Top Lift: 2350m
Ski area: 445km of piste
Adult lift pass: 205€ for six days
In a Nutshell
Megeve used to be the poshest ski resort in France – and it still has more than its fair share of luscious hotels and restaurants. It has a some great, intermediate-friendly skiing too, and a helpful micro-climate influenced by Mont Blanc. We just wish it was a little higher.
Essential Advice for the Perfect Trip
Megeve was founded in 1914 by Baroness de Rothschild who, during the years following the First World War, turned it into her own winter salon for European aristocracy. The rich and famous built houses here and, at one point, the resort liked to boast that it was the winter home to more kings and queens – both crowned and uncrowned – than any other resort in Europe. Its heyday was in the 1950s and 1960s when artist and author Jean Cocteau, along with celebrities such as Charles Aznavour, Sacha Distel, Johnny Hallyday and Brigitte Bardot, made it the focus of Parisian café society.
Patronage has continued from influential families such as Citroen, Tattinger, and Benetton. However, the only royals left these days are the House of Saudi, (who have a lavish chalet just above the town).
The chic resort has great hotels, shops and restaurants
“A bit pretentious, very upmarket and glamourous, but good skiing, a beautiful setting, very French and, outside of peak holidays, not too busy,” said a reporter.
These days, Megeve no longer competes with Courchevel 1850 for the title of France’s poshest resort, and has been eclipsed in the international firmament by the likes of Verbier, Zermatt and Lech Zurs. But there’s still a lot to recommend it. The ski area is huge and its pistes flattering; its proximity to Mont Blanc has a benign influence on its climate, shocking more than its fair share of snow out of passing storms; and its position, just an hour’s drive from Geneva airport, makes a good choice for weekenders and families wanting to avoid long transfers. Oh yes, and it’s still home to some lovely hotels and restaurants.
“The village is pretty, with a central square by the church where the horses are kept for the horsedrawn-cart rides and a host of expensive designer clothes shops, but worth a wander after coming off the mountain,” said a reader.
The one great drawback is the altitude
Nearly all the skiing takes place between 1100m and 2400m, which is low by modern standards. In warm seasons slushy pistes are a problem. A particular concern is the warm Foehn wind that blows up from the south, and can quickly thin the snow. But there are compensations for being so low: “The underlying terrain is generally grassy, as opposed to rocky,” says Will Roberts of the British ski school BASS Megeve. “This means that it takes very little snow coverage to open up all areas, both on and off piste, and keep them open.”
All this could be improved with a lift link to the higher ski area of Les Contamines (up to 2487m with much of it over 2000m) – on the drawing boards for 2013. Even before there’s a link, the Evasion Mont Blanc lift pass also allows you to ski the resort’s 120km of pistes – but you’ll have to drive, or take the bus, via St-Gervais.
A beautiful town centre
The focal point of Megeve is a central square surrounded by mellow 18th-century buildings, a fine medieval church and the Aallard department store where the world’s first ski trousers were tailored. Brightly painted sleighs driven by local farmers ply for hire to reach the lift stations and hotels. They are more fun but more expensive than the free ski buses and regular services to Chamonix and other resorts in the region covered by the extensive regional lift passes.