Lac Brenet au printemps 2022. Foto/Photo: TES

The Forgotten Ice Industry of Le Pont

In 1879, on Lake Brenet (lac Brenet) in the Vallée de Joux (canton of Vaud), artificial ice cellars or huge sheds of 14,000 m3 for 5,000 tonnes of ice were built. From then until 1942, the ice from the lake was stored in large quantities every winter to be sold in Swiss and French cities in the summer. They used ice to preserve food and to cool drinks.

The ice was transported to breweries and other restaurants in Paris, Lyon, Dijon and even to the south of France, especially during summer. The war and the fall of the lake level by several metres in 1942 ended this industry long before the refrigerator boom of the 1950s.

The ice was transported by horse to Vallorbe, then Croy, and loaded onto wagons. In 1886 it was transported by train when the Pont-Vallorbe railway line was completed. The village of Le Pont was one of the largest ice factories in Europe and the centre of the Swiss ice industry, an almost forgotten history.

The number of employees was impressive. Over 130 people worked on the ice and in the large shed in January and February. Chunks of ice were sawn out of the lake and stored in the shed.

The Hotel de la Truite in Le Pont is the oldest establishment in the valley and is mentioned as early as 1662. One of its most famous tenants was Edgar Rochat (1845-1929), the initiator of the ice industry in Le Pont.

(Source and Pictures: La Région. Le journal de Nord Vaudois du 25 février 2015; Rémy Rochat, Edgar Rochat & Cie au Pont, Vallée de Joux, Le Pèlerin, 1999).