Winter white paradise in Saint-Gervais – Meanderings through France n° 173
By Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
After going down in history during the glorious times of the Mont-Blanc’s conquest, Saint-Gervais is today a trendy ski resort. With an amazing 360° panoramic view over the Alps it is a perfect setting for winter sports, eating adventures and wellness pampering. Easily reachable from Geneva Airport you’ll want to go there for a weekend getaway or winter holidays designed for the whole family.
Saint-Gervais is an authentic Savoyard village and its historic centre still has 18 and 19th centuries houses with exceptional wrought-iron balconies as well as several baroque churches. They give Saint-Gervais a genuine look far from the wooden-chalet ski resorts that are getting more and more alike now. But most of all Saint-Gervais is a great winter sports spot with a huge ski area. The Evasion Mont-Blanc area unites the slopes of Saint-Gervais, Megève, Les Contamines, Combloux and La Giettaz creating a 275 miles long ski runs network. Whether you are a beginner or an expert skier you can ski for a whole week without doing the same run twice!
If groomed trails bore you, go for off-piste skiing or free ride, ski touring or snowshoe hikes on steep slopes and through fir forests. A snow park welcomes kids and adults to enjoy boarder cross, ski cross or even ski jumping. Half-day introducing courses to ski touring are organised everyday to help you get familiarised with the equipment and the specific technique required. You will quickly be ready for longer trails of one or several days. A guide can also take you on off-piste itineraries, teach you how to climb up a frozen stream equipped with crampons, introduce you to winter mountaineering or show the way of the Vallée Blanche, a 20 km long run going down from the mythical Aiguille du Midi while enjoying a breathtaking scenery.
Even if Saint-Gervais is not at a very high altitude it has a good snow cover all through the skiing season thanks to an extensive network of snow canons. To unsure a way as sustainable as possible to make this artificial snow, a high mountain lake is about to be created. It will look as natural as possible, blending with the landscape, using materials found on the spot and surrounded with alpine flowers and trees. In summer time it will also be used as a watering trough for all the herds of cows grazing in the high mountain pastures. When eating this highly nutritious mountain grass these cows produce rich and aromatic milk used to make delicious cheeses such as Reblochon, Comté or Beaufort. Don’t miss to taste these tasty cheeses at local restaurants and shops.
Feeling hungry after all the sport? Saint-Gervais has a lot to offer to keep you satisfied. Scattered across all the ski area you will find nice places to get something to eat, from a light snack to a gastronomic lunch! Olivier and Jeanine welcome you at “Sous les Freddy’s” with huge plates of assorted cold meat and cheeses with rosti potato. At “La Cabane à Léo” you can have a snack on the terrace enjoying the wonderful view over the Mont-Blanc, At “En Piste” you can have a memorable lunch or diner next to the fireplace where the chef grills meat and sausages. Enjoy them with a glass of Savoyard wine chosen from the interesting wine menu.
Back in Saint-Gervais village you can enjoy a typical cheese fondue or raclette in a small and friendly restaurant called “L’Edelweiss”. For a more sophisticated meal go to “Bistrot Sérac” and have excellent quality meat served with tasty truffled mashed potatoes, not to forget their amazing desserts! In the afternoon don’t miss going to “Aux Petits Gourmands” tearoom where a wide range of no less than 60 different delicious cakes will make it very difficult for you to make your choice! Newly open this tearoom already is a must for all visitors.
Saint-Gervais was the first thermal spa resort and the “Thermes Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc” were created in the 19th century in 1807 when a therapeutic water spring was discovered at the foot of the Mont-Blanc. Ever since it’s been used for all forms of dermatitis and allergies. The water is pumped in a101-meter deep borehole at a temperature of 39°(102°F). The water that is used today is 6,500 years old and is rich in minerals such as sulfur, calcium, magnesium, strontium, boron or manganese. It is a wonderful cure for severe burns and scars.
In “Les Thermes Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc” this water is also used in the huge wellness spa that has been entirely renovated in 2018. The entrance ticket gives you access to a 3-hour delightfully comforting discovery of this hot healing water. Saunas, hammams, outdoor and indoor pools with bubbles and sprays, jacuzzis, flotation pool, cool and hot showers, light therapy rooms offer a wide range of experiences. The tour ends at a resting hall where you can enjoy herb teas, fruits and cakes in a soothing atmosphere. This spa undoubtedly is the perfect place to go to after an active day going down the ski runs.
The “Le Coeur des Neiges Hotel” is a smart choice if you’re looking for a lovely and quiet accommodation while being in Saint-Gervais centre and at walking distance from shops, restaurants and ski lifts. Entirely renovated in 2018 this big chalet has a cosy lounge with a fireplace and 16 large rooms and suites nicely decorated in a sober mountain style. The owner makes a point of proposing a great breakfast buffet and you’ll start your day before going skiing with the feeling of being nicely full. www.hotelcoeurdesneiges.com
More about Saint-Gervais at https://tourism.saintgervais.com/
Text ©Annick Dournes
Photos ©Frederic de Poligny