In this exclusive portrait, we meet Jean Souchal in his living room in Grenoble, an emblematic figure in the ski lift industry and a mountain enthusiast. Originally from Savoie, in the Belleville valley, Jean Souchal has witnessed the transformation of these mountain landscapes since his childhood.
His 43 years at Poma were marked by innovations and international projects, such as the development of a ski lift system for the Great Wall of China. Jean Souchal shares personal anecdotes reflecting his humanistic approach to business, while emphasizing the importance of preserving and valuing the environment.
A father of six and grandfather to eleven, he has managed to balance a rich family life with a demanding international career. His hobbies also reflect his passion for the mountains and nature.
Through this portrait, we discover not only a successful professional but also an individual deeply rooted in his values and community. This interview offers an intimate look at the life and thoughts of Jean Souchal, a man who has shaped the ski lift industry while maintaining deep respect for the mountains and their inhabitants.
Jean Souchal, Could you tell us about your journey?
I’m 65 years old, originally from Savoie, from Moutiers, and more precisely the Belleville valley. It was a time when the mountains were very industrialized, and there was still a factory in Moutiers. The Les Ménuires resort did not yet exist, I am someone who has seen the construction and growth of the mountain valleys, and it has greatly marked me. The various oil shocks led me to finish my studies in Arles. That’s how I was fortunate in my studies. I was able to study engineering at Arts et Métiers in Aix en Provence and got married very young, right after school.
At that time, there were several options: going up to the resort or staying in the valley. It was a time of tremendous development. My wife was from Grenoble, and we chose to settle in Grenoble. That’s how I joined Poma, with a desire to evolve in the world of skiing that I cherish. Around that, I did a lot of skiing and mountaineering.
At Poma, I discovered extraordinary things, especially this technological dimension that really corresponded to my profession as an engineer (mechanical, electrical, automation, geotechnical…) and the construction of a ski lift. A ski lift is full of geniuses inside, and I really liked that, so much so that 43 years later, I’m still here!!!
Family life has always been an important pillar for me. We have 6 children and 11 grandchildren. I was lucky to have a wife who managed this because I wasn’t around much, with projects abroad and around the world.
Looking back, it was also something exceptional to be able to interact with Chileans, Algerians, North Americans, Chinese, Russians… It’s an exceptional wealth in human terms that really marked and drove me.
COVID brought us back home, and we’ve changed our lifestyles a bit: now I’m entering a new phase where I discover my grandchildren and rediscover my children. It’s interesting.
At Poma, I found meaning beyond what was the ski development part. For example, I had the chance to go to carry out the project on the Great Wall of China in 1985. Few people went to China at that time. And then, I went there twice a year for all the following years. This allowed me to realize the respect of people for their environment, even in places we do not know. On the Great Wall of China project, the stations were not to be seen from the wall. This really opened my eyes to how we can create value and make things live while respecting these environments. All this really gave meaning, at a time when everything was in full development.
Do you have any regrets today?
Yes, there are inevitably regrets. For me, it’s the accidents. These are moments when there are several ways to react and where you say to yourself: “I stop everything, this is not for me” or “I have to bounce back because precisely, it’s the analysis of what happened that allows to see where we could have done differently.” Regrets are having been forced to kneel.
And then I may have other regrets: having had trajectories with people with whom we worked, with whom we spent time, and from whom we had to separate. This is hard on a human level because by nature, I systematically trust. It’s hard to realize that it doesn’t always work.
How do you see the mountain of tomorrow?
I see it more as a place of life, a place of sharing values and actions. I talked about this agricultural world that I particularly like. We are doing