There are plenty of reasons to love Méribel, not least for its pretty, chalet-style architecture, wooded surroundings and friendly, village atmosphere. But the prime reason is its central position within France’s huge Trois Vallées ski area.
To the east are the resorts of Courchevel and La Tania, and to the west,Val Thorens. Together with Méribel these combine to make one of the largest linked ski areas in the world, with more than 600km of pistes.
Founded by British skier Peter Lindsay in 1938, Méribel’s chalet developments now extend high up a west-facing slope. The villages of Méribel Centre range from 1,600m to 1,700m and include Mussillon and Altitude 1600 to the east and Rond Point and Belvedere to the west. The highest area is Altiport (1,700m). Feeding into Méribel by shuttle bus and gondola are the lower outlying resorts of Brides les Bains (600m), Les Allues (1,200m) and Méribel Village (1,400m).
At the top of the valley is Méribel-Mottaret at 1,750m, a satellite resort. Access to Méribel’s neighbouring resorts and the area as a whole has improved thanks to recent investment in lifts. Upgraded in 2013, the Saulire Express gondola whisks up to 2,400 people an hour from the centre to the Saulire peak at 2,700m, taking 12 minutes (halving the previous time). From Mottaret the revitalised Plattières gondola takes nine minutes to reach 3 Marches at 2,704m. The fast, comfortable Combes chairlift, also from Mottaret, has further reduced queuing times, and in recent years two beginners’ areas have opened at Méribel-Mottaret.
The height of these peaks, along with Mont du Vallon – the highest point in Méribel’s local ski area at nearly 3,000m – means good snow throughout the season, even if in March it can get a little slushy. On the downside, its high, wide slopes are unsheltered and not great on poor-weather days, while experts lament a lack of challenging terrain. Long queues for some lifts can also be a problem.
Accommodation is mostly in upmarket chalets but there’s also a good selection of hotels and self-catering apartments. The spread-out geography of the resort means it’s important to choose your location carefully, particularly if you want ski-in/ski-out accommodation. However, companies offering chalets without direct access to the piste usually provide efficient private minibus transfers – and the roomy resort buses are free of charge. There’s a lively après scene and the resort is frequented by a large number of Brits – a plus or a minus depending on how you look at it.
Méribel caters well for the alpine shopper, with a predictable number of technical ski and snowboarder wear outlets in the resort, plus shops selling designer brands and interior design. The best bakery is Glaciers on Route de la Montée in the centre of the resort, while the Maison de la Presse on the same street sells English newspapers. For local Savoyard cheeses, head for La Fromagerie at Galerie des Cimes near the centre. Twice weekly (Tuesdays and Fridays), there’s a small market on the Route de la Chaudanne.
The Olympic Centre built for the 1992 Winter Olympics is open daily, offering a 25m indoor swimming pool, children’s pool, waterslide, fitness centre, climbing wall, spa and indoor ice-rink. Snow-shoeing, horse-sleigh tours, snowmobiling and walking routes are also available.
The combination of extensive slopes, superb location, and attractive architecture makes Méribel one of Europe’s safest bets for a great holiday.
For more info on this package please contact Clare Miller at Clare@dmcsportstravel.co.za