This new resort near Glières, called “The Pearl of Aravis”, occupies several plateaus stretching between two valleys at the foot of the Aravis Range. They are rural-looking Grand-Bornand and Chinaillon (elevation 1,300 metres), which is more sporting. The 400-hectare ski area, which is connected to La Clusaz, offers a good balance between downhill and Nordic skiing. Tourists started coming to Grand-Bornand at the end of the last century because the air is particularly invigorating. It became a sports resort in the 1920s. The Société des Skieurs Bornandins was founded in 1923 and the hotel industry started growing in 1931.
Grand-Bornand’s origins are shrouded in mystery but date back to the dawn of time. Historians say that the Borne Valley is the part of Savoy where human settlement dates back the longest: approximately 35,000 years. The recent discovery of cut flint tools lends weight to the theory that humans inhabited the area on and off 8,500 years ago.
Unfortunately, this small Savoy town has had its share of natural disasters. The last one occurred on 14 July 1987, when a landslide killed 23 people. The soil’s impermeability in this area increases the risks of flooding and landslides. The first flood took place in 1698. Three minor earthquakes have rocked Grand-Bornand, in 1817, 1994 and 1996. On 14 December 1994, the epicentre of a minor tremor was located on Glières Plateau. This pleasant resort, which strives to protect the environment and create attractive housing, offers many examples of smart growth and seeks a harmonious balance between its three main activities, farming, crafts and tourism.
Grand-Bornand is a stronghold of the biathlon and Nordic skiing. The Foyer de Ski de Fond, founded in 1962, has made it the leading cross-country resort in Haute-Savoie. Two children of Grand Bornand made names for themselves at the February 2006 Turin Olympics: Roddy Darragon, who won a silver medal in cross-country skiing, and Sylvie Becaert, who won a silver medal in the biathlon.
Thônes is at the crossroads of the Fier and Nom Valleys. The local economy is based on cheese, mainly farm-made reblochon, but also on buckshot, wood and derivative products and services, which provide a livelihood for 5,000 people.
Thônes is the headquarters of two big companies, Fournier and Mobalpa.
A Baroque-style church built in 1867 with a neo-Gothic façade from 1884 is one of the town landmarks and vestiges of the past.
The town has a departmental Resistance museum in the hamlet of Morette and an ecomuseum in a 1900 sawmill.
France boasts over 400 different kinds of cheese, but only 47 have received the prestigious AOC (“appellation d’origine contrôlée”) label; reblochon is one of them. It is the most famous cheese made in Le Grand Bornand, Thônes and Saint-Jean-de-Sixt, where farmhouse reblochon, recognisable by its green sticker, and the dairy variety, which has a red one, are produced.
Reblochon, which received the AOC label in 1958, is a soft, cow’s milk cheese with an orange-yellowish rind that comes in rounds that are 13 to 14 cm in diameter.
People around the world enjoy reblochon’s hazelnut taste: they bought 17,404 tonnes in 2002, of which 21% were made on the farm.
Reblochon is obtained by processing whole, unpasteurised milk as soon as it comes out of the cow. The milk is curdled, moulded, salted and matured before it turns into cheese. Then the reblochon is dried for a week, being flipped over every day, after which the rind is washed several times.
This is the plain after Marais Pass and Bouchet Mont-Charvin Hill. Faverges, which lies between Lake Annecy, Doussard and Ugine, is a proto-historic and Roman town where 2,392 items from the first three centuries AD were found in 1971. Baths and a forge once stood here.
Faverges has a cycling club whose members like to climb Tamié Pass. The 2007 Tour de France will scale the easier side, which is under the Dent de Cons, the origin of whose name is shrouded in mystery.
France annexed Savoie, which has 305 communes, in 1860. The department has four mountain ranges running through it: Bauges, Chartreuse, Beaufortin and Vanoise. The capital, Chambéry, was also the capital of the counts of Savoie. Historians put forward several hypotheses as to the origins of the name Chambéry. Legend has it that a certain Berius, King Artus’s companion, slew a huge cat that was gobbling up travellers on their way to Italy. The place overlooking Lake Bourget was named Mont du Chat – Mount Cat – and the nearby plain was named after Bérius, campus beri, which became Chambéry.
Lake Bourget, in Aix les Bains, is France’s biggest (18 km long by 1.6 to 3.5 km wide) and deepest (145 m) lake.
Savoie hosted the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville and has provided France with many ministers in different periods, including Antoine Perrier, justice minister in 1911; Henri Falcoz, public works, in 1930; Pierre Cot, minister of the air during Léon Blum’s Popular Front; Ambroize Croizat, labour and social security; Louis Besson, housing and urban planning; Michel Barnier, foreign affairs; and Hervé Gaymard, economy and finances.
