The history of the hotel

The dream of a local child

In 1927, in the small playground of the public school in the hamlet of Le Crey, a group of 40 boys of all ages heard the sound of the bell which signaled the end of break time. Miss Marie d’Hilaire took the roll call. A little boy of six years old was absent: Jean ARPIN (from the families Stanislas and Colin). Ah! Suddenly the door opened… and who could it be….all flushed in the face and dragging a new pair of skis under his arm… skis made of soft ash wood… carefully crafted by Craftsman Cohendoz des Perrieres. Jean was quickly scolded by Miss d’Hilaire and his skis confiscated!

That is enough, you are always late Jean, I will cut up these skis and thrown them on the fire!

The little boy, suddenly feeling attacked about his most precious belonging, began to kick the stunned teacher, he began to shout, scratch and punch and kick furiously. That evening when he returned home, he went to his mother Augustine in search of sympathy for his broken heart. His mother was always calm and able to console him…

On 19th June 1989, the day of Jean Arpin’s funeral, a quotation made by his teacher was read from a book written by his wife Hélène Arpin « Le Roman de La Rosière – Montvalezan » and read by the former mayor Jean Pierre Aubonnet. « Jean is late again. We will see soon enough if his ideas were ahead of their time. »

Jean Arpin was fanatical about skiing, just like many children who discovered this new sport which enabled you to glide through the snow and enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery. During many of the experiences that Jean had in his life, he observed the birth of ski resorts, which convinced him of the potential that La Rosière had: a sunny position, an altitude of 1850m with very good levels of snow and at close proximity to Italy. However, the difficult times after the second world war put a stop to such ideas that had begun to grow but did not diminish the reserve of ideas and hope.

Hélène Arpin’s book continues to tell Jean Arpin’s story: « After the war, in 1946. The first important contacts were made. Jean Arpin often went to Seez to meet Gaston Gaide and one day he began to talk to him about La Rosière and its potential of becoming a ski resort. He also talked about his wish to be the first to build a hotel there ».

No sooner said, than done. Jean Arpin thanked Mr Gaide and thoughtful began to write to Senator Antoine Borrel with warmth and conviction for « his little corner of his birth place, with he felt had such potential for winter and summer tourism ».

A warm and encouraging reply from the Savoyard Senator, who had often worked towards the development of his region, did not take long to arrive.

Unfortunately, ten years of fighting ensued, as the news of the war breaking out was just beginning. The correspondences continued. In order to realise his wishes, Jean Arpin and friends decided to go a step further. They went to Montvalezan accompanied by J. Gaidet, at the time of « All Saints » in 1946. That morning, all of the villagers who came to the church mass were able to read a notice that was put up in front of the Mayor’s office, signed by Jean Arpin. It was an invitation to all regarding an important public meeting with the idea of creating a tourism information office. Approximately fifty women and men were very interested in the project. Jean Arpin shared his thoughts and ideas with them, explaining and voicing the wishes of all.

La Rosière has all of the advantages to help create a resort that will allow the youngsters to stay and work in their own region

Having experienced hard and difficult times in the past, he insisted strongly about this essential point. So that the families were no longer separated and could live together happily in their beautiful villages spread out under the long rays of sunshine and the mighty alpine storms.

A committee was set up. Jean Arpin could not accept the role of president because he lived in a different region at the time. The role therefore fell to Séraphin Maitre, an enthusiastic follower from the start. This was the start of an interesting fight that filled hearts with hope, made eyes bright and animated many a discussion. Through the ‘rose coloured’ atmosphere the toasting of glasses reflected a brighter future.

In 1947, the president of the Sporting Club in Montvalezan for 4 years, Jean Baptiste Gaidet, added his support to Jean Arpin.

« Due to his initiative, tournaments and competitions were organised. I highlight his great devotion to this cause and to others which he has given his assistance. With such a good understanding in existence, an opening began to form at this time regarding the possibility of winter and summer tourism ». (Tributes to J. ARPIN)

And Jean wrote to Jean « Come quickly and do something in Montvalezan. We could really do with a small hotel. It became apparent to me this winter, during the competitions that were held here that we needed to find rooms and cook for all of the competitors ». (A.P : Letter from 14-3-47)

The First « Relais »

The impetus was given and in 1953 an urban plan was put in place with 33 plots for building and a road. Hélène Arpin explains how the hotel came to be:

Now it was important to find buyers that were ready and able to invest in La Rosière’s hotels and businesses.

1954 Jean Arpin was the first to take part. He had chosen an area near to the main road. Disaster! The plans for the road that would lead to the building lots cut straight through the area he had in mind and ruined his idea. He then asked the Mairie if he could build just north of the road on the edge of the forest, where the tennis courts are placed today. This area was not a designated plot, his request was refused, obviously! (A.P)

Never mind! Let’s look further, towards Manessier. The view from there is great, the area seems welcoming but the ground is marshy. Let’s confront this! There is a choice to be made: above or below the road? Hélène suggests: that a dominant terrace would drawn more attention and the customers would be entertained by the activity of the road. The die is cast! We feel like the first migrants in the Wild West of America.

No time to lose. The land is exchanged for another which the family own. In the Springtime, the stones that are needed are excavated from an open quarry at the top of the Lièvre Blanc slope. For the previous miner, it is as easy as child’s play. The brother, Maurice Arpin and Jean his lifelong friend, both came to work with Jean. The foundations are dug by Placide Fudral and his son Charles, the walls follow quickly afterwards! Wooden panels are recovered from old chalets in the villages and transported to La Rosière for the hotel. They are then once again laid out as flooring and ceilings. Serge Arpin from the factory builds a solid roof that withstands the snow and the passing of time!

Jean devotes every Thursday and Sunday of that Autumn: cleaning the walls, the floors, fitting a fireplace and an external staircase. During the lonely winter evenings, Hélène paints decorative frames for the walls, sews red and white check style curtains. She dreams of a cosy interior without the walls full of advertising posters. A number of other decorative objects complete the interior décor and the customers are fascinated, so much so that they are distracted from the wait for their room. One even comments « it’s a real museum here » !

The Second « Relais » and the first winter for the resort of La Rosière

At the same moment that La Rosière plans to become a resort (contacting the chairlift companies, planning the road, connecting electrical and water supplies), Jean adds a second building in stone to his cabin : « The Second Relais ». With this additional building they can accommodate more guests such as weddings, music evenings, meetings etc. Jean never missed out on the chance to sing his favorite song « ô Montagnards ô Montagnards …. »

1960/61 – The opening of the resort for La Rosière, with the ski lift « La Poletta » and the first winter season for Le Relais du Petit St Bernard. The bar and the restaurant are regrouped together, the ski technician on the ground floor (Jean Gaidet for 4 winters) and the ski school with Alfred Possoz, the first ski instructor in La Rosière. These spaces were all let to them free of charge by the owner who wanted to encourage the youth of the day. The beginning was difficult for all as the tourist levels were low to start with but the idea of skiing began to take off and enabled the resort to welcome other inhabitants. They were mainly the local people but also those who had fallen under the charm of the place.

The Third « Relais »

During the Summer and Autumn of 1973, the building firm « Perrière » from Macot and various others, began to build the third « Relais du Petit St Bernard », with the assistance of the architect Guy Davoise from Seez. The first floor was finished and opened by Christmas. The finishes, paneling, ceilings, walls, bar, furniture, ski-room and fireplace had the finishing touches put to them and decorated by local artists. Jean Arpin was always keen to have Montvalezan workmanship in his establishment over the thirty years of being an employer.

The hotel’s grounds, were also carefully groomed: the fields and banks surrounding the hotel were cleared of stones, grass seed sown and tended to, marsh channels were emptied, flowers beds and plants were decorated with stone borders. It was all lovingly cared for with even the car park area washed and brushed and multi-coloured flowers that lined the terrace.

The next generation, Germain Arpin and his wife Lulu, who had the ‘green fingers’ of the family, began to welcome the guests with particular attention given to the splendid floral and plant displays, that were admired by all, throughout the Winter and Summer.

When Jean Arpin died in 1989, the family business was divided up, after a fashion. The eldest brother Raymond Arpin kept the oldest part of the building « The Bar » which he later extended to include a pizza/buffet style restaurant and some apartments. He gave the business the name of « Mac Kinley ». The eldest sister Annie Arpin became the owner of the second Relais, which she later gave to her younger brother Germain, so that he could build his own chalet: « The SCHATZI », a tourism residence. Germain and Lulu Arpin had already started to do some work in the third Relais and built a snack-bar called « Le Milieu » (The Middle), a friendly place where people could eat at midday.

The Future Projects

In 2012, there are now three different businesses which are managed by different people and it is hoped that this will allow the global business to flourish. With new laws concerning accessibility, security and energy savings the business is motivated to carry out a sustainable renovation project. In 2009, a thermal energy study was carried out with the idea of taking part in a regional project concerning « low energy use model buildings ». In spite of the assistance that is available for a renovation of this type, there are many associated constraints with the project as well as considerable costs. We could not take part in the regional project, but the study gave us good guidelines regarding energy savings and all of our future building plans will take these into consideration.  After many consultations, it was decided that along with a renovation and aesthetic improvement of the current rooms, there would be an extension made to include larger family rooms and two rooms adapted for guests in wheelchairs, a new lounge area and a more spacious breakfast room. A lift would also be added which would start at the ground floor, for all floors of the hotel.

Always keeping the ideas of sustainability and quality central to all our plans, we use the Label HQE (Optimal Environmental Quality) and its conditions in mind for all future planning. This enables us to choose natural materials, to improve the performance of each category considered in the HQE label: sustainable building, comfort, health and sustainable management. It is a complicated process but it allows us to be guided so as not to forget important points. Taking into consideration the associated costs, it will be a plan for the long term but for the sustainable future.

Le Relais du Petit St-Bernard
La Rosière 1850
73700 MONTVALEZAN