With its gentle slopes and challenging off-piste runs, Megève attracts skiers of various levels. Our contributor visits to shred some powder with her husband and two kids, and discovers many other thrills in store in the French commune. By Mandira Rai
Geneva was getting smaller and smaller in the rear-view mirror. We, on the other hand, were inching closer and closer to Megève, blanketed away in the French Alps. That was my eureka moment, when it dawned on me that Mont Blanc was more than just my husband’s go-to brand for pens—it was also Europe’s highest mountain. And we were staring right at it.
For the wife of an avid skier and mother of two powder hounds, planning our winter holidays invariably means a frenzied search for new slopes to pound. And Megève, France’s first ski resort, had always been on our radar.
After World War I, French baroness Noémie de Rothschild frequented the swanky ski town of St Moritz in Switzerland but didn’t get along with the aristocracy there. She was looking for a French rival to the Swiss town. Megève, with its proximity to Geneva, gentle slopes, and unrivalled views of Mont Blanc, emerged as a strong contender. This eventually led to her setting up the first ski chalet in the area in the 1920s. Ever since then, Megève has been renowned as a stamping ground of the rich and glamorous, and even though the intent of this family holiday was to get maximum miles under our skis, we were happy to partake in all its pizzazz with as much French savoir-faire as we could muster.
Once up the mountains, we headed towards what would be our home for the next 10 days: Les Fermes de Marie, a Savoyard experience that we had been building up in our heads for months.
Built from 100-year-old reclaimed wood from farms in Megève and its surrounds, this hotel was touted to be quintessentially Alpine. And our semi-detached chalet, complete with a roaring fireplace, fur throws, wooden- beam ceilings, and stellar views of the Rochebrune mountain, lived up to the reputation. The pièce de résistance, however, was its sublime spa with Japanese ofuro soaking tubs—exactly what this mama needed after long days of shredding some powder with the brood.
Les Fermes de Marie was a harbinger of fabulous things. After dropping off our bags at our chalet, we sped off to discover the iconic Megève village. Trotting up and down its cobbled streets in a horse-drawn carriage, we could see that France doesn’t bestow the moniker ‘village’ on a place loosely. The village was all the medieval beauty we had hoped it would be, and more. A gargantuan Christmas tree (it was just a few days past Christmas) stood in the middle of its main square, Place de l’Eglise, swaying to the chime of church bells. At the same time, the clip-clop of horses’ hooves reverberated around the square; a 14th-century church, with its baroque steeple, stood on one side and the city hall on the other.
A slew of quaint stores, art galleries, cafes, and restaurants lined its narrow pedestrianised streets, giving us a peek into the luxe Alpine life Megève is famous for. One moment we were studying an original Salvador Dalí watercolour painting at Galeries Bartoux, and the next, we were posing in signature ski pants at a store of luxury outfitter AAllard dating back to 1926. There was also a lot of washing down double-decker macarons with frothy hot chocolate at the iconic French patisserie Ladurée.
Having worked our way around the village, we were now raring to hit the slopes. Megève holds a reputation for its gentle slopes, particularly suited to beginners and intermediates. That being said, there are enough trails for seasoned as well as off-piste skiers too—a favourable situation given the varying skills in our party of four. Moreover, with the Mont Blanc massif serving as a natural barrier and 175 snow cannons servicing the slopes, excellent ski conditions are almost guaranteed through the season.
We began by enrolling ourselves into École du Ski Français (ESF), France’s largest ski school, to brush up on our skills as none of us had skied for over a year. A few days later, we hit the slopes by ourselves, negotiating the well-groomed pistes. The sun-kissed runs facing Mont Blanc were heavenly; the kids and I cruised down the generous blues, while my hubby was happier working the steeper ones in the Mont Joly and Mont Joux areas of Mont d’Arbois. By the time we left Megève, we had settled perfectly into a cycle of skiing followed by lazy lunches at the many restaurants dotting the slopes and then heading back to ski again. And with 230 pistes spread across 400 kilometres served by well over 80 integrated ski lifts, there was plenty of powder for all of us to spray, for days on end.
On the mornings that we wanted to give our overworked muscles a break, Megève had plenty of variety to offer. We discovered the altiport (airport at an altitude, as we soon learnt), and before we knew it, found ourselves packed into a single-engine aeroplane hovering around the majestic Mont Blanc. Glorious vistas of the glistening white glaciers nestled in its massif are still embedded in our minds, unlikely to be forgotten in a hurry. Another indelible experience involved being surrounded by a herd of reindeer, all vying for our attention and waiting to be stroked and fed. As we stood in the midst of a snow-laden field at the reindeer farm of Domaine le Coulairon, feeding them lichen and running our fingers through their soft fur, Santa was forgotten. We had realised who the real stars of the show were.
And while we’re on the subject of Father Christmas, it would be worth mentioning a unique sleigh ride, where we were pulled by a pack of dogs, with the musher riding behind us. As we clutched the reins of the harnessed dogs and cut through the snow, it crunched under us like shattered glass. The sight of speeding huskies, the scent of wet pine trees rising from a nearby ravine, and our heavy bodies swaying with every move of the sledge reminded us of how unlikely we were to experience a thrill like this ever again.
Admittedly, all the action in the snow left us carrying around appetites almost as large as the mountains we were on, and for a family that associates the cold with a pot of steaming fondue, our only grouse about leaving Switzerland behind was the fear of missing out on the country’s national dish. But our trepidation was put to rest when we chanced upon the restaurant Les Grands Crus De Fondues, where we had the most delectable fondue of our lives made entirely of cheeses from the Haute-Savoie region and served with unique accompaniments like pineapples, morels, and raspberries. Cheese master Thomas Lecomte helped us navigate the perplexing array of cheeses and happily customised each fondue to the requirements of every family member.
Some of our fondest culinary memories in Megève, however, were made en-piste, at some of its many ski-in ski-out restaurants, tucking into the region’s ubiquitous tartiflette Savoyarde (baked gratin made with potatoes, reblochon, lard, and onions) and Crozets de Savoie (small, flat, square-shaped pasta made from buckwheat flour). Restaurant Super Megève, located on top of the Rochebrune ski lift, made a compelling case for Alpine dining, both with its seasonal menus showcasing the Savoie’s finest fare and its sprawling terrace featuring an outdoor grill—you can smell the sizzling meat as you step off the lift!
Our 10 days in Megève glided by faster than we could down a slope. And even though it was the skiing that had drawn us there, it was the quieter moments, cocooned en famille in the solitude of the snowy mountains, that we remember most vividly. However, this only means that my little bon vivants and I will be back in Megève sooner than we can say, “We love skiing!”
Multiple airlines operate connecting flights daily from Delhi and Mumbai to Geneva in Switzerland. From there, it is just over an hour’s drive to Megève.
Set in a cluster of farmhouses on a hillside, Les Fermes de Marie offers views of Mont Blanc. From INR 26,000; Le Lodge Park is built like a traditional log cabin. From INR 40,000; Flocons de Sel offers rustic-chic rooms that feature pine decor. From INR 45,000