You’ve probably often seen them when holidaying here in Samoëns and the Grand Massif. Cute, wood cabin-like structures, with their tiny doors and little balconies. Miniature versions of the larger chalets and farmhouses near which they are built. Les Mazots Savoyards! Widespread across both the French and Swiss Alps, mazots provide not only a perfect postcard picture from your holiday, but an interesting glimpse into the past.
Constructed by alpine farmers mainly from the late 1700s to mid-1800s, mazots were originally used as multipurpose safes. Food stocks such as grain and dried meats, precious family heirlooms, and valuable personal and business documents were always stored away from the main farmhouse. Now you’re probably wondering why on earth someone would choose to store their most valued and treasured items in a shed in the garden. Afterall, that hardly seems secure.
Well, back then locals didn’t fear thieves. Theft was all but unheard of, such was the solidarity of rural mountain communities. Rodents were a bother, which is why mazots are often raised from the ground and designed to keep items of value inside but pesky creatures out. The next time you happen across a mazot be sure to admire the interlocking wood panels and brass swing-lock cover hiding the keyhole.
Losing important food stocks or other valuable items to rodents wasn’t the main concern either. The biggest issue was fire. Fire was an important part of life. It provided warmth, but also allowed everyday life to function. Remember there was no electricity back then. Alas, fire and wooden chalets - the upper levels of which were usually also filled with straw and hay - did not mix well. Sadly, housefires were not uncommon. So, to avoid losing everything of value should the main house perish in a fire, farming families constructed separate out-buildings… the mighty mazots!
Obviously, times have changed somewhat in the last 200 odd years, and so very few mazots are used as they once were. But these precious little pieces of alpine history are still dotted about the village and mountain landscapes, and with the rise of tourism they are finding a new purpose! Today, visitors to Samoëns and the Grand Massif can enjoy a cute and cosy alternative to larger ski chalet rentals, with many a mazot-conversion beginning to occur in the valley. Alps Accommodation’s latest addition La Cabine is just one gorgeous example, so why not book your stay today?
Come and enjoy not only a cosy and luxurious holiday lodging, but a little piece of Samoëns history! Contact us today, or check out our selection of Mazots.