Written by Tolik on 11 Oct, 2006
It is supposed that the name of Megève would hold its name from two Celtic worlds: ‘mag’ meaning ‘habitation’ and ‘eva’ meaning ‘water,’ due to the position of the town at the crossroads of several torrents in the d’Arly valley. As the local legend goes,…Read More
It is supposed that the name of Megève would hold its name from two Celtic worlds: ‘mag’ meaning ‘habitation’ and ‘eva’ meaning ‘water,’ due to the position of the town at the crossroads of several torrents in the d’Arly valley. As the local legend goes, during prehistoric times, the local people suffered a lot from the horrible creatures, described sometimes as a flying snake or an animal with seven heads. Eventually, two local heroes, Muffat and Grosset, fought the beasts and set the people free. The arrival of the Benedictines towards 12th century brings first written mention of Megève. September 19, 1202, Willelme, the lord of Faucigny, instated to ensure the protection of the valley of Chamonix, and it was in the church of Megève that this solemn act was established. In a bulla of 1245, Pope Innocent IV mentioned Megève being possession of the abbey of Michel Saint of the Cluse. The town was several times a disaster victim, by fire as by the floods. The most disastrous fire was that of October 5, 1728, which in 5 hours destroyed the entire town, saving, partially, only two houses. The French Revolution left also many bloody traces in this very Catholic area.The first principal richness of the valley was with the agriculture: corn, barley, and oats cultivated in abundance on the Alpine slopes exposed well to the sun. With tourism, a new source of income was offered to Megève well before the arrival of the skiing (which was already practiced before the war of 1914) - it counted already 400 "holiday makers" in about 1900.
At the turn of the 20th century, the Baroness Rothschild decided to create a ski resort as a French alternative to Saint-Moritz. Her ski instructor combed the Alps for a suitable site and finally proposed Megève. As the story goes, on first seeing the Mont d’Arbois plateau overlooking this peaceful Savoyard village, the Baroness fell instantly in love with it, even though the area was difficult to reach in those days. She started by building Le Chalet du Mont d'Arbois (the name of the mountain comes from the flower "Alpine laburnum"). The Mont d'Arbois Palace, inaugurated in 1921, has over the years drawn aristocrats, financiers, and businesspeople. From 1921 to 1933, the resort continued to grow with creation of the ski school with eight instructors. In 1933, the first cable car was built connecting Megève with Rocherbrune. The year 1934 was eventful in the development of Mont d’Arbois area. To begin, the hotel was enlarged, but even more important was the cooperative venture with Megève's town council to build a second cable car, on the mountain’s slope. Baroness Maurice pioneered modern alpine holidaymaking with this facility, which whisked skiers high up Mont d’Arbois to a locality called Les Mandarines. An avid golfer, Baroness Maurice resolved to make Megève a year-round resort and added a nine-hole course.
By the 1950s, Megève was one of the most popular ski resorts in Europe, and attracted many celebrities. As well as Megève itself, the skiing area also includes the Combloux, Cote 2000, and Les Contamines resorts.