On 15 September 1861, the first Croix du Nivolet was unveiled by François-Marie Vibert, the Bishop of Maurienne, delegated by Cardinal Billet, who at 78 years old was unable to make the journey himself.
The history of this cross began when the Chambery town council decided to cut the Comte Vert Avenue. To do this the chapelle des Pénitents noirs (Chapel of the Black Penitents) had to be demolished along with its crucifix and cross.
The Prior of the brotherhood, the Count Louis de Fernex de Montgex, a retired intendant, agreed on the condition that the existing cross was moved to a position that could be seen from the Chambery valley. The position of the Croix des Raforniers on the dent du Nivolet was chosen to install the new monumental cross. On the 31 July 1861, the prefect Hippolyte Dieu gave permission for the building of the cross. An appeal was launched and the Count was the principal sponsor. The residents of les Déserts took care of the transport of materials and the businesses of Chambery were involved in the construction. The cross was to be a metal structure covered in tin plate. On 15 September 1861, the cross was ready to be unveiled. In 1867, the arms of the cross were extended by a metre. In 1872, the covering of the cross was changed. In 1877, the cross was set alight in honour of Pope Pius IX.
On 22 December 1909, a hurricane bent the cross. As the damage was beyond repair, a new cross had to be built. A committee was set up, presided over by the Marquis de la Serraz with M. Abrioud as treasurer. Plans were drawn up by M. Gotteland, a bridge engineer, and Messrs. Dénarié and Bertin, architects. The structure of the cross was to be in reinforced concrete covered in aluminium sheets. The Grosse firm was responsible for building it at a cost of 6,500 francs. The height of the cross 21.50 m, depth in the ground 5 m, breadth 9.60 m, circumference 2 m, weight 70 tons. The cross was completed in the autumn of 1910 and was unveiled on Sunday 2 July 1911 by the Vicar General Gavillet in the presence of 3,500 people.
In 1944, the cross was the victim of an attack which damaged its base. On 2 July 1960, M. Charles Montreuil, chair of the committee, unveiled the lighting of the cross which had been decided on for the centenary of the attachment of Savoie to France. As the 1960 system was damaged by lightning and vandals, a new system, paid for by EDF, was installed in 1989 in view of the Albertville Olympic Games.
The Croix du Nivolet can only be reached on foot. The path most used to reach it is the one known as « par les Crêtes » (along the ridges) the starting point of which can be found at Le Sirein the ski resort of la Féclaz. The height differential is no more than 140 m as the resort is generally at the same altitude as the cross, but the walk takes a good hour.
It can also be reached from the le Nivolet high altitude pasture just below it by setting off from the hamlets of Lovettaz (the village of Saint-Jean-d’Arvey) or Pragondran (village of Verel-Pragondran). An equipped route (handrails, cables, steps and iron railings) known as «Pas de l’Échelle » (rungs of the ladder) enables walkers to pass through a fault in the cliff and reach the final plateau and the cross. A steeper variant without equipment is available by the route known as « la cheminée » (the chimney) further to the west. These routes are less used than the crêtes as they require greater effort as well as a certain amount of care.