Morzine is derived from the Latin “Morgenes”, meaning “border area”, sitting as it does so close to borders. The history of Morzine can largely be separated into two distinct parts - Before the building of the first ski lift and after.
In the 12th century Morzine was closely associated with the Aulps Abbey, 7 kilometres away. Monks from the Dijon area originally came as pilgrims and later settled in the area. The Cistercian monks who lived there owned the land and used it to increase their revenue. There was light industry and farming in the area. The local cheeses began to become more well known throughout France. There was also a market, which still runs every Wednesday. St Jean D’Aulps was granted independence from the Cistercian monks in 1531, during a time of religious upheaval throughout Europe. The remains of the Abbey can still be seen in St Jean D’Aulps.
Things continued at the same pace for the next 250 years. By 1800, with the industrial revolution underway, slate mining began to become a prominent industry. Evidence of the slate mines can still be seen in the cliffs above the Montriond Lake and in the cliffs on the way to Prodains. Mines were dug up to 350 metres into the cliff faces and the slate that was dug out was then split into sheets and cut to size. This slate was then taken to other towns to be sold, especially Thonon, Thones and Taninges. A road between Morzine and Thonon was completed in 1862 allowing far more slate to be sent out of town and the profits from the industry increased exponentially. Morzine began to thrive and the sleepy years of monastic farming were becoming a thing of the past.
With a greater amount of money in the area following the success of the slate industry Morzine did what many other Alpine villages were beginning to do and turned their attention to tourism. The Morzine Ski Club was founded in 1910. The first hotel, Le Grand Hotel, was built in 1925 by local businessman Francois Baud. In 1934 the Pleney lift was built and everything was in place for the next stage in Morzine’s history to begin.