The Haute Savoie (Upper Savoy) wasn’t always part of France. It only became so with the Treaty of Turin, on 24 March 1860. France, Italy, and the Austrian Empire had been fighting over the region for centuries. Finally, in 1858, Emperor Napoleon III (Napoleon Bonaparte’s nephew) promised to aid Italy in its war against Austria if then-Italian King, Vittorio-Emmanuele II, would relinquish his claim to Savoy. The King agreed, but only if the inhabitants of the region approved. The Savoyards, who were French speaking and had always found it difficult to accept Italian rule, voted overwhelmingly in favor of annexation by popular referendum.
The Haute Savoie is bordered by Italy to the south-east and Switzerland to the north and east. Geneva is the closest city to serve skiers coming to the Haute Savoie by air. It is home to 110 ski stations. Val Thorens, built in 1972, is one of eight ski stations in the Trois Vallées (Three Valleys). With 600 km (410 miles) of skiable terrain, the Trois Vallées is the largest continuous ski domain in the world.
Yesterday, we climbed to 3,000 meters (9,750 ft). From that vantage point, our gaze skimmed easily over the few ranges separating us from Mont Blanc, or Monte Bianco, Western Europe’s highest peak at 4,810 m (15,781 ft) on the French-Italian border. Clouds hung, grey and full, down in the valleys below us, like a wild foamy sea. We were on top of the world!
That is, until the white-out blew in…
View of Val Thorens, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Map of Haute Savoie, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.