Saint Gervais is a well established spa town that has been welcoming skiers for over 80 years and its proximity to Geneva airport - less than an hours drive - is ideal for short stay ski holidays. Despite its proximity to Mont Blanc and the popular Chamonix, it is not a very well known resort, probably due to the fact that no major tour operators go there. The ski area Saint Gervais - Megève itself is not big, but it's Evasion Mont Blanc lift pass covers six ski areas comprising over 450km of prepared slopes, as well as some easily-accessible off-piste areas.
Saint Gervais is a pleasant place that makes it a cheaper alternative to staying in Megève, and a good base for exploring nearby resorts.
Located across from Mont Blanc, it is the highest town in France and Europe because Mont Blanc's peak is located inside its territory. The village disposes of the most extreme difference in altitude in Europe: from 580 to 4810 metres.
One resort, two ski areas
Taken together with Megève, Saint Gervais offers skiers of all levels, although intermediates in particular, plenty of terrain to choose from. Most of the pistes are classic trails cut through the woodland, many with wonderful views over to Mont Blanc. The highest pistes on Mont d'Arbois are above the tree line however and are wide, open snow slopes.
Families will normally enjoy the unhurried nature of Saint Gervais and there are some good facilities off the slopes as well as plenty of family-friendly terrain on the mountain with a predominance of chair and gondola lifts you can all ride together. The childcare facilities are good too.
Beginner ski school classes meet in the ski school’s chalet at le Bettex, which is reached by a fast, easy to ride gondola from the edge of the resort. Le Bettex is a good learner’s area with several excellent nursery slopes with their own lifts. There are some good green and blue runs to progress on to once you’ve mastered the basic skills.
Most people take the high capacity gondola that whisks skiers and boarders from the edge of the resort up to the heart of the resort’s local skiing at Le Bettex on Mont d'Arbois, shared with neighbouring Megève on the other side of the mountain. Carrying on to the other side of Megève you reach the Rochebrune and Jaillet ski areas shared with the villages of Combloux and La Giettaz. A cable car connects the bases of Mont d'Arbois and Rochebrune.
Perfect for intermediates
Beginners can pick up the basics on the nursery slopes in Le Bettex, and have some incredible greens and blues to build confidence from Mont d’Arbois. Chateluy is a confidence boosting 4km trail back to Le Bettex, which might look a little steep at the top but once you’ve zig zagged down the first bit, it’s gorgeously varied with a fantastic powdery stretch between the trees. Another fabulous run is the Ideal-Mandarines which ends up at the Megeve golf club. La Finance, a lovely long blue, is a favourite run back from Mont d’Arbois. It is lined by thick forest and great for building up a rhythm. More blues worth skiing include the sunny Prapacot, which links to green le Plan or blue Encraty down to La Princesse.
Saint-Gervais boasts loads of ideal intermediate terrain directly above the town on Mont d’Arbois and Mont Joly, with long reds and blues. Some of the best intermediate runs are a swathe of reds very local to Saint Gervais up above Le Bettex, and a ski run back down to the village is also graded red. Heading across to Megève, Rochebrune is an excellent area for intermediates while Combloux and La Giettaz across the valley are blissfully quiet.
It’s mixed blessings for expert skiers who have rather limited options close by the resort. There are 17 black slopes adding up to more than 40km of steep piste. Mont d’Arbois accesses a handful of black runs like Princesse; an absolute joy to blast down. For a sharper gradient, try the Chamois from Mont Joly. Where the expert offerings really rule here is off piste, with some incredible powder runs on open fields and between the trees – head to Mont Joly and down to Saint-Nicolas for some of the best of it. The Marmottes run from L'Epaule towards St Nicolas is challenging but is sometimes closed due to avalanche risk. The Grand Chamois is a steep black run, that can be fantastic on powder days but nerve wracking when the snow is not so friendly. The ski school and mountain guides will be happy to take you to the region’s many off-piste assets. In the Rochebrune sector Cote 2000 is the venue for World Cup races.
On-mountain dining to a higher level
There’s a huge choice of on-mountain dining in the region of Saint Gervais, with more than two-dozen restaurants spread across the various sectors. The majority are small to mid-sized locally-owned establishments and there’s a higher proportion of table-service establishments than you’ll normally find, for which it’s advisable to book a table in advance if you can.
At Le Bettex at the base of the slopes both Causettes and La Coterie are both good. The former has table service and a good terrace with wonderful views, the latter with favourite French and Savoyard dishes and a good choice of grilled meats. La Fleche d’Or nearby is also good and serves traditional cuisine in a lovely wooden restaurant or out on the terrace.
Direct trains run from Paris to La Fayet. La Fayet train station is 5km from St Gervais from where there is a free shuttle bus service into St Gervais itself. The nearest airport is Geneva (1 hour) which can be accessed by bus or ski transfer company. We had a great experience with Cham-Van. Chambéry Savoie Mont Blanc is about 1hour 15mins.
Hire the latest award-winning 2018 skis from rental chain Intersport, including touring skis, powder skis and the new Nitro Q Series retro snowboard shapes. All from www.intersport-rent.fr/en/
The Intersport shop at the midstation of Le Bettex is very conveniently located.