Megève

The princess of the Alps...
A guarded jewel with timeless charm!

Megève > History

The history of the ski resort of Megeve

Megeve, a resort influenced by the Rothschild family in the 1920s and much appreciated by high society, is also a village in Haute-Savoie whose parish was created in 523. Megeve is an ideal destination for lovers of family holidays in an authentic setting . The proximity of the Mont-Blanc and the panorama offered since the Monts d'Arbois make it a destination highly appreciated by connoisseurs.

Here below is a bit of history, that of a village in Haute-savoie with a unique destiny.

A bit of history

The history of Megeve was first marked by sorrowful events, like many neighboring villages: an epidemic of the black plague in 1349, a bloody battle between local lords in 1355, a new epidemic of the plague in 1360. The population of Megeve, estimated to more than 3 000 souls in 1339, is divided by two and will return to its level of 1339 in the 16th century. An episode to note, however, the Prior of Megeve, Aymon de Chissé, becomes Bishop of Grenoble.

Until the 20th century its religious heritage developed and increased considerably, the territory of the commune was covered with chapels, two secular schools were opened in 1795, two others in 1853 and 1856 in the hamlet of Maz. In 1867 a post office was opened, in 1881 a road linking Sallanches, in the valley, to Megeve, which will then be connected to Albertville 10 years later. In 1902 electric lighting arrived in Megeve.

It was not until the first World War that skiing was mentioned in Megeve, thanks to an article by the journalist Mathilde Maige-Lefournier published in the magazine of the French Alpine Club, which praised Megeve and its ski area, which was then the playgroud of locals for ski touring. 1914 saw the first ski competition held in Megeve.

The Rothschild epic tale

It all began in the aftermath of the First World War with Baroness Noémie de Rothschild, a mountain enthusiast, who frequented the Swiss resort of St. Moritz where she experiences the European aristocracy. In St. Moritz, she met the Germans, and in particular Baron Krupp, a great gunner for the German army. Patriote, Baroness de Rothschild decides to establish a ski resort in France that will allow the aristocracy to enjoy the mountain without having to rub shoulders with the hereditary enemy, the Germans.

She finally chooses Megeve, seduced by the exceptional view that offers the plateau of Mont d'Arbois. Together with her husband, Maurice de Rothschild, she built the Mont d'Arbois called the "Palace des Neiges" in 1921, a flamboyant building planted on hundreds of hectares and equipped with an ice rink... They are quickly met with success, the King of the Belgians Albert the First anjoyed a stay in Megeve and was soon followed by the French aristocracy. We then used to skate up the slope with the aid of small snow tracks.

The Palace des Neiges is not the only building built by the Rothschilds, other hotels dot the Mont d'Arbois, in 1926 another major construction is added to the complex, it is a modern chalet, modeled on traditional chalets but more imposing in size and offering its guests a maximum of comfort and a vision of the landscape allowed by numerous openings and generous dimensions. Equipped with a ski-room, the chalet perfectly prefigures the integrated constructions that are still made in most French resorts. The architect Henry Jacques Le Même and the Baroness de Rothschild were particularly visionary! Even today, the Chalet du Mont d'Arbois welcomes its guests and combines spa, swimming pool, antiques, old paintings and high-end cuisine to deploy an art de vivre worthy of the Baroness...

The successive generations of the Rothschild family will remain faithful to Megeve, imbuing their brand with the development of what would become a resort of international reputation.

The birth of a ski resort

In parallel with the development of the Mont d'Arbois Megeve builds a skating rink in 1929, a cinema in 1931 and, in 1933, the first cable car in France dedicated to skiing, the Rochebrune cable car. The creation of the tapered pants by the tailor Armond Allard brings additional attention to Megeve; the tapered ski pants will remain the reference until the 1960s.

In 1934 a new cable car was completed on the Mont d'Arbois. As for sports, Megeve stands out: after the creation of the Sports Club of Megeve in 1931, the hockey team becomes champion of France and especially, a child of the country, Emile Allais, succeeds in his ski career.

In 1936 Emile Allais won the bronze medal in combination with the Olympic Games in Garmisch, Germany, becoming the first French Olympic medalist in alpine skiing. In 1937 he won three gold medals at the Chamonix World Championships.

The second world war brings the activity to a halt. After the liberation, development resumed with the creation of the Tourist Office and the construction of a casino. In 1951, the Emile Allais Cup was created, an international downhill competition. A gondola was put into service in 1952, the Jaillet gondola.

The spotlight is on Megeve, several films are filmed there and Adrien Duvillard, another child of the country, becomes world champion of descent in 1963. Megeve is then considered as the Saint-Tropez of the snows. The resort hosts many events, artistic and sporting including curling and ball-trap. An air link Paris-Megeve is established in 1973.

In 1986 a new ropeway, Rocharbois, was inaugurated allowing the link between the massifs of Rochebrune and Mont d'Arbois. The cultural development follows, with the opening of several museums and the classification of several buildings to the Historic Monuments. Megeve has more than 5 000 permanent inhabitants.

The years 2000 : the consecration

Megeve has been awarded several prestigious status, such as the Marianne d'Or (Sustainable Development), integration into the international network Best of the Alps (with Chamonix, Zermatt, Davos or Saint-Moritz...) and three stars Michelin for the now famous Marc Veyrat and his restaurant La Ferme de mon Père. The station also gets 4 flowers in the competition of towns and villages in bloom, a first at this altitude.

In the space of a few years 6 hotels received the classification of 5 stars including the mythical Chalet du Mont d'Arbois. A second restaurant is distinguished by the 3 stars of the Michelin guide, the Flocons de Sel by Emmanuel Renault.

Megeve ski area is now an integral part of the Evasion Mont Blanc ski area, which offers 445 km of pistes with the resorts of Combloux, La Giettaz, Saint-Gervais, Saint-Nicolas-de-Véroce and Les Contamines-Montjoie.


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