VALMEINIER AND ITS HISTORY
Valmeinier, « val-minier », the name perhaps derives from the presence of copper minerals and lead that was exploited by craftsmen during the 18th century; also due to the presence of anthracite used in particular by the family for domestic heating.
The Neuvache Valley
Valmeinier, in the Neuvache Valley, with its’ steep slopes, terraced in order to retain the soil, visible even in winter: cultivated cereals (especially rye) but also broad beans, rape… and potatoes in the 18th century. Villages have been built next to streams created from glacial deposits, each house nestled against another leaving more room for agriculture, cultivation terraces rising from 1300 to 1800m altitude and as far as 2500m for transhumance during the summer months. So here was an agricultural life not without its’ difficulties and hardship, almost unchanged between the 12th and 20th century, paced by the seasons, ruled by religion – crucifixes planted here and there to remind us, each hamlet with its’ chapel, the church rebuilt more than once.
However, despite epidemics ( the plague in the 17th century), the wars, the massacre of Valmeinier during the French Revolution in 1793 and bad harvests, the population continued to increase to its’ maximum of 850 inhabitants in 1848.
From then onwards, with industrialisation, began the decline. For a number of years men maintained two jobs (factories or mining and working the land), but then became solely factory workers and left the mountains to live nearer their work. So little by little Valmeinier began to die away, with only about 50 permanent inhabitants in 1971 and the closure of the last of its’ 5 schools in 1972.
And so it is with a new team leading the local council, choosing to develop tourism in Valmeinier, that the rebirth began. The Crêt du Quart is equipped with a chairlift and operational winter 73/74, followed by the village centre (l’entre deux villes) in 1984/85/86 with two holiday centres, residences with co-ownership, commercial premises, a new school, a cableway to join both sides of the valley and the Roi chairlift.
1986 saw the 3rd phase of touristic development in Valmeinier with the construction of the road, the chairlifts and accommodation at 1800 (Grand Fourchon youth hostel, Aquarius Club Med, Les Carrettes etc….), Valmeinier has continued to develop and improve its capacity with Pierre et Vacances, Odalys, Espace 2…and with an open setting and countryside to discover.
Translated from a text written by Germaine Mulet.
Discover ‘Valmeinier d’hier à aujourd’hui’ by Germaine Mulet
for sale in local newsagents or available to order by returning
your payment of 28€ + 4€ postage to:
Association du Patrimoine,
Marie de Valmeinier