Chamonix and Megève straddle Mont Blanc’s north and south faces. In medieval times, Chamonix’s peasants cowered under their towering needle peaks. Chamonix, with its imposing mountains, draws the hard core to ski and attack those rugged Haute Savoie spires. It hosted the first winter Olympics in 1924. For three millennia Megève’s populous was besieged by war, plague and fire. Today Megève, with its preserved historic center, attracts tourists coming for its serene beauty, sophistication and sports. It became a ski resort after WWI when the Baroness de Rothschild wanted to create the French equivalent to St. Moritz. The affluent and influential come to both sides of Mont Blanc to pursue their resorts with equal frenzied adoration.
The skiing is equally different and your Mont-Blanc ski pass includes both resorts totaling 240 lifts and 600 miles of pistes. Megève’s 275 miles of runs are like sparkling champagne: civilized, leisurely challenging, long, and ego boosting. It also has France’s best cross country skiing and 32 palate-tempting mountain restaurants. If champagne-equated runs read too tame, Chamonix, with Europe’s highest number of double black diamonds, is not for the faint-hearted. Attack Grands Montets or, after descending l’Aguille du Midi’s tremulous staircase-on-ice, test your stamina on the Valleé Blanche’s 11 mile, 9,300 foot vertical. Quite a spectacular feat!