History and Heritage

© Kieran Williams - @kiwi.capture for Morzine Source Magazine

This year we’ve watched endless live news broadcasts, observed elections – both local and global – and experienced an unprecedented global pandemic. So you’d be forgiven for being over politics right now. But let me introduce you to Aube Marullaz, First Deputy Mayor of Morzine-Avoriaz in the remit of the tourist economy and culture, and Vice President of the Haut Chablais Community of Communes, also in the remit of culture.

Aube, tell me a little bit about your role at the Mairie and what elements you’re responsible for?

Today, I am the First Deputy Mayor of Morzine. Our Mayor Fabien Trombert is a very good Mayor, I am proud to be by his side, with our team. He can count on me whenever he needs me. It is a beautiful relationship of trust that we have built over the course of these first six months in office. Today, in concrete terms, I am responsible for leading the economic and tourism policy of our municipal team for Morzine-Avoriaz. I also take on the task of carrying out our cultural and heritage policy for the village.

Further down in the valley, Fabien was also elected to the role of President of the Haut Chablais Community of Communes and I was elected Vice-President for culture. Our dual role is therefore municipal and inter-municipal. Many years ago you told me that your mum leads the local history tours in Morzine each week. Does she still do this?

My mum has been showing tourists around the village for more than 30 years, once a week, but also she hosts residents curious about history and heritage. She is passionate. When I was a teenager, she put me in the footsteps, and in turn, I became a tourist guide, in Savoy and neighboring Switzerland. But in Morzine, THE guide in Le Bourg, that’s her! For those who want to join her, it’s a great way to learn French, every Thursday morning, at 10 a.m. in front of the church.

For a long time you and I have talked about your personal passion for retaining the charm and heritage of our village. Why is this important to you?

Our village is rich in unique and outstanding histories. There is an extraordinary built heritage, ancestral traditions and know-how. This is a privileged environment and a multitude of generous volunteers work for the conservation of all these treasures.

Of course, I am committed to the Morzinois for this “duty of remembrance” towards those who have given us everything that we see and enjoy today. But above all, I hope that together we will bring to our heritage that touch of modernity which will make our past a real tourist asset, alive and unique.

You were elected to the Mairie in March 2020, just days before France entered its first confinement. What plans have you been able to commence since then?

Before starting any projects whatsoever, we had to take our mark, get to know the town hall team, organise ourselves, assume the legacy of previous teams, understand current affairs and heavier and more complex issues.

The health situation since last March adds an additional difficulty to this task for which we have been elected. But it is an important challenge and we are here, all together, to meet it.

In the field of culture and heritage, the Maison du Bourg project (a museum center towards the Church in the centre of the village) has been brought back to life. It will be accompanied by the redevelopment of Morzine’s historic center, both in terms of traffic and other uses. As part of the Maison du Bourg initiative, the volunteer project of La Battante aux Dérêches (the reconstruction of the sawmill in the Parc des Dérêches) will also be supported in one of its final phases, its museography.

The global crisis that we are going through will have immense short, medium and long-term repercussions for all parts of our economy, including obviously on tourism. However we wish to take advantage of this imposed pause to discuss and reflect, together, on the directions that we will give to tourism over the next 10 to 20 years. What kind of village do we want for our children? And for our residents? Representatives from all tourism stakeholders in the village will be invited to the discussion table. At the time of this interview (we are only in November) we are thinking about the format that these discussions will take during the course of the winter

Why is it important that Morzine retains its culture and charm?

Its heritage and history also. Morzine-Avoriaz is not Val d’Isère, Morzine-Avoriaz is not Val Thorens, Morzine-Avoriaz is much better! We combine the strength of a traditional village with a fantastic creation. We have to find the right balance of one village for two stations. Our individuality must be preserved, protected and enhanced. This is what makes our strength and our uniqueness.

How can we balance this preservation of heritage with the development of the village for the future? Is it possible to balance the two, do you believe?

A reasoned extension of the village is natural, necessary even. The risk of too frantic development of second homes, for example, would empty the village of its soul and its inhabitants. We hope it is not too late and we remain optimistic. Better-controlled extension of the village will allow, and be accompanied by, the social, residential and cultural development necessary so that Morzine remains a center for life. The visitors who come – those who live or who buy in the village today, are looking for this soul. Losing it could be fatal for all of us.

“we don’t forget that alone we go faster, but together we go further!”

Of course our new Mayor Fabien Trombert and your team have made a commitment to four seasons tourism. How can your history and heritage plan contribute to this?

In the 90’s, opening your establishment, store, restaurant or ski lifts for just six months each year was enough. We had earned enough, so we waited until next season! However times have changed and after this crisis, mentalities and consumption patterns, which were already evolving before the crisis, will be different. Those involved in tourism will have no other choice but to agree to work more, in order to earn at the same level as before.

By “four seasons”, we mean to encourage the development of periods that could be interesting to tourists outside of the obvious ones. The beautiful days of May or October, the months of June or September. It would be magical to be able to stay in Morzine during these times

The town hall must be a driving force in this initiative and provide support for a progressively wider opening over the year. The opening of municipal tourist services, the development of cultural or sporting offers throughout the year, negotiating with the ski lift operators and other tourist players in the resort, whilst supporting the private initiatives that share the same direction, this must become our role. It will come at a cost of course; our desire is to take responsibility for this and prioritise our projects in this direction, in the long term.

How will your heritage and history projects contribute to the sustainability and environmental plans of the village?

Today, the volume of our municipal buildings is very vast. Our team has chosen to allocate a budget of €2 million to renovate the energy supplies of these buildings and municipal housing. This budget is in addition to the environmental standards, which are now mandatory in any new construction or renovation project.

Additionally, the historic buildings of the town hall, the library and the presbytery will be the subject of individual renovation projects, as part of the development of the large cultural and heritage center around the town hall that I mentioned earlier.

Of course, other environmental and sustainability projects will be considered and debated as part of the “Flocon Vert” accreditation, currently being validated for our Morzine-Avoriaz destination.

How can the residents of Morzine Avoriaz – and by this I mean all nationalities, languages and ages – contribute to the heritage plan?

We wish to involve the population as much as possible in our decisions; via working groups, advisory committees and neighbourhood meetings. These consultations must be perfectly prepared and orchestrated. It will take a little while to put them in place, but we don’t forget that alone we go faster, but together we go further! This will not remain just a campaign promise. We will protect and enhance the history and heritage for the enjoyment of all.

And finally Aube, what are you most looking forward to this winter?

May the beautiful days return quickly… with a vaccine!

History and Heritage
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