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La Clusaz (Municipality, Haute-Savoie, France)

Last modified: 2004-01-17 by
Keywords: haute-savoie | clusaz (la) | ram |
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[Flag of La Clusaz]by Olivier Touzeau, logo from the municipal website

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Presentation of La Clusaz

La Clusaz is a mountain village of 2,056 inhabitants, located in the Pays de Thônes, which is delimited by five passes and three defiles. The village was built in a cluse (a narrow valley) formed by the river Nom, just below the Col des Aravis (1,498 m), which is now the border between the two departments of Savoie and Haute-Savoie. A cluse is locally called clusa, as well as in Latin. The village was built around an isolated chapel and became a model of Christian piety, and was therefore called Clusa Locus Dei or La Cluse-Lieu-Dieu (The Cluse God's Palce) until 1772. This name was granted by the abbots of Talloires (see below).

The modern graphy La Clusaz is a good example of the written form adopted for the local language. The Savoyard language is relatively accented, and the modern graphy reflects this accentuation, which is still very vivd locally, although weak compared with neighbouring Switzerland. The final syllable az must always be pronounced aa. The graphy az indicates that the first syllable of the name must be accented and the last one softened. In some cases, the first syllable is so accented that the final syllable az is completely dropped, as for instance in La Forclaz and La Vernaz. For a similar reason, the final syllable ix must always be pronounced i. The graphy ix indicates that the last syllable of the name must be accented and not the first ones, but the x must not be pronounced. Therefore, when speaking of Avoriaz and Chamonix, you can immediatly identify local people and tourists, even if local people tend to use wrong accented forms to please tourists. This is probably not the case in La Clusaz since the s is pronounced like a z. The repetition of two z sounds in the same world is not pleasant in French.

The village of La Clusaz first belonged to the family of Clets and was bought in 1235 by the powerful abbey of Talloires, located on the neighbouring Lake of Annecy. A castle was built by the abbots, but the village became progressively more and more independent. In 1830, the road linking La Clusaz to Thônes was built and the road Annecy-Thônes-Chamonix via the Col des Aravis was opened in 1902. As a consequence, winter sports developed in La Clusaz and the first skiers were recorded in 1908-09. Ski was practiced only by the Alpine troops and members of the upper classes from Annecy and Geneva.

In 1925, the school teacher Bertone created the Sports Club in La Clusaz. A skating rink was built in 1928, as well as a first skilift in 1935. The ski resort of La Clusaz gained international fame in the 1960s, mostly because of the success of the local champions. The skier Guy Périllat won the gold medal in the alpine combination in the Olympic Games in Squaw Valley (1960). He was also World Champion in slalom in Portillo (1966) and won 88 international races. The alpinist Yves Pollet-Villard, Mayor of La Clusaz (1959-1981) did several ascensions and salvages in the Mont-Blanc and the Himalayas. More recently, Edgar Grospiron won the gold medal in moguls in the Olympic Games in Albertville (1992) and was World Champion in 1995 in La Clusaz. The skier Régine Cavagnoud was World Champion in Super G in 2001 and died tragically during practice in Austria. In 2002, Vincent Vittoz was the first French cross-country skier to win a World Cup race.

La Clusaz is known for its numerous hamlet chapels. The most famous of them is the St. Ann's chapel, built on the Col des Aravis for the protection of the travelers lost in snowstorms. The chapel was founded in 1687 by a local lord and was a matter of strong dispute between La Clusaz and La Giettaz, the village located on the other side of the pass. God was a bit worried by the quarrel and sent angels to solve the problems. The angels ploughed a furrow, whose remains can still be seen near the chapel, to delimit the border between the two competing willages. The chapel was found to be on the territory of La Clusaz.
The chapel of the hamlet Le Parc dates back to 1631 and is currently the oldest one in La Clusaz.

Ivan Sache, 13 September 2003

Description of the flag

The flag is white, with the municipal logo.

On 7 October 1601, La Clusaz was granted arms by Duke of Savoy, Charles-Emmanuel I. The arms were:

Vert a sheep argent

The sheep might refer to the piety of the inhabitants of La Clusaz or more simply to sheep sent in summer season to the green pastures of La Clusaz. Later, the sheep was changed to a ram. The ram was shown on the official municipal mailings, the blazon of the tourism bureau, the blazon of the sports club. In the 1990s, a single logo was adopted for all the municipal services, which was modified in 1996.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache & Olivier Touzeau, 13 September 2003