La Grave: France's La Grave resort is under threat: The lease is up for renewal in 2017 and the community fears for the future.
Free skiing paradise: La Grave is a mountainscape of glaciers, cliffs, crevasses, couloirs and forests -- and a dream for free skiers when the conditions are right.
Gloomy prospects: But La Grave faces a delicate dilemma. Without investment, the prospects are gloomy. Securing the future of the lift is vital.
Tricky terrain: Of the 23 "legendary routes" pictured on Lang's Skiers' Lodge website, 16 have a technical difficulty rating of "very serious" or "extremely serious."
Cable car: The only way up is via a 40-year-old cable car which takes 40 minutes to chug up from the rugged village at 1,480 meters to a high point of 3,200 meters. The lease for the lift is up, hence La Grave's uncertain future.
Big business: The worry among locals is that a mega lift company, such as Compagnie des Alpes, which runs many of France's top resorts including nearby Les Deux Alpes, Chamonix and Val d'Isere, will implement big changes to increase profitability and satisfy shareholders.
Pristine alpine environment: Locals say they're not "anti-development," but are wary that turning La Grave into a slick resort will rip the heart out of an authentic and pristine alpine environment.
Longer seasons: One of the stipulations of the new lease will be to build a third stage of the cable car up to 3,600 meters, replacing the old drag lift, before 2021. Not only will this allow easier liaisons with Les Deux Alpes but it's hoped it will extend the season and increase summer traffic.