avalanche rescue dogs from the Gendarmerie Nationale and the Sécurité Civile, mountain rescue doctors and provide rope access training for anti-terrorist units such as the RAID and the BRI.

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(Type cneas into the search box)




Groupe Montagne des Sapeurs-Pompiers - Fire service/ mountain rescue team

The GMSP is a specialised unit of the Haute-Savoie fire and rescue service. It is tasked with providing rescue cover in all the department’s mountain ranges and in all locations where access is difficult. It supports the PGHM in the Mont Blanc range.

The unit is composed of full and part-time fire fighters, most of whom are qualified mountain professionals such as guides, ski patrollers etc. It also has emergency doctors and avalanche dog handlers. Mixed teams of gendarmes and fire fighters operate from the Sécurité Civile base in Annecy, and the PGHM base in Chamonix.

The GMSP is also involved in accident prevention, working alongside other mountain rescue organisations, and the national climbing and para/hang-gliding federations.

SDIS74 Fire fighters

Gendarmerie Nationale Air Command

Chamonix section

For the past 60 years the Gendarmerie Air Command has trained its pilots and winch operators to operate in the mountain environment. This enables them to fulfil their role in rescuing and assisting the public.

Candidates must pass rigorous selection tests and complete a demanding training programme which is delivered by the gendarmerie’s mountain flying centre in Briançon. Since 1958, in the northern Alps, helicopter crews have been flying from bases in Lyon, Megève, Chamonix and Modane. Initially they flew rescue missions with Alouette II helicopters before progressing to Alouette IIIs and then EC 145s.

Since 1999, gendarmerie helicopter teams flying EC 145s have rescued 14,740 people. They provide 24-hour emergency cover for rescues and police operations.

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Forces Aériennes de la Gendarmerie

Sécurité Civile

Sécurité Civile

Hélicoptères de la Sécurité Civile

In 1957, the Ministry for Home Affairs created the Sécurité Civile helicopter group. It was tasked with rescuing people and flying missions for other services of the ministry. Initially the group was provided with two Bell 47 G2 helicopters, which it operated from Grenoble - for mountain rescues - and from Lorient - for maritime operations. In 1962, Alouette II helicopters were replaced by Alouette IIIs, which had been specifically designed for mountain rescues. Since 2006, the group flies EC 145s from 23 bases, three of which are overseas. The central command is in Nîmes.

Every year Sécurité Civile helicopters rescue more than 15,000 people from all types of terrain.

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National Association of Mountain Doctors and Rescuers

A registered training centre, the ANMSM has become a common partner for all mountain rescue organisations in France. Through partnerships with schools and universities, it organises training courses for professional mountain rescue workers such as doctors, rescuers, mountain guides etc. These include the Inter-University Diploma for Emergency Mountain Medicine course, continued professional development programmes, and professional certification courses. For the past few years, it has run distance courses in a simulated hi-resolution mountain environment. 

Every four years the ANMSM organises a congress based on the most important issues of the day. It is open to all categories of mountain rescue worker from all organisations.

It has produced the national documentation advising rescuers on medication and has contributed to ICAR’s medical commission on subjects such as the treatment of avalanche casualties, hypothermia, canyoneering accidents, and multiple-casualty accidents in the mountains.

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Fédération Française de Montagne et d’Escalde - Association of Volunteer Mountain Rescue Teams / Haute Savoie

Since 1991, the ADSSM74 has brought together local mountain rescue teams in Haute-Savoie, coordinating their actions and representing them when dealing with bodies such as the regional government, the fire service, the Gendarmerie Nationale, and the Sécurité Civile.

With over 400 voluntary members, this is the largest rescue organisation in the area and stands ready to support the public mountain rescue services when necessary. The association comprises professional mountain guides, ski instructors, mountain leaders and amateur mountaineers. The women and men of the ADSSM74 know their local mountains intimately and are able to intervene rapidly on foot or by ski when the terrain or weather conditions prevent a helicopter rescue.

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