With his Santa Claus beard, his peddler’s banter and a charming smile, Gérard Barbier is known as the White Wolf. Retired Ranger, Gérard is the living memory of the village. From the Bronze Age to the Second World War, passing through the Middle Ages, he narrates the history of his ancestors.
“In Roman times, the village was a place of international passage,” explains Gerard. The Roman road located near to the church of Notre Dame de la Gorge reminds us of this.
“One is incapable of understanding the present without recalling the past.”
At the beginning of the 20th century, at a time when many families left the village, Gérard Barbier’s grandfather went into exile in Paris. Many of his compatriots were working in the auction rooms or on the markets here. He became an operator of the funicular at Montmartre and employee in the Parisian palace hotel “Le Bristol”. After several years in Paris, he returned to les Contamines-Montjoie in 1933 to become the first hotelier in the village. Gérard’s father took over the hotel before leaving to fight in the 2nd World War. Every July, the retired forestry guard proudly wears the paternal beret at the village festival.
Despite the family predisposition, Gérard does not embrace a career in the hotel trade. Born in 1948, he became a forest ranger in 1965. He made his career in the alpine national parks, the Vanoise, the Bauges and Chamonix.
“When I was young, I read a lot of literature about nature” explains Gérard. “I remember the call of the wild by Jack London”.
After 25 years of loyal service, Gerard retired and returned to Les Contamines.
“Les Contamines is the heart of Mont Blanc with its outstanding athletes and wonderful guides. All these people give more than they take”.
Photos : © Zir