Albertville was named after the king of Sardinia, Charles-Albert, who created it in 1845 by merging two towns, Conflans and Hôpital, at the entrance of the Arly Valley, Beaufortin and Tarentaise at the end of the Savoy Coomb. In 1536, Francis I had the castle’s walls torn down. Later, in 1600, Lesdiguières (constable of France, leader of the Dauphiné Huguenots), had what was left razed. Conflans, a fortified town that defended the entrance of the Tarentaise, still looks medieval. Over time, commerce fuelled Albertville’s growth and it eventually became an administrative centre. The construction of hydroelectric dams in the early 20th century attracted heavy industry and generated numerous local jobs; many Savoyards worked on farms and in factories at the same time. The 1960s winter sports boom echoed in the valley: the road network was improved, employment soared because of the resorts and the population opened up to year-round tourism. With backing from everybody in Savoy, Albertville and the region hosted the successful 1992 Winter Olympics.
New businesses are arriving and the Maurienne motorway construction project, which will connect the region to Turin, is opening up interesting prospects. What’s more, winter and, especially, summer tourism are growing at a steady pace, making Albertville a base for exploring the Olympic sites and Savoy’s heritage.
A transportation hub, Albertville has seen the Tour de France riders race through town on several occasions. The only time they stopped there was in 1998, when Jan Ullrich won one of his three victories that year.
This small town, which was once called Saint-Maxime (the name of the 5th-century bishop who evangelised it), is famous for its cheese. It is in the centre of Beaufortain, which became French in 1860.
This 1,968-metre-high pass between the Arly and Isère Valleys puts Albertville and Bourg-Saint-Maurice in communication with each other. The huge Roselend Dam, which supplies the La Bathie power plant with 370 million m³ of water a year, has unfortunately flooded Beaufort’s most beautiful ski area (once chosen by Alfred Couttet and Emile Allais).
Bourg-Saint-Maurice, which is in the heart of Haute Tarentaise, overlooks the Isère and Chapieux Valleys, commands the entrance to Petit Saint-Bernard and marks the start of the road to the Arcs resort. This small town occupies a strategic position at the crossroads of valleys and passes taken by invaders (Cormet de Roselend, Petit Saint Bernard and Iseran Pass), so it has always had fortifications to defend and protect itself, from the square, Roman-built Chatelard Tower – an observatory in the upper Isère Valley – to the 19th-century Vulmix, Truc and Plate Forts. That probably accounts for why the term “burg” was given to the village, which kept the name until the relics of Saint Maurice, who was martyred in Agaune, were translated to the parish church, giving the town the full name it has today. Bourg-Saint-Maurice has endured many calamities, including invasions, wars and floods, throughout its long history. In 1635, a landslide buried Bourg-Saint-Maurice up to the top of the church steeple; the inhabitants rebuilt the town where it stands today.
In the Middle Ages Bourg-Saint-Maurice became a major commercial centre for the whole Haute-Isère Valley, which was then isolated in the mountains. Today it is a tourist destination near Vanoise National Park offering nature-lovers views, the Croix-Bonhomme orientation table, forests, lakes and glaciers. Bourg-Saint-Maurice has managed to preserve its authenticity and rustic look. It hosts several typical events, such as the Edelweiss Festival in July and a folk-culture gathering where visitors can admire magnificent costumes from Tarentaise and the Aoste Valley.
In summer Bourg-Saint-Maurice is a canoeing and kayaking centre, hosting high-level competitions, including the world championships.
Sainte-Foy Tarentaise, which dates back to the 13th century, was a seigneury of Val d’Isère. It has a chapel with an altarpiece and altar in Cordoba leather, probably because of the Spanish.
Tignes was a sunny, high-altitude mountain village at the end of a natural basin until 1952, when it was flooded by the construction of a dam. Officials decided on the project in 1933, but it was not announced to the local residents until 1941.
Before work began in 1946, it was necessary to expel all the inhabitants, the Tignards, and move the cemetery.
The CRS, a branch of the French police, forcefully expelled the dam’s opponents before dynamiting the houses.
Newspapers and magazines sent their best reporters to cover the gigantic operation.
Tignes became one of the world’s most famous villages in spite of itself.
In 1956, the Tignes ski resort and first chairlifts were built. In 1968, Val Claret was extended with high-rise buildings.
Tignes hosted the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympic Games’ acrobatic skiing events at Lognan Stadium. Today, the skiing area is under the control of the STGM (Société des téléfériques de la Grande Motte, named after the glacier and not the seaside resort in Languedoc).
The most famous person born in Tignes is Nicolas Huet, two-time world snowboard champion in 1999 and 2001. Guerlain Chicherit, many-time world extreme skiing champion and raid rally pilot on the BMW team (9th place in Dakar in 2006), is also one of Tignes’ sport ambassadors.