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Megève (Municipality, Haute-Savoie, France)

Last modified: 2012-05-12 by ivan sache
Keywords: haute-savoie | megève | goat's head |
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[Flag of Megève]

Flag of Megève - Image by Ivan Sache, 13 November 2011

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Presentation of Megève

The municipality and mountain resort of Megève (4,139 inhabitants in 2010; 4,411 ha) is located in the Northern Alps, 14 km of Sallanches and 70 km of Geneva.

Megève was until the early 20th century a big mountain village (more than 2,000 inhabitants) living from agriculture, cattle breeding and wood exploitation. The first summer tourists seem to have visited Megève in 1902. In 1913, Mathilde Maige-Lefournier, journalist for the Club Alpin Français, encouraged the development of winter tourism; a tourist bureau and a skating rink were set up.
The First World War stopped the emergence of the resort, which resumed in the 1920s thanks to Baroness Maurice de Rothschild, nee Noémie ("Mimi") Halphen (1888-1968). After having worked very hard for the Red Cross during the First World War, the baroness took some rest in the winter resort of St. Moritz (Switzerland); after she had stumbled on Gustav Krupp, the main supplier of German ammunition, in the hall of her hotel, she decided to leave St. Moritz for ever and to find another place for her rest. Her private Norwegian ski instructor Trygve Smith (1880-1948) recommended her Megève as the potential site for "a French St. Moritz". The Rothschild inaugurated in 1924 the Mont d'Arbois cottage (chalet), sponsored by King of the Belgians Albert I. The cottage was designed by the architect Henry-Jacques Le Même on the model of the local farms. From 1926 to 1930, Le Même built some ten similar "Megève cottages" every year, establishing the "mountain architecture" style that made Megève's fame. Among the regular guests of the Rothschild cottage were the tycoons of the time such as the car manufacturer André Citroën (1878-1935) and the tyre manufacturers André (1853-1931) and Édouard (1859-1940) Michelin, as well as music-hall stars such as Joséphine Baker. The Ski-Club de Paris, a ski school ran by Austrian instructors, was launched in 1932. Inaugurated the next year, the Rochebrune cableway was the first in France exclusively dedicated to skiers.
During the Second World War, some 500 Jewish children were hidden in Megève; none of them was ever betrayed. In September 1944, the resorts of Villard-de-Lans, near Grenoble, and Megève were requisitioned by Yves Farge, Commissioner of the Republic in Lyon and transformed into Children's Villages: tourism was forbidden and all the hotels and cottages were used to house children who had experienced hard times during the war. The operation ended in 1946.
The subsequent development of the Megève resort included the building of a casino (1947), the revamping of the golf course (1964), the establishment of a mountain airfield (1967) and the set up of the Sports and Congress Hall (1968), used for international sports and culture events.

Megève is today a posh winter resort, often considered as the most chic and expensive in France. It is a proud member of the Best of the Alps network formed by the 12 Alpine "classic mountain resorts" of Megève and Chamonix-Mont-Blanc (France), Zermatt, Grindelwald, St. Moritz and Davos (Switzerland), Lech Zürs am Arlberg, St. Anton am Arlberg, Seefeld and Kitzüühel (Austria), Garmisch Partenkirchen (Germany) and Cortina d'Ampezzo (Italy).
Megève has set up the Évasion Mont-Blanc domain, together with the neighboring resorts of Combloux, La Giettaz, Saint-Gervais, Saint-Nicolas-de-Véroce and Les Contamines-Hauteluce. The Megève domain proper is made of 219 pistes (449 km, from 1,113 m to 2,350 m asl) served by 107 ski lifts and 647 snow cannons.

The local hero of Megève is the skier Émile Allais (b. 1912, still skiing). Trained by Austrian instructors, Émile Allais was the first French skier of international fame. In the early 1930s, he developed with Armand Allard the stirrup ski pants, which quickly superseded the Norwegian golf trousers and were adopted within ten years by all ski national teams. Allais wrote with Paul Gignoux the first French book on ski, promoting a new training method that would eventually allow the French skiers to challenge the Austrian supremacy. Allais himself won in 1936 (Garmisch Partenkirchen) the bronze medal in combined, the first Alpine ski competition ever organized in the Olympic Games; he won eight medals in the World Championships, with three wins in 1937 in Chamonix (downhill, slalom and combined). After the Second World War, Émile Allais moved to the Americas, where he contributed to the establishment of the ski resorts of Portillo (Chile), Squaw Valley and Sun Valley (California, USA) and trained the American and Canadian ski national teams. Back to France, Allais imported modern methods of ski resort management, favoring the development of Courchevel, Flaine, Vars and La Plagne.
The "Émile Allais" piste in Megève, inaugurated on 21 January 1951, was the seat of a famous downhill competition. In 1970, the skier Marcel Bozon hit a tree and was killed during the competition; deemed obsolete and too dangerous, the piste was closed in 1975. On 21 January 2001, that is 50 years, day for day, after its inauguration, the "Émile Allais" piste was reinaugurated. Its course was not changed, but the piste is today not packed down, reserved to experienced skiers, and no longer used for competitions (video).

Megève is the cradle of the Duvillard skier's dynasty, made of Adrien Duvillard (b. 1934, member of the national team, 1953-1962), his brother Henri Duvillard (b. 1947, member of the national team, 1967-1973), his son Adrien Duvillard (b. 1969, member of the national team, 1992-1998) and Adrien's wife Sophie Lefranc-Duvillard (b. 1971, member of the French team, 1992-1998), and, probably, more younger members.

- Presentation of Megève by Sergio Palumbo, 123Savoie website
- J.P. Brusson, L'invention du chalet. Henry-Jacques le Même, architecte à Megève, Revue de géographie alpine, 84, 41-50 (1996)

Ivan Sache, 13 November 2011

Flag of Megève

The flag of Megève (photo) is white with the municipal logo in the middle.

The logo of Megève is derived from the municipal arms, "Azure a goat's head argent a chief or", the shield crowned by a Count's coronet or, below the shield a scroll or. On the logo, the writing "megève", in white letters outlined in gold, is placed horizontally over the shield's chief.
The arms belonged to the Counts of Capré, lords of Megève. The Capré arms are canting, capra meaning in Latin "a goat". According to Annuaire de la noblesse française (1861), the Capré de Megève probably descended from a Piedmontese Capris family. François de Capré, President of the Chamber of Accounting of Savoy, published in 1654 the "Records of the Knights of the Annunciation". His son, Hyacinthe de Capré, was involved in the preparation of the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) and made Count.

Dominique Cureau & Ivan Sache, 13 November 2011

Beginning of the 1990s, the flag of Megève was vertically divided blue-yellow. See also a photo presumably dating from the mid 1960s.

Jan Mertens, 13 November 2011