Saint-Gervais-les-Bains [dead link] is an Alpine resort in the Haute-Savoie department of south-eastern France. It grew up as a spa town in the 19th century, before evolving into a ski resort. Set on the flanks of Mont Blanc, it has access to a huge area for skiing and snow-boarding, climbing and mountaineering.
The nearest major airport is in Geneva (GVA IATA) about 45 minutes away by car and is serviced by most major European airlines. Only Borini Bus run a direct service from Geneva airport to Saint-Gervais priced at €42. La Fayet, a few kilometers away is also served by coaches with a single journey costing around €30, and then a €10 taxi. Taking public transport from Geneva airport to Saint-Gervais involves a gauntlet of trains, trams and buses and at least 2 hours. This is why the pricey coach services exist. Don't be worried by website requests to book your coach ticket in advance, you can easily get bus tickets in the arrivals hall.
From Paris Gare de Lyon take the train to Annecy then local train or bus to St Gervais, total journey 6 hours. Alternatively, from Paris Gare de Lyon travel to Geneva (3 hr 15 min from Gare de Lyon) then to Martigny (90 min, frequent trains towards Brig) to join the mountain railway, see "Get Around" below.
Coming from Geneva or anywhere in France, take A40 ("Autoroute Blanche"). From elsewhere in Switzerland, take A9 to Martigny then the mountain road over Col des Montets into France. From Italy, take A5 up Val d'Aosta into the Mont Blanc tunnel, emerging in France at Chamonix.
By train: a single track metre-gauge railway starts at St Gervais and runs east up the main valley through Les Houches, Les Bossons, Chamonix, Les Praz and Argentière to cross into Switzerland at Vallorcine and descend to Martigny. The trains, operated jointly by SNCF and SBB, run hourly year round.
Mont Blanc Tramway. This metre-gauge rack railway ascends from St Gervais, with the valley station "Le Fayet" next to the SNCF station. It ascends to Bellevue at 1794 m then Nid d'Aigle at 2380 m. There are trains roughly hourly and the journey takes 80 min. Adult return €38, child & senior €32.
See Mont Blanc without toiling up it, by riding the Tramway, as above.
- Ski: the season runs from mid-Dec to mid-April, and is as snow-sure as you'll find anywhere. The ski pass for the surrounding area plus Megeve is "Evasion Mont Blanc", with a six-day adult pass costing €240. The Mont-Blanc Unlimited extends as far as Vallorcine, Martigny and Verbier in Switzerland, and Courmayeur in Italy, six-day adult pass €315.
- Climb Mont Blanc: St Gervais is the base for the usual ascent, the Voie Royale. Other routes ascend from Chamonix and Courmayeur. Reckon three days and two nights on the mountain by any route.
- Rey Leon Fromages de Savoie, 2524 Route du Fayet (M-Sa 08:00-12:30 & 14:30-19:00). Big selection of cheese, reasonably priced.
Most eating places are in the valley near the railway station:
- L Anatolie, 193 Ave de Chamonix (daily 11:00-14:00 & 18:00-22:00) Turkish.
- Le Cairn, 14 rue de la Poste (daily 07:30-20:00) Brasserie.
Up the hill are:
- Khue Danh, 935 Ave de Miage (daily 12:00-14:00 & 18:00-22:00) Vietnamese.
- Le Galeta, 150 Impasse des Lupins (daily 19:00-23:00) Savoyard specialties and grills.
Most hotels are up the hill near the ski lifts.
- La Feline Blanche , 138 Rue du Mont Blanc, +33 4 50 96 58 70, small boutique hotel.
- Hotel Le Regina , 74 Ave de Miage, +33 4 50 91 79 53, small two-star.
- Hotel Liberty Mont Blanc , 734 Ave du Mont d'Arbois, +33 4 50 93 45 21, 3-star chalet.
- Residence Le Grand Panorama , 950 Ave du Mont d'Arbois, +33 4 50 18 57 33. 3 star with heated pool. Wifi is patchy.
Standard advice applies about safety on the mountain, whether skiing, hiking or whatever.
In 1892, 200 people were killed when a water pocket burst out of the Tête Rousse Glacier above town and surged down the valley. In 2010 they found a similar pocket: it's deep-set and can't altogether be drained, and perhaps there's more. So if you hear the siren....
Geneva is the nearest big city.