History & Heritage

From a farming market town to a ski resort

Before the advent of winter tourism, Megève was above all a peaceful farming market town where the inhabitants benefitted from a rich and fertile land.
Megève, from the Celtic name “Mageva” which means the village on water, was the ideal place for farming, but not only that! In fact, the first tourists were already coming to Megève as early as the XIXth century.
A few pilgrims were frequent visitors to the Calvary refuge and the first tourists came seeking pure mountain air.

The village developed little by little until the annexation of Savoie to France.

Birth of a ski resort
The first skiing competition was created as of 1914 and there are a number of photos that bear witness to this period of discovery and development. Farmers invent ski tows, trying out many ideas!

A female journalist will stir up and illuminate the village with her writings, and her influence will make her a great lady in the history of Megève. Mathilde Maige Lefournier is a mountaineer from Chambéry. She wrote an article in November 1913 for the magazine “La Montagne” entitled, “Megève or the worship of skiing” that praises skiing on the sites of Mont d’Arbois and Rochebrune.

One day she said to a village hotel owner, “I think that Megève was created for skiing and skiing invented for Megève”. A spotlight effect that was to have a great impact and make the village a top winter sports’ venue, even then.
The arrival of the Rothschild family on the Mont d’Arbois will accelerate the development of skiing in Megève. The village farmers invested in the Rochebrune sector, and we note in 1933 the construction of the first cable car solely for the use of skiers, the famous “red cable car”.

1923 sees the birth of Megève’s Sports Club that will soon be the birthplace of great champions. Emile Allais, native of Megève, was a triple medal winner at the World skiing championships in Chamonix in 1937 and the famous Aallard “fuseau”, ski pants, were invented in 1930.

This energy guaranteed that the resort was much talked about and ensured that its rise to fame was rapid.

« Je crois que Megève fut créé pour le ski et le ski inventé pour Megève »

Heritage to discover
Megève is an ancient village, with its inhabitants and its architectural heritage rich with history. In the village centre, the priory founded in 12th century by the Benedictines stands next to the church, the oldest parts of which date from 13th century and its main wooden door from 1692.

All around, a diverse range of old stone houses are still standing as witnesses to their history.

A rare find, the central square has two town halls: one for Megève and one for Demi Quartier. The Montée St Michel leads to the Calvary, a listed monument built in 19th century on the orders of the priest Ambroise Martin and consisting of chapels undergoing restoration.

The first hotels, Le Soleil d’Or, Le Panorama and Le Mont Blanc welcomed their first tourists in the early 20th century.

Further afield are hamlets, assembled around chapels several centuries old and crop share farms like the one that now houses Le Haut Val d’Arly Museum.

See the activities heritage