Exactly how we’ve managed to ski all around Megève over the years without actually discovering what its own terrain holds in store until now is beyond us; perhaps we’ve simply been influenced by its relatively low altitude – and low profile on the average skier’s radar. Among those who prize premium quality services above all else, however, it has an enviable reputation founded upon an illustrious history.
“Ever the diplomat, Megève knows precisely how to flatter less competitive skiers…”
Our first morning finds us boarding the celebrated Rochebrune cable-car, the first in France designed for the exclusive use by skiers, having opened way back in 1933. The weather in the valley is mild, but after a surprisingly smooth haul to 1754m we’re relieved to feel firm snow conditions beneath our skis, despite an unnervingly lengthy spell since the most recent snowfalls. It’s clear that the piste groomers have done a skilled job, but as we launch off to join the Alpette chairlift we can sense that springtime can’t be far away. The six-seater lift speeds us smoothly up to 1871m, where we pause to take in the stirring sight of nearby Mont-Blanc before dropping down via the red-graded Scion piste to the 4-seater Petite Fontaine chairlift.
The onward climb gives us an overview of the progress we’re making along a ridge which will eventually take us into the Côte 2000 sector. Getting there entails a short but steep tow, courtesy of the Roche Fort draglift, with the option of a longer one up its big brother Lanchettes, should you be tempted by the red-graded piste after which it takes its name. We opt instead for a more relaxed blue cruise on Géant over to the Côte 2000 chairlift.
To Côte 2000…
This actually tops off at 2014m and serves the red-graded Chamois plus a black – the innocent-sounding Marmotte. This time we take the steep option, which turns out to be more red than black, and tells us something about the piste-grading: ever the diplomat, Megève knows precisely how to flatter less competitive/technical skiers. The snow in this sector is among the best on offer, so we take advantage of it with a couple more runs before working our way back to Rochebrune for lunch.
Up above Megève and (far) away…
The afternoon finds us taking the Rocharbois cable-car across the valley to the Mont d’Arbois gondola, which also operates in summer for walkers and a steadily-growing number of mountain-bikers. The lift replaced a cable-car opened in 1934 and the almost 2.5km ride remains impressive for the sweeping views it offers of the Val d’Arly falling away far below. The views from the top are even better, and for a few minutes we simply gaze in awe at the sight of Mont-Blanc looming before us. It’s clear, however, that even at 1840m the late-season sun is now affecting the snow quality, so we make our way via the Mont Joux four-seater chairlift to 1958m, above the Saint-Nicolas de Véroce and Mont-Joly sectors.
There’s no substitute for altitude, and the 2353m summit of the Mont Joly chairlift is an obvious target for anyone faced with milder spring-skiing conditions. It’s a long, slow ride but the fantastic views are matched by the descents which it accesses – the black-graded Chamois or the Chevreuil red.
Time being tight, we have time for only one, so we opt for the red, which feeds nicely onto successive drops all the way back down to the base of the Mont d’Arbois gondola, right where we started.
As we descend ever lower the going becomes correspondingly heavier, but the fast-sinking sun is accompanied by a welcome drop in temperatures. Elated by our day’s explorations, we resolve to start the next one over in Saint-Gervais, to discover what the Evasion Mont-Blanc ski area holds in store.
Overall impressions, then? Well, we’d have to say that if you’re serious about your skiing then the lack of altitude makes Megève a destination which is less than snow-sure. No surprises there. Come here after fresh falls, however, and it’s a charmer. But spend some time skiing in the other Evasion Mont-Blanc resorts, too.
Feature by Roger Moss, © 2017