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St Gervais is one France’s best kept secrets. This old spa town is connected to both Megeve's Evasion Mont Blanc ski area and Les Houches' ski area in the Chamonix valley. So when snow conditions are good, it offers value, charm and plenty of skiing.

In a snowy season, St Gervais is an excellent ski resort, which is rather ironic because unless you stay up the mountain in its rather isolated suburb of Le Bettex, it doesn’t feel like a ski resort at all. As its full name suggests, St-Gervais-les-Bains is an elegant 19th century spa town with thermal baths, nice old buildings, a pretty riverside, a weekly market and a rather grand ice rink. But it also happens to have a gondola and a rack-and-pinion railway (a very St Gervais kind of ski lift) to give its guests access to two different ski areas.

The slopes above and beyond Le Bettex are covered by the Evasion Mont Blanc pass and include Mont d’Arbois, Mont Joux and Mont Joie: head southwards along their flanks and you will eventually reach St Nicholas de Veroce, and then, via a short bus ride, Les Contamines. Alternatively, go up and over the ridge, and you can ski down to Combloux and Megeve. In total, there are more than 200 runs and over 445km of pistes, served by 107 lifts. Most of the piste skiing is oriented towards beginners and less confident intermediates but there are some off-piste challenges for experts. And there is a reasonable choice of ski schools and guides to help you get the most out of it.

But that’s not all, because St Gervais residents can also head out of town eastwards on the old rack-and-pinion railway, called the Mont Blanc Tramway, which goes up the mountain to Prarion, the top of the Les Houches ski area in the Chamonix valley. There are 55kms of piste here, separated into 27 runs. Most are gentle blues and reds meandering through the trees, but there are four black world cup ski slope ‘La Verte des Houches’. Experts in good snow conditions can ski off-piste all the way back to St Gervais from Prarion, but most people return using the tramway.

None of this is covered by the Evasion ski pass, however. Instead you have to buy either a local Les Houches pass, or the pricey Mont Blanc Unlimited (MBU) pass which covers all the Evasion Mont Blanc resorts, plus Les Houches and the rest of Chamonix, and even Courmayeur and Verbier as well – a truly mind-boggling amount of skiing.

However much skiing you do, St Gervais makes a very pleasant base. It has a wide variety of restaurants and accommodation to suit most budgets. In general prices are lower than they are in either Megeve or Chamonix. And St Gervais is easy to get to: it’s only about an hour away from Geneva.

There is, however, a serious downside to skiing here. There are very few slopes above 2000m in the Evasion Mont Blanc ski area, and none at all in Les Houches. So snow reliability can be a problem.

Ski and Board hire in St Gervais

There is a good choice of ski rental shops, but their prices are quite high if you simply walk into them when you arrive. ALPINRESORTS.com works with several ski and board shops in and around St Gervais and can secure discounts of up to 60% if you book online here.

SKISET also has an outlet at the top of the St Gervais-Le Bettex lift and it gives discounts of up to 50% if you book online in advance here.

St Gervais Pros & Cons

+ Pleasant spa town
+ Access to the large Evasion Mont Blanc ski area
+ Additional link to Les Houches’ treelined runs
+ Good value accommodation
+ Easy to get to – good for weekends
+ Good base for exploring all the Mont Blanc Unlimited resorts.

– Low altitude / not snowsure
– Not enough steep runs for experts
– The 2 ski areas require different local passes.

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St Gervais Ski Area

St Gervais is one of the six villages that comprise the Domaine Evasion Mont Blanc ski area. The open layout of the upper slopes makes it possible to ski in the sun for the majority of the day and navigation around the ski area is easy. Or you can take the Mont Blanc tramway to explore the separate Les Houches area.

Evasion Mont Blanc

The Mont d'Arbois hub at 1840m looks down on St Gervais and St Nicholas de Veroce on one side, Mergeve on the other. It can also be used as a staging post along the way to first Mont Joux (1958m) then to the highest point of the area, Mont Joly at 2,525m (although the lifts don't go the top). From Mont Joly, off-piste skiers can ski across to Les Contamines (be careful, if in doubt take a guide) where a whole new sector opens up. Those who prefer to stick to pistes can join them by skiing down to St Nicholas de Veroce and taking a bus.

But there is no need to hurry away from the excellent local skiing on Mont D'Arbois and Mont Joux. The Red and Blue Princesse runs through the trees, MillozPrapacot, Gd Bois and Encraty, are superb. They link with the more gentle green Le Plan run half way down to take you to the bottom of the Princesse gondola for the ride back up.

The red Marmire run to the bottom of the Monts Rossets lift and the blue Finance run into le Bettex are both non-stop leg burners and the shorter Idealand Raviere runs are also great fun. For more of a challenge, ride the Mont Joly lift ski the black Chamois run down from the top.

The run back to St Gervais is a more tricky red and many people opt to ride the gondola from Le Bettex down at the end of the skiing day.

But that's far from all. Please read our Megeve ski area section for the rest of the skiing in the Evasion Mont Blanc area.

St Gervais Mont Blanc Tramway (Les Houches)

The tree-lined pistes above Les Houches are accessed from St Gervais using the Mont Blanc tramway to Prarion. They are mostly for intermediates and below. Advanced skiers will want to explore the off-piste routes through the trees.

From the train station at the top of Prarion (1900m) you can ski down on either the St Gervais side or the Les Houches side. On the St Gervais side, the pistes go down to the bottom of the Plancerts lift (1370m) but advanced skiers in good snow conditions can carry on off-piste all the way back into St Gervais. On the Les Houches side, skiers can descend on piste all the way to the bottom of the Bellevue lift (1000m) outside Les Houches, on either blue or black runs (and there are some red variants as well but they don't go all the way to the bottom). Alternatively they can veer off to the Col de Voza (1650m) and take a couple of smaller lifts to reach more pistes at the top of Bellevue (1800m).

In total there are 55kms of piste at Les Houches divided into 2 greens, 8 blues, 13 reds and 4 blacks, including the famous world cup run 'La Verte des Houches', usually simply referred to as Verte. For experts, the main challenge is not its steepness, but seeing how fast they can take it. 

And of course Les Houches is just the start of the Chamonix valley. For more details see our Chamonix ski area section.

Mont Blanc Unlimited

If you splash out on a Mont Blanc unlimited pass, you can use St Gervais as a base to explore not only the entire Evasion Mont Blanc area and Les Houches, but also the rest of Chamonix, Verbier and Courmayeur. Although there are good buses in the Chamonix valley, to get full value from the pass you are going to need a car, and several days holiday.

 

St Gervais Lift Pass & Ski Lifts

The back bone of the lift system are the St Gervais gondola from the Village to Le Bettex and the connecting Bettex- Arboix gondola to the Mt D’Arbois hub at 1,840m.

With the exception of two drag lifts that the resort describe as "difficult" - and this is more precautionary than descriptive - the interlinking of the lift system is well thought out. There are rarely queues and the area is covered by a single lift pass which is available on daily and weekly bases.

St Gervais Beginners

The nursery slopes and green and blue runs around St Gervais make this a perfect resort to learn to ski.

Beginner Skiing in St Gervais

Since the day tends to start and finish around Le Bettex, which is easily accessed, it's a simple matter to meet up with other family or group members when lessons are over. The gondola to the Mt D'Arbois hub allows beginners to ride up to the heart of the area, enjoy the views, eat with family and friends, whet the appetite for the first real run and ride down again with ease.

Ski Schools & Ski Lessons in St Gervais

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St Gervais Intermediate

The skiing around St Gervais is an intermediates delight on groomed red and blue pistes through trees, past excellent mountain restaurants and with views that simply demand photography.

Some of the blue runs are tricky, some of the red runs are easy and a competent intermediate skier should not be daunted by the easy black run Super Megeve.

The opportunities for intermediates around Mont d'Arbois are extensive. The red Princesse piste, winding through the trees, the runs down to Bettex and Les Communailles and the reds of Étudiants are all fine examples of what skiing in St Gervais is all about. A run over to the charming village of St. Nicholas with it's stunning views of Mont Blanc is a must. 

Outside school holidays and especially mid week you may have the pistes to yourself and lift queues are rare.

St Gervais Advanced & Off-Piste Skiing

The on piste opportunities for St Gervais based advanced skiers using the Evasion Mont Blanc pass are limited but there is excellent off-piste in the ski area, and it does not get tracked out as quickly as in other resorts.

Mont Joly, the high point of the area at 2525m, is the most obvious destination for advanced skiers. The black run from the top (Chamois) deserves its grading.  There is plenty of off-piste to the side and also off the back heading to Les Contamines, but hiring a guide is recommended.

 L'Epaule (between Mont Joly and Mont Joux) is another ridge with good runs on both sides. Marmottes, heading to St Nicolas is graded red but is fun. Perdix Blanche heading towards Megeve is a nice black piste. And there is plenty of off-piste to either side of them.

Closer to St Gervais on Mont Arbois are Voltigeurs and Bridans,moderately steep black pistes snaking down through the trees; often left unpisted, they can be good for mogul practise. The nearby black Princesse run is great fun for a blast but not steep.

For real bumps, try the run under the Mont Joux chairlift or the moguls at the top of Marmire which can be very large and icy. 

It's also worth working across to Cote 2000. There is a black piste here, and some good off-piste too. 

The Le Torraz-Le Christomet sector is often uncrowded and there is a black run coming down from both theses summits, with some off-piste to the side. 

Les Houches, accessed via the rack and pinion railway from St Gervais, is not really an advanced skiers' resort, although off-piste skiers can meander in and out of its trees. It has a world cup downhill run, which is graded black, but it's not particularly steep. Most advanced skiers will enjoy taking it fast when it's uncrowded, and in les Houches this is more likely to be on a sunny day (when all the advanced skiers based in Chamonix head up the valley to Les Grands Montets) than a cloudy one (when they all descend on Les Houches bacuas it's the only place with tree-skiing).

Lastly remember St Gervais make an excellent and inexpensive base for skiers with a car who want to visit all the other Haute Savoie resorts, including those with superb advances and off-piste skiing like Flaine  and Argentiere / Chamonix.

St Gervais Snowboarding & Freestyle

St Gervais has an excellent snow park close to the Mont Joux chairlift.

Hip, spire, handrails and a half pipe will keep skiers and boarders who want minimal contact with the snow busy. The snow park has been described as one of the best in the Haute Savoie region and was host to the French snow board championships in 2002. You can access the region with the Evasion lift pass.

St Gervais Mountain Restaurants

There’s no shortage of choice for eating on the mountain in St Gervais and it’s all good. But, as is so often the case for mountain restaurants, the gems are easy to pass by. Also it’s advisable to make a reservation to avoid disappointment.

Half way down the Vardasses on the right is Sous Les Freddy's. Don't shoot past! With glorious views of the mountains from the terrace and a choice of local cuisine, Sous Les Freddy's is well worth a visit. 

About 100ms above the Mont Rossets lift at the bottom of Marmire is Chez Causettes. Again, Don't shoot past. The fare is Plat du Jour but this will never disappoint. And be sure to check out the Loo with a View.

Espace Mont Joux
has excellent Plats du Jour at sensible prices and L'Igloo has the option of a self service area as well as the more formal dining.

St Gervais Village

St Gervais is nothing if not steeped in history. The Baroque church in St Gervais dates from 1698 but the modern resort grew around the spa from around 1806. The Tramway de Mont Blanc was built in 1906 and skiing began in 1930. In reality, St Gervais incorporates three other villages, Le Fayet, St Nicolas de Véroce and Le Bettex, which makes this an area to discover on and off the slopes in both winter and summer.

Some of the architecture in St Gervais is exceptional but the general development over the years has been in complete harmony with the surroundings. While St Gervais doesn't aim to the shoppers paradise that some ski resorts represent, there's a full range of jewellers, fashion, ski gear, butchers, bakers and artisans for those who need retail therapy.

St Gervais is hardly a sprawl but it's possible to cover a lot of ground. The main street is a 15 minute walk to the gondola but is well served by a free bus service linking the four villages with the slopes.

St Gervais Restaurants, Bars & Apres-Ski

In the centre of St Gervais, nearly every other establishment is a restaurant which means you’re spoiled for choice. From the standard alpine fare of a pizza to haute cuisine there’s something for all appetites and budgets.

Le Serac has become established as an excellent fine dining experience and has recently been refurbished. As well as a la carte dining, Le Serac offers well priced set menus beginning at €39.

For home cooking at it's best, the restaurant in La Maison Blanche is de rigeur and further up the mountain theChalet Remy has a special old world charm. Ask to meet the ghost if you dare. The Restaurant Creperie is a huge favourite with the locals and this is usually a good pointer.  The food is great and the atmosphere convivial.

There are plenty of bars in St Gervais but Pur stands out for a more modern experience and, if you fancy a game of pool, try the Brasserie du Mont Blanc.

Look on the Saint Gervais IPhone app for plenty of suggestions.

St Gervais Activities

St Gervais is famous for it’s natural hot spring spa – Les Thermes de Saint-Gervais. Situated in the Parc Thermal in Le Fayet in a stunning purpose built building, Les Thermes offers a wide range of beauty and medicinal treatments. It’s well worth the trip down from St Gervais village but it’s necessary to make a reservation before you go.

St Gervais has good snowshoeing, 28km of cross country pistes, paragliding, skiing behind horses, hot air ballooning, and indoor swimming pool and an ice skating rink which hosts an active ice hockey club.

As is usual in France, the Thursday market is as much a social occasion as a chance to sample and buy the local produce.

If you have an IPhone, it's worth downloading the free Saint Gervais app.  It has lots of useful information about St Gervais ski resort but of particular interest is the GPS tracker.  At the end of the day you cna review all your skiing activity and it will impose your routes on a ski map.

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