Megève is a town and ski resort found in the Alps just south of Sallanches and west of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc. Historically an important leather tannery town, Megève’s role as a ski resort was established at the beginning of the 20th century by the Rothschild family. It is now considered by many to be one of the most beautiful ski-resorts in the world.
In the beginning, Megève was an agricultural village but in the early 1900s Megève started welcoming people as a health resort in the summer months. Then a journalist working for the French Alpine Club encourages Megève to cater for winter tourists. The hotel Mont Blanc put in heating and the ski season began. Ski instructors and tourists began to arrive in Megève. In 1916 the Baroness de Rothschild, disenchanted with the famous Swiss ski resort of St Moritz, decides to build a French ski resort of equal prestige. Megève is selected and the Palace Hotel Mont d’Arbois was built and opened in 1921. Francois Parodi, a ski champion and son of an important family of Swiss hotel owners designed the infrastructure of the town.
In the winter of 1923/24 King Albert I of Belgium and Queen Elizabeth were guests at the Palace Hotel Mont d’Arbois and Megève’s international reputation was made. The jet set arrived. Other famous visitors included the Princess of Bourbon Parma and the Lacoste family. In 1938 a fashionable bar called Le Cintra opened in the Panorama hotel and the Paris jet set became frequent guests. Marcel Pagnol, Tino Rossi and Michele Morgan amongst them. Singers such as Edith Piaf also came. In 1952 “Les Liasions Dangereuses” with Gerard Philippe and Jeanne Moreau was filmed in the hotel Mont Blanc. In 1954 King Farouk, Ali Khan and Rita Hayworth visited. Georges Pompidou also became a frequent visitor. In the film “Charade”, Audrey Hepburn meets Cary Grant at the Megève ski resort.
Megève today is a very popular ski-resort and whilst some towns in the Alps have grown up purely as ski resorts, Megève is a real town with a charming centre. The main square is dominated by its church, which dates back to the 14th century, and perhaps even earlier than that, and is built in the late Gothic style. Many of the houses in the old centre are medieval in origin and from the main square you can wander through the attractive narrow streets, occasionally coming upon fountains or the lavoir on Rue d’Arly.
As well as the older buildings in Megève the town also has an architectural heritage dating to the 20th century following its discovery and development as a prestigious ski resort. The architect Henry Jacques le Même developed a chalet style inspired by farms in the region and he came to be known as the inventor of the ski-chalet style as we know it today. His style defined the growth of the ski-station, its chalets as well as its hotels and schools and three of his chalets, La Croix des Perchets (1928), le Grizzly (1932) and the Cairn (1941) are now classified historic buildings.
There are numerous possibilities for skiing, with more than 450 km of pistes close by, all with great views, many of them of Mont Blanc. The main ski areas are on Rochebrune with Cote 2000 and Mont Arbois, the two main mountain ridges that stand above the town, while other smaller ski areas found around Combloux and La Giettaz. Together they form part of the ski domaine known as Evasion Mont Blanc. In all the resort has more than 200 pistes covering more than 400 kilometers, and more than 100 chairlifts etc to reach them. Between them these offer all levels of skiing from learner slopes to challenging black run descents.
Although quieter in the summer months, Megève is a pleasant village to visit all year round. Pretty much every other sport is also available, including mountain climbing, balloon trips, paragliding, mountain climbing, golf and so on. There are various attractive walks for the less experienced that will help you see the best of the local countryside, such as the Javen Lake and the popular walk of the Calvary Trail. At the Museum of the Upper Arly Valley you can learn of the life and history of the village, and peasant life here in centuries gone by. There is also a potager with medicinal and culinary plants which grow in the mountains.
Megève has been awarded the coveted 4 flower award for village in bloom. It is the first village situated above 1000m of altitude to be awarded this Prize as obviously gardening at this altitude becomes much more difficult.