Les Gets – the history of a French ski resort


Les Gets is a commune in the Haute-Savoie department in the Rhône-Alpes region in south-eastern France.

les_gets ski posterThe village’s first single person chair lift was opened in 1938 with the first chair lift on Mont Chery in 1954!

Les Gets contains a museum of Mechanical Music and hosts a festival of Mechanical Music bi-annually. This has been running for 25 years. The 13th festival was held between 18 and 20 July 2008 and the next will be held in July 2011. During this period the streets will be closed off and barrel organs or orgues will fill the streets with mechanical music. Many of the organ grinders will come from other European countries, such as Germany and Holland. Traditional Savoy dishes are central to Les Gets cuisine. These include tartiflette, a dish of potatoes ‘au gratin’ with reblochon cheese and lardons. A traditional liquer, génépi, is also often drunk as a digestif, although the exact constitution of this medicinal drink varies as many residents produce their own.

Area Profile: Les Gets is a pleasant farming village, which has grown in to one of the world’s top resorts apparently without noticing. Picturesque and relaxed, it has neither the sometimes oppressive enthusiasm for health and fitness that some of the high altitude French purpose built centres promote, nor the pre-occupation with glitz that attracts the soulless money-obsessed to others.

Instead, it’s charming, relaxed, and full of its own unique character and ambience. How many other resorts can offer a museum of mechanic music and animated mannequins or free excursions to the local cheese farm? For added convenience, the Maison des Gets encompassing the Lift Society, the Events Society, the Tourist Office, the nursery, town hall and lift ticket sales desk So clients will easily find all the information they need in one place. The resort is close to Morzine, six kilometres (four miles) away by road and also the main lift-linked destination over the Pleney mountain. Both are on the huge Portes du Soleil circuit and it’s possible to strike out in most directions on skis with a regional pass, or just stay local with a Les Gets-Morzine only ticket.

Les Gets’ long history as a winter sports resort is proven by its status in being the location of the first Ecole du Ski Français which opened here in 1940. Don’t get the idea that this is some quaint old skiing back water either though, there’s been heavy investment in recent years in a series of state of the art lifts. Les Gets is a very interesting place, and when you scratch below the surface you can find lots of interesting and sometime bizzare things. It claims to be the world capital of Mechanical Music, and each summer they hold a festival in the village. There’s a museum of Mechanical Music, and the tour is surprisingly interesting, especially to see the enthusiasm of the Museum guide.

The Church in Les Gets holds regular concerts, including those performed by its Mechanical Organ.

There’s a goat farm that gives regular tours, and also the local cheese dairy which offers tours and tasting.

If though you have the opportunity to take half a day off from the slopes it’s well worth visiting the weekly farmer’s market or wandering up and down the main street visiting the countless artisan shops with a whole range of local produce.

Les Gets’ is one of the oldest winter sports resorts in France and was a pioneer of ski holidays, being the location of the very first Ecole du Ski Français in 1940. However, unlike many other ski resorts, the history of Les Gets’ Savoyard chalets and alpine community goes back 800 years before the emergence of ski holidays.

Les Gets established itself as a small hamlet in the 11th century and took its name from the local dialect words of “gitte” or “giette”, meaning “the corridors used to send logs rapidly down the hillside”. Wood was the chief industry of the day for the early inhabitants of Les Gets, as they used different varieties of the surrounding pines for building. The sawmills needed water to cut the wood so they could only operate in the spring when the melting of the winter snows made the water volume higher. The wood was used to make the structure of chalets, as well as the chimneys, partition walls and roofing tiles. It was also used to make working tools, such as rakes, forks and scythe handles, along with everyday utensils such as buckets and spoons.

Today, the sawmills are still functioning and the forests which cover two-thirds of the area are still a source of industry for the people of Les Gets and the surrounding area. This heritage is why Les Gets has developed so beautifully and is what makes it so uniquely different to other ski resorts.

 

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