Méribel resort guide
The central resort of the magnificent Three Valleys ski area, Méribel is comprised of a lively main village and surrounding satellites. Here you’ll find limitless skiing to suit all levels, and an après-ski scene to match.
Part of the Three Valleys, Méribel is a lively resort in the middle of the largest linked lift network on the planet.
It’s impossible to tire of the Three Valleys, host to Europe’s highest resort, Val Thorens, and a seemingly limitless supply of sweeping groomed runs, as well as some exciting off piste terrain. Méribel is at the heart of it, and whilst the snow is superior in Courchevel and Val Thorens, Méribel’s excellent lift system can get you to the best slopes anyway.
Unlike other purpose-built French resorts, Méribel is more traditional in style. Whilst its satellite villages are less lively, the main village is always bustling, inviting a loyal fan-base back year after year. Buses connect Méribel’s different areas, but for getting to other Three Valleys resorts not on skis, a car is recommended.
Resorts facts and figures
Resort altitude 1400-1700m
Highest point 3230m
Ski area Three Valleys (lift passes also available just for Méribel and Méribel-Mottaret, with the option to buy a one-day Three Valleys extension)
Pistes available Beginner: 15%, Intermediate: 70%, Expert: 15%
Best for All levels of skier wil be happy here, but intermediates probably take the biggest slice of the pie.
Méribel is made up of three parts: Méribel Centre, Méribel Village and Méribel-Mottaret. The three villages are each linked into the lift system which forms the heart of the famous Trois Vallées ski area. With 600km of runs there is something for everyone, from cruising blues and greens to a fair amount of steep and deep to challenge even the most experienced. Méribel is at 1450m and this is pretty much the base of the ski area, reaching up to the highest peak which tops 3000m (Mont Vallon), a good height by anyone’s standards.
Méribel’s great advantage lies in its location. Being right at the centre, naturally it has the best access to the entirety of the Three Valleys and, with two new lifts ready for the 2012-13 season, getting around has never been quicker or easier. The Saulire bubble leading from Méribel Centre up to the top of Courchevel valley will be fully completed, nearly halving a journey previously around 20 minutes long, and Plattières 1 and 2 will be combined into one speedy trip up towards Val Thorens.
It is true that Méribel is often just seen as somewhere to be ‘passed through’ on the way to the more distinctive skiing of the valleys either side (and what’s wrong with that?). But we would say that there are a few spots that shouldn’t be missed: Mont Vallon on a sunny day for the views (or on a powder day to head off piste), mogul fans won’t satisfied until they’ve tackled Bosses under the Plan de l’Homme chair, and the whole valley is filled with intertwining reds and blues that are an intermediate’s paradise. For those in the know there are also some fantastic off-piste runs, notably on the back of Mont Vallon and above Les Allues.
The beginner area is above the village, at the mid station of the Rhodos lift, meaning that it is out of the way of skiers funnelling down into the Chaudanne lift centre and that it keeps good conditions on a sunny day. There is a good section of gentle greens around the Altiport and a roped off area for the first timer with a magic carpet and plenty of space for lessons.
The Three Valleys attracts many a loyal skier year on year and, with more reasonable pricing than Courchevel and a much prettier village than Val Thorens, it’s easy to see why, for many, Méribel is the obvious choice.
The village centre is a little more laid back than Courchevel, with shops full of every kind of skiwear from the latest equipment to the obligatory French fashion boutiques! Equally there are bars to suit every taste. For a quiet drink head to Le Poste for a civilised cocktail or choose from an extensive selection at the Wine Bar at the top of town. If you have a more raucous evening planned then starting off at the Rond Point has for years been the only way to kick off the party – though this will surely be rivalled by the Folie Douce which opens this year under the mid station of Saulire. Then pick from various places in the village which offer live music most evenings, La Taverne, Le Pub, Barometer, Jack’s or Evolution to name just a few, before inevitably ending up at Dick’s Tea Bar,which is just as lively as its Val d’Isère namesake.
Getting around is easy - there is an efficient free bus service which runs around the resort in three loops. All begin in Méribel-Centre and head to either Méribel-Village, to Mottaret or to the Altiport via Morel. Once in the village centre everything is within a few minutes’ walk.
For the non-skier there is plenty going on. If you are feeling active then there are various trails that you can use to take in the scenery – even some without too much of an incline - Lac Tueda from Mottaret is a particular favourite. Take a wander around the village and test out some of the creperies, a visit to the Grand Marnier Creperie is one not to be missed! The Olympic Sports Centre just next to the Chaudanne offers ice-skating, bowling and swimming. There are 6 bowling lanes as well as pool tables, a games arcade and air hockey with a Sports bar showing all the big games. Each Tuesday and Thursday is 'flourescent' night, when the lights are dimmed, the music is turned up and everything glows in the dark! There’s also a cinema showing English films two or three times a week.
While Méribel has never really been considered a truly gourmet experience, if you know where to look then you can find a hidden gem or two. In Méribel Village, for example, Le Bo À Mil is a restaurant that many don’t know exists and it serves up some excellent Savoyarde treats. La Fromagerie does exactly what it says on the tin, offering a range of cheesy delights including raclette and fondu, whilst you can head to any number of places for a reasonably priced pizza or burger. On-mountain, the Adray Telebar has a good reputation and the renowned tables of Courchevel and St Martin such as La Soucoupe and La Bouitte are just a valley away. For a hearty lunch on the move the ‘Mountain Burger’ stop in Méribel-Mottaret is legendary amongst seasonnaires.
Méribel insider tips
- Stick to the bright Tougnete side of the valley in the morning and take in the afternoon sun on the Saulire side when it has softened up
- Avoid the last section of Martre/Aigle into Mottaret and at the end of the day and the Doron into Méribel Centre - there’s no shame in taking the bubble down to avoid the crowds and a potential accident!
- Snowboarders watch out for the Ours and Truite runs, both with a few long stretches of flat – you may need a skier friend to lend you a pole…
- Use the Col de la Loze to cross over into Courchevel, the top of Saulire gets very busy at times
- For the most backcountry experience to be had on a powder day head over early to La Masse on the far side of Val Thorens, a bit of a journey but well worth it!
Family and ski school
ESF is the largest ski school, with English-speaking instructors available. New Generation, Snow Systems and Magic Snowsports are other options, some featuring heliskiing for those so inclined. For childcare, please ask us when you call us and we can advise on the options available.
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