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.