Father Jacques Plassiard never misses the opportunity to return "in his family" to Arêches-Beaufort (Savoie), the village that hosts the Pierra Menta, famous ski mountaineering race. He finds a lot of kids he has initiated to ski mountaineering, photography and the harvest of rock crystals in summer.
In this photo, Jacques Plassiard appears to smile all the snow up to his neck. But usually, when he climbs in the massif of the Pierra Menta, his favorite mountain that hosts until Saturday, April 16 one of the greatest ski mountaineering races in the world, the religious is on the other side of the lens.
Born 75 years ago in a farm located on the slopes of the famous summit often called "the stone" on the side of Arêches-Beaufort, Jacques Plassiard spent the first years of his life on his parents' farm. to admire the mountain-climbers who risked themselves in the wall with the twin. " As often with us, it was people from the cities or tourists who climbed, but a local guy suggested I go up, I had to be 18 or 19 years old "He says today.
"I waited until I was 18 to climb"
The passion for the mountain will light up on the spot, like a lightning will knock down many years later the cross installed at the top. " Nothing to do with me and do not write that my vocation as a priest was born in the mountains, my faith is something else "Says this still young retired 75 year old, after 49 years of priesthood in Haute Tarentaise, then at the foot of Courchevel. Between fifteen and fifteen years as parish priest of Arêches-Beaufort, between 1988 and 2003, the period when the ski mountaineering race, founded in 1986, took off.
Ski mountaineering at the crossroads of its history
" I was a small pillar of this race, like the others, I did a little bit of everything in the organization, to make posters, welcome the runners, the kids who won at the time I see them today hui with white hair like me "Smiles this luminous man, who never misses the opportunity to see his old flock on the occasion of the annual race.
Slide sessions to convince parents
For years, he took the country's kids on a mountain getaway, sometimes unbeknownst to their downhill ski school educators, who were a little bit tired of seeing the kids escape the slalom stakes. It took a lot of psychology and countless slide sessions to convince the parents, who were sometimes a little worried, to see the little troop sink into the mountains in winter.
" That's why I did the picture, to show what people from the villages below did not see. Today it is their children and grandchildren who are on the run, the Pierra Menta has become the heart of the country and it is the most important. The mountains, the snow, the sport is beautiful, but do not forget the country that is around. "
This race, his very particular spirit, a mixture of high performance and great solidarity, and this village of Arêches became his family, real and spiritual. " We applaud the best, that's good, but I think of the day when they will not be first. And then at the Pierre Menta, the last is not anyone: all the spectators are waiting for him, the race announcer comments his arrival, that's the most important thing He says.
"If the external beauty joins the inner beauty"
And God in all this? " I am often told that up there it is easier to pray, to contemplate the work of the creator. This is not wrong, but when you're in the mountains, the important thing is first to look where you put your feet, to reach out to the one who is struggling and to take the time to talk with him or her. he wishes it. We can call it God if we want, but for me it is everywhere. "
Including in the luxurious buildings of Courchevel where he partly practices his last ministry, far from his dear Beaufortin. " Sure, Courchevel is not my thing, but we learn everywhere. For example, I am also the cure of seasonal workers. "
His profession of faith is summed up in a little text he wrote for one of the books in which he participated around the mountain. " In Pierra Menta and elsewhere, I have seen the beauty of gestures, bodies, faces (…) If the external beauty joins the inner beauty, it brings us closer to the sky. "
Jean-François Fournel, Special Envoy to Arêches-Beaufort (73)