The complete skiers guide to Meribel
27th November 2015
Meribel is one of the most popular ski destinations for British skiers and snowboarders and it’s easy to see why. It’s the most central of all the villages to take advantage of the most famous ski areas in the France, “The Three Valleys” which is the largest linked ski area in the world.
The Three Valleys stretches from Courchevel 1650 to the left as you study the piste map to Val Thorens on the right and covers an incredible 600km of what many regard as the best groomed pistes anywhere. For many British skiers Meribel is the first and often the only choice for a week on the snow.
Meribel is one of the more attractive villages in France. I t has mainly ski chalets accommodation which is dotted along the treeline of the Meribel valley, and with excellent fast ski lifts accessing various points just where they are needed. Although few of the ski chalets are located next to the slopes the free resort bus is reliable and connects well with the chalets and 9 lift departure points. The main departure point is Chaudanne near the resorts centre and ascends high to a ridge above the village, where you can ski to four Courchevel villages and La Tania or to the next valley of Val Thorens, Les Menuires and the attractive village of St Martin de Belleville.
Even disregarding the rest of the Three Valleys, Meribel has a lot of pistes, which includes runs to the satellite village of Meribel Village and the larger more purpose built Meribel Mottaret where more slope side accommodation can be found. Most of the best runs are above the tree line, but in poor weather there are some good runs below and through the trees are available.
For beginners the wonderful flat greens runs around the Altiport (mountain airport for light aircrafts and small private jets) ease nervous first time skiers in to the world of skiing. This beginner’s area can be easily reached via ski bubble Rhodos 1 & 2 from Chaudanne, without any steep sections, often a problem in other resorts. This network of green runs offer plenty of long confidence building runs with modern fast but slow loading ski lifts before progressing to the easy blues in the same area. It was here that I taught my son Sam to ski, back in 2003.
Meribel is one of the best ski destinations for all levels of intermediate skier. Few other ski resorts offer the extent of mile after mile of perfectly groomed pistes that offer such fun to both skiers and boarders. The blue runs connect well with each other and the reds here are proper reds, just the way better intermediates like them. It would be impossible to be bored here even on a month long ski holiday.
Advanced and experts *****
Its the sheer size of the skiing available in the whole ski area that makes Meribel a good choice for experts, although some of the local runs can challenge, Mont Vallon in particular. If you want to earn your turns the off piste here is very good, although as always, please don’