Fabulous skiing in Megève

14th January 2018, by Dave Watts

There are fabulous views of Mont Blanc from all over the Megève ski area – but none better than from the Épaule ridge run

There are fabulous views of Mont Blanc from all over the Megève ski area – but none better than from the Épaule ridge run

Friday and Saturday last week I was in Megève, often thought of as a pricey, upmarket resort which is too low for reliably good snow.

Well yes, it has more than its fair share of pricey and poncey 4- and 5-star hotels, including the new for 2017/18 Four Seasons. This sells itself as the ‘only hotel directly on the Mont d’Arbois slopes’. But it is not ski-in, ski-out, as I discovered when inspecting it on Friday – it supplies a horse drawn sleigh to take you the 500m or so to and from the piste.

Megève’s pistes were delightfully quiet

But Megéve doesn’t have to be pricey. I stayed at Stanford Skiing’s lovely, old and creaky Sylvana hotel, a short walk below the cable car up Rochebrune, one of Megève’s three ski areas. Price from around £450 for four nights or £650 for seven nights chalet-board (breakfast and afternoon tea plus dinner with free wine six nights a week). The Four Seasons was charging €650 a night for its cheapest room for next week – with no meals.

I’ve stayed with Stanford several times in the past and always been struck by the high percentage of the clients who are repeat guests – sometimes of 20-years standing. Accommodation and facilities are comfortable but not luxurious. The owners, John and Kathryn Kinnear and family, and the staff are charming and efficient and your fellow guests always entertaining and good to talk to.

Plus the cost of drinks and wine upgrades is astonishingly cheap. 2€ for a beer and 10€ for a good bottle of wine such as Vacqueyras.

Believe me, the pistes were deserted

Back to the skiing. Despite the see-saw of huge snowfalls and heavy rain, the pistes were in amazingly good condition, if a little hard in places.
And mostly they were deserted. We never had to queue for a lift and we sometimes had runs to ourselves. It’s just a shame that so many of the lifts are old and slow, including a fair number of draglifts. One of the three lift companies is promising €35 million of improvements by 2020. Let’s hope the others follow suit.

The ski area still has too many slow lifts, including too many drag lifts

Megève has extensive skiing, which is almost exclusively blue and red runs and is ideal for intermediates of all standards. And it is largely tree-lined, so great in falling snow as well as bluebird days like I had.

But it also has some serious blacks – the most serious of all being the Descente ladies downhill run at Cote 2000 at the far end of the Rochebrune ski area. It is often closed for races and training but on Saturday we were lucky enough to ski it in pristine condition – a steep, rolling run with huge jumps if skied at race speed.
And in fresh snow, the off-piste in Megève is extensive, delightful and uncrowded. Unlike in more macho resorts such as Val d’Isère, Verbier and St Anton, it does not get skied out in a matter of hours. Here it is a matter of days.

Croute Gouet, in the eponymous mountain hut, was a delicious and filling local dish of bread soaked in white wine, topped with hot cheese, ham and fried eggs – all for €16

Although many of Megève’s mountain restaurants are very expensive, there are also lots of charming old huts selling good hearty affordable food. Stanford Skiing has produced a guide to their favourites, which is available on their web site.

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