©SONY DSC|Office de Tourisme du Val d'Arly
UnmissableRoute des Montagnes

Mountain Route

Did you know?

The Route des Montagnes is also called “The Thirsty Road.”
One might believe that this name evokes the incredible sunshine on this route,
There are plenty of watering holes along this beautiful route.

But the real reason for the name actually dates back to its inauguration in the 1950s, when all the cafés in La Giettaz, fearing for their business, went on strike.

Close to the marmots

In the middle of the mountain pastures...

This road follows the Aravis mountains from the pass above Ugine for more than 20km, through the mountain pastures. It serves as a balcony that overlooks the Val d’Arly with a grandiose panorama over the Alps and the Mont-Blanc.

This route through the mountains is the perfect place to observe the fauna. A large reserve of 3,600 hectares, created in 1968 strivesto protect this environment. Today there are more than 1,000 chamois, 120 mouflons, a large number of roe deer and a few stags in this area.

A protection program also allows a population of Tétras-Lyre (black grouse) to roam in the area. But the local star is of course the marmot who gather in the scree slopes and near the alpine farms.

The Priest’s Cottage

One of the must-see sights along this route is the priest’s cottage. With its massive silhouette and four-sided roof, it reminds us of the influence of religion on mountain farm architecture. Indeed, in the past, the exploitation of the mountain pastures was often done by religious people. Some people claim that this house owes its name to this particular roof, resembling a clergyman’s barrette. This, however, is not the case. It was simply the property of a priest, the abbot Balmand of St-Nicolas la Chapelle. After having belonged to a Count of Flumet, it was confiscated during the Revolution and sold, in 1799, to the Republic.

It should be noted that many peaks around are marked with crosses, such as the Cartier cross, the Iron cross, the Frêtes cross or the Stata cross, goal of beautiful hikes. They testify the farmers’ need to be protected from the dangers of the life in altitude such as storms, hail, landslides or avalanches.

A magnificent place where one discovers the Aravis mountains, the Plan valley and the surrounding summits: the Mïa, the Croisse-Baulet, Ramadieu, the Christomet and the Torraz. In the foreground, the Etale and the Aravis range are spread out. We also have a very nice view on the Mont Blanc Massif.

Close to the alpacists

All along the road, you will see many alpine farms. Bogneuve, which means “new stable”, is a typical pasture of the Val d’Arly. For those who don’t know, a mountain pasture is a high altitude meadow where one mounts one’s herds during the summer. We find there, above the tree line, vast meadows rich with an exuberant flora.

Local farmers follow the vegetation and go up to the mountain pasture, or “emmontagne”, in June, taking with them all the necessities for life in a chalet with rudimentary comfort. They then come down again, or “démontagner”, at the end of September.

During the months of alpine pasture, the days are long and tedious. The day begins at 5am and doesn’t stop until around 11pm. You have to do two milkings, make the cheese or deliver it to the cooperative’s collection point, often go back down to the village to make the hay, redo the electrical parks, and much more.

This way of life in the mountain pastures has hardly changed for centuries, and remains a sign of tradition and savoir-faire. However, it almost disappeared. Fortunately mountain dwellers started breeding Abondance and Tarines cows and specialized in the manufacture of reblochon, the emblematic cheese of the Aravis, which allowed these customs to continue.