Feb 2020 – This stop was a pseudo-2nd stop during a “dude’s trip” . This location was our second stop right after Les Houches, France. Since we were exhausted from completely angering our AirBnB owner and breaking my left arm, we figured we would take the trip elsewhere. That decision led us to wonderful St. Gervais.
I still remember, pretty vividly, what seemed like two-hundred Police vehicles passing us on our short 30-minute drive from Les Houches to St. Gervais. At the time nothing aside from, “That’s weird” crossed our minds. We mostly spent the drive laughing about how angry our AirBnB owner from the last two nights had gotten at us. *Tip* Don’t book an AirBnB with a hot tub if the owners have about 400 rules on its use and also live above it.
I honestly can’t tell you much about the town of St. Gervais les-Bains other than “It looks cool” and “It’s on a river”. We literally hit this slope area on our way out of Les Houches on the way to Sestriere. What I can say is that lies within the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes section of the greater Alpine region, not far from the Swiss Border as well as the legendary climbing town of Chamonix. It also has an impressive 445 kilometers of slopes and, according to Freedom Snowsports, is one of the least busy slope areas of this size in France. 445 kilometers is an enormous swathe of terrain.
Again, for anyone who actually reads my updates/posts, I sincerely do apologize for the fact that I didn’t have my kids in-tow for this place: I hadn’t even thought up the idea for this blog until I was sitting in a hospital with my laptop for three days.
The altitude at St. Gervais’ ski area is pretty high. High enough that the valley town can look barren as far as snow goes but near whiteout conditions (see top photo) can be encountered on the same day only a 15 minute gondola ride up. I suppose with enough altitude, having microclimates at the very top isn’t exactly uncommon.
First thing I’d personally recommend: buy a Les Houches – St. Gervais pass if you plan on being in the area. St. Gervais is completely worth the value by itself; however, a visit to Les Houches only 20 minutes drive away is also an added plus considering the price of an area pass.
From the village of St. Gervais, a lengthy lift by the name of St. Gervais Bettex services the center of town and will drop you off at the mountain base. I did see a lot of kids at the mountain base being ushered around by ski instructors…so I know there are plenty of schools around serving the ski area. The first google result is Ski School St. Gervais and, after a little reading, this place actually has pretty attractive offers for families with kids: starting at under €400, this ski school offers a 5 or 6 day course that includes meals, childcare, and ski school instruction. It’s not the cheapest, but for the Chamonix ski region, I’d happily pay this price if it meant entire days without my kids.
Myself and my fellow ridiculous skier friend ATGorham decided we would try to work ourselves across the entire St. Gervais region up to its highest altitude. This included about a 10-minute run down into the town of Megève. We literally took a run to another city. This is the kind of alpine experience that I always enjoy. Taking a slope from one town to another.
After taking the cross-valley Rocharbois car to another section, we promptly went as high as we could as fast as we could until some really painful weather set in with high winds. We decided to take a few long slopes back down. After getting lost twice, we ended up having to hike to a point where we could actually get back down towards Rocharbois.
Once we got back to the primary base area at the Bettex dropoff, we noticed something a tad bit askew. There was an unusual amount of people congregating around the Hotel Arbois Bettex. We also found our third ski buddy there drinking and chatting up some Russian girl (hooray international relations!!!).
I speak no French outside of being able to say, “Parles-vous un peu anglais?” or “Je veux du poulet et du vin.” That’s all I’ve got, but we were able to discern that EMMANUEL MACRON, the PRESIDENT OF FRANCE was walking our way. We decided to be just as stupid as everyone else and simply took up positions by standing on the hotel tables like idiots.
The Russian girl asked me if I could take her phone and in one of the few words of Russian I know, I obliged. Lucky for me, I had my helmet cam going so I caught a glimpse of the Prez himself.
One of the dumber things I’ve done with my life is stand around in the snowfall, waiting for a dude I’ve never met or spoken to, to walk by me and into a restaurant where I was never to see him again. On one hand…I can understand why this is ridiculous. On the other hand…what are the ridiculous odds that I would come tumbling down the slopes just in time to see the leader of one of the most prominent Western nations stroll right into the same place I just ordered 25.00USD “Willie” shots at?
So he was really there. He was there to observe a receding glacier (I think) so he could speak on behalf of environmental concern as well as conservation efforts for the Mt. Blanc Massif.
Aside from Macron’s visit, St. Gervais was a pretty good time. If I were anyone reading this, I’d consider taking more than just a day to explore the entire region since it’s so huge. The piste quality was actually pretty good considering how bad the winter was. I can firsthand recommend the slope area for non-family trips; however, based on the size and information of the resort that I was able to find, there’s likely a good selection of options for bringing kids in tow. The “all-inclusive” Childcare, meals, and instruction is a pretty unique package that I actually haven’t found yet.
Go check the place out (Whenever COVID decides to go away)!
If there’s anything you feel is missing or if you’ve got any questions, drop a comment below! I’ll get back to you!
Bis zum näschtes mal!the snowboard dad in europe