MegÃ¨ve, France Ski Holidays
Skiing and Snowboarding in MegÃ¨ve, France
Megève may have long since surrendered its crown to Courchevel 1850 as France's winter jet-set capital, but Paris's alpine arrondissement has forever played host to the celebrity set and still draws in plenty of fur coats to its manicured streets in the shadow of Mont Blanc. The pedestrianised medieval center, full of cute stream and stone bridge, does rustic chic down to a T - an 11th-century church and the delectable Aallard department store reign the picture-postcard main square, while a fleet of horse-drawn carriages ferry visitors (70 per cent of whom are home-grown) about the cobbled streets.
The encompassing low-slung ski slopes peak at a really lower-class 2,350m, but this is a world of grass, not rocks, so a light dusting of snow is sufficient to open up Megève's extensive, perfectly manicured pistes. The town itself is loaded with gourmet restaurants, including the three Michelin-starred Ferme de Mon Pere and luxury hotels with serious price tags attached. For lesser mortals there is life after the Michelin-stars and there are a lot of cozy two-star hotels and simple Savoyarde eateries to keep even non-celebrities happy.
Geneva being just 70km away, an added bonus is the new out-of-town Princesse gondola. Having 900 free parking places at its base, it keeps the daytrippers out of town, which is a welcome relief to Megève's all-too-narrow, traffic-clogged streets. Courchevel 1850 might be more chic, but when it comes to class Megève is still miles ahead.
When the snow's right, Megève's skiing is a marvelous expanse of tree-lined intermediate cruising, mixed with the finest mountain restaurants. All the same, with a resort height of just 1,100m, snow cover lower down can be by all odds unsure, although 250 snow cannons are available to keep the winter wonderland in place. There are 117 ski lifts on the Evasion Mont Blanc ski pass, which also handles the resort of Les Contamines. Gondola access from the town to the three homegrown areas of Rochebrune, Mont d'Arbois and Le Jaillet is quite smooth, although once up the mountain only the two major areas - Rochebrune and Mont d'Arbois - are linked, and then only through an inconvenient cross-valley cable-car.
The 300km of pistes, which are as immaculately maintained as Megève's smart clientele, are a heaven for beginners and intermediates. Skiing and snowboarding novices are blessed with nursery slopes at village level and at altitude, plus practically longer greens to progress to after a few days. Intermediates have pretty much the run of the entire area, with only a few stiff blacks to avoid, and the gentle mountains mean the area is the ideal place to practice off-piste after a dump.
If you would like to mess up your hair a bit, experts must go for the steep blacks beneath Cote 2000 and Mont Joly, or delight in the underused off-piste descents like the open snowfields down towards the village of St Nicolas. For a touch of history together with your hors-piste, check your turns on the now-defunct Emile Allais downhill run from Rochebrune, which is lined with boards portraying the run's celebrated former champions, like Jean-Claude Killy and Jean Vuarnet.
And if you just can't decide where to go, help is at hand from the ski resort's 50 'ambassadors' waiting at the base of the slopes every morning.
When it comes to dining in your ski boots, Megève is among the top spots with everything from gourmet to rustic tucked in among the forests. At the foot of the Cote 2000 area is the ever-popular Auberge Cote and, on the piste above, is the Chalet du Radaz, a picture-postcard mountain hut featuring a wonderful interior and traditional Savoie treats. La Caboche has a buzzing atmosphere, friendly staff, great food and even a man who guards your skis while you gorge. Terrace types would want to head over to the Mont d'Arbois area and take up residence at 70-year-old Les Mandarines, the oldest high-altitude restaurant in France and the great place to soak up the sun.
Megève's patrons are more excited about getting a suntan than getting high, so the resort isn't at the forefront of the snowboard movement, but up at Mont Joux there's a fairly snowsure half-pipe, quarter-pipe and mogul field. After a fresh snowfall, skip the snowpark and savor the wonderful off-piste in the area, including a tree-lined 1,000m vertical from the top of Mont d'Arbois down to St Gervais.
Megève is a fine-looking town to pass time in, with lots of window-shopping in the medieval centre, which hums with life after the lifts close. Top of the eye candy is the famous Aallard department store located on the main square, but there are plenty of other beautiful boutiques and delis -there's an entire shopping guide to help you round. If that all seems too much hard work, pamper yourself Megève-style. Head for a beauty day at the exclusive Ferme de Beaute, where you can enjoy everything from mud baths to seaweed body wraps. For more less-expensive soothing, the public sports centre has a 25m swimming pool, climbing wall, tennis, Turkish bath and sauna, plus an Olympic indoor ice rink.
Eating out is a serious business and top of the gourmet list is La Ferme de Mon Pere, with three Michelin stars and stellar prices to match. For lesser mortals, there are plenty of simple Savoyarde eateries such as Le Prieure on the main square. Tucked beneath the church, this atmospheric place has everything you need for the quintessential alpine experience, including delicious 'diots de montagne' (sausages to you and me). Across the square and next to the Mont Blanc Hotel, Les Enfants Terribles brags a host of past stars through its doors and is expensive because of it. Nowadays it's a relatively workaday, albeit lively, brasserie with a very cool stained glass ceiling and decent pizzas. For an antidote to Megève's high prices, proceed to the Brasserie Centrale, which serves up everything from pizzas to fondue at green banquettes - it feels more like Arras than the Alps.
The Caves de Megève draws in the smart set with expensive cocktails and big-name musicians, while local hangout Bar St Paul, with no pretensions is the perfect place to escape all that chic. Somewhat out of the center, Wake Up is a fancy pre-club aperitif bar serving up tapas, the perfect preparation for a night on the dance floor at Cocoon or Palo Alto.
If you've still have any euros left after your night out in Megève, the next-door casino's 50 slot machines will be happy to relieve you of them.
Accommodations in Megève
When style is everything and money is no object, then hop on a sleigh to the beautiful Chalet Mont d'Arbois, former Rothschild residence and now a four-star Relais & Chateaux hotel above the town centre. For more serious swank, Megève's leading restaurant, La Ferme de Mon Pere, also has nine rooms with prices as haute as the cuisine, but evenly sumptuous. Le Mont Blanc is a handsome old hotel right in the town center. Christened by Jean Cocteau as 'Paris's 21st arrondissement', it's near the main Chamois gondola. Also in the car-free center, but a bit more affordable, Au Coeur de Megève is a relaxed, family-run three-star place ideally set for ski and apres ski. A five-minute walk from the center and the lifts, le Gai Soleil is a simple chalet-style hotel with friendly staff, a nice bar and comfortable enough rooms.
Alpaga is a family-friendly ski hotel which offers 30 units including 22 hotel rooms. each chalet comes with a contemporary living space blended with traditional details. The hotel has a lobby, a bar, a restaurant with sun terrace, and a superb spa which holidaymakers and business travelers can enjoy.
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