Saint Gervais les Bains in Haute-Savoie is first a town, before being a ski resort
In the current situation where the ski lifts are closed because of the pandemic and, more generally, in the prevision of a drop of the snow cover due to global warming, the future of ski resorts is uncertain.
Large ski resorts were built in the 1960s to cater for the growing number of ski enthusiasts. These resorts were built on pristine high altitude areas with the sole objective of offering “ski-in-ski-out” services and accommodation. This is the case, for example, with Val Thorens and Tignes. These high-altitude resorts have the advantage of benefiting from good snow cover but depend only on ski activities. They are therefore hit hard when it is impossible to ski. In the longer term, in the event of a decrease in snow cover and a shorter duration of the ski season, these resorts will have to find a palliative to the practice of skiing.
On the other hand, resorts such as Saint-Gervais, Saint-Nicolas de Véroce or Chamonix have been developed around an existing town or village. Although at a lower altitude, those towns keep an authentic charm and offer more diversified activities and infrastructures.
An old town
Saint-Gervais and the neighboring villages, including Saint-Nicolas, have been inhabited since at least the Middle Ages and these two towns were important parishes. In Saint-Gervais there are still two buildings dating from the mid-13th century and the 14th century, the “Maisons Fortes de Hautetour” and the house “de la Comtesse”. In the 17th and 18th century, the churches of Saint-Gervais and Saint-Nicolas were built. They represent nowadays two jewels of Baroque Art.
The Fayet thermal spring was discovered in 1806 and a small establishment opened in 1807. The waters quickly became very popular and tourists came as early as 1815. Hotels were built in Saint-Gervais which are still present today and give the city a spa resort character. The old hotel of Mont-Joly located at the entrance of Saint-Gervais (up from Fayet) is one of the first luxury resort hotel. It had been enlarged and had three adjoining buildings, one of which built in the Art Nouveau style. At the beginning of the 20th century and until the 30s, Saint Gervais developed around its wealthy clientele and with the construction of these hotels (which are apartments now) and villas.
The therms still exists today; although the Spa is opened to everyone, it still aims to offer medical skin treatments. It has been recently renovated and it is a pleasure to relax in its outdoor baths in particular.https://www.thermes-saint-gervais.com/en/
Saint-Gervais is a town in its own. With a population of 5,600 inhabitants the city has many shops, restaurants and services. It is also a tourist destination in summer and winter.