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1- The Saint-Bernard Dogs

« Love, Tenderness and Loyalty until the ultimate sacrifice »


The Saint Bernard dog has a fantastic history regarding its affection, intelligence and loyalty towards mankind.

Their origins go back to the dawn of time. It is without doubt a race that originates from Asia, probably a descendent of the Tibetan Mastiff. One of the oldest known records dates back to 2,500 years ago, with St Bernard dog being depicted on Assyrian wall etchings. As a result of several wars and commercial trading, these dogs were eventually brought to Europe. During the Roman conquest, they were included in the army, with their very own battle dress. Even Henry VIII of England had 500 dogs equipped with studded collars and used them in a battle against Charles Quant. In the 17th Century, certain Suisse families gave the monks the short haired breed of the St Bernard as guard dogs.  The St Bernard dogs quickly became known as the companions of the monks in the hospices of both the “Grand and Petit Saint Bernard” Passes. Most notably, the dog “Ruitor” was known as the loyal friend of Rector Chanoux at the “Petit St Bernard” Hospice.

Hard working, affectionate and blessed with a remarkable way with people, the St Bernard dogs were trained by the monks in 1750 as rescue dogs to help travelers that were in danger. At this time in history, the pilgrim’s pathway through the mountains was long and full of pitfalls; storms and snow were ever present in this isolated environment; with averages of 10 metres of snow and temperatures of approximately 0.5°c, from November to June of each year. The monks, often accompanied by the dogs, would go in search of the travelers and pilgrims. Gifted with large paws, the dogs could make a path through the fresh snow and with the help of their strong shoulders and natural instinct, they were able to find the people buried under the snow. The wooden barrel attached to their collar, filled with brandy, gave the lost pilgrim the courage to continue their journey towards the hospice.

In 1820, the St Bernard breed was threatened with extinction, with only a single couple remaining at the Grand Bernard Pass Hospice. In 1857 Henry Shumacher attempted to cross the St Bernard breed with a Newfoundland. As a result the long haired St Bernard was born. It was only in 1862, during the World Fair in Birmingham, that these dogs were given their official name “St Bernard”, beforehand they were known as Alpine Mastiff, Barry Dogs or Convent Dogs.

The St Bernard dogs were also companions for the Mountain Infantry, harnessed to a sledge, they were used to pull supplies up to the mountain fortresses; the monks also used the dogs in the same manner. Finally with the destruction of the Petit Saint Bernard hospice during the last war, came the end of an era for the St Bernard dogs.

However in 1960 an enthusiast of the St Bernard dogs, Mr Charles Clément, attempted to settle in the Petit St Bernard Pass with his five dogs but the dilapidated state of the buildings made this impossible. Just a few kilometers from the pass, at the Relais du Petit St Bernard in La Rosière, Mr and Mrs Jean Arpin agreed to start a breeding farm. The breeding farm did well and a number of dogs that were reared there won prestigious dog show prizes:

1968  « Oulette » 1st Prize in Evian
1972  « Sylphide » 1st Prize in La Roche-sur-Foron
1974  « Apollo » World Champion
1975 « Tommy » 1st Prize in Lyon
1976 «  Balz » 1st Prize CACIB in Evian and in Grenoble in 1979.
The Legend of Barry


As soon as the fog appeared or the snow began to fall, one could see that he would begin to become restless in his kennel; barking and asking to be let out in search of the lost travelers. Barry, who earned the nickname «God’s dog», had a very personal way of saving people. He would dig through the snow furiously with his large paws, whilst barking loudly in order to draw the attention of the rescue teams. Once he had managed to resuscitate the person, who was often unconscious, he would lick their face and turn them over and over again with powerful pushes of the head. If all of these things didn’t work, the dog would sit carefully on the chest of the person in order to keep them warm, taking care not to smother them. Without delay, he would then start to bark in a special way that the monks understood and were not mistaken as to the message he was telling them.


One day the monks saw Barry arriving with a young boy on his back. Not only had he dug the boy from the snow and resuscitated him, but he had had the good idea of lying down on his side so that the boy could climb up on his back.

Barry died in 1814 in tragic circumstances. At the time, the deserters of Napoleon’s army often crossed the mountain passes. One of these deserters was taken by surprise by a storm not far from the monastery and was buried under the heavy snow. Barry found him and dug him out of the snow. He then sat carefully on him so as to warm him up. The man slowly came to his senses and thought that Barry was a wolf. He reached for his sword plunged it straight through poor Barry.

In this way Barry died on his own snowy battle ground.

The Association « Barry’s friends »

Now-a-days, the Association « Barry’s friends », exists in order to support the small breeding farm in La Rosière, so as to continue the St Bernard breed and to educate the public about them.

The Montvalezan council, people’s kind donations and the association members’ fees all contribute to the financial funding of the association. This includes daily walks for the dogs with a carer, any treatments required and food.

The dogs are taken on walks two or three times per day, between 30 minutes to an hour.
For further information, please contact us:

Relais du petit St Bernard
73700 La Rosière
Tel. (hôtel)
E-Mail : lesamisdebarry @

2- 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!” said Madame d’Hilaire

“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 favourite song “O Montagnards, 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 40 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 Shatzi, 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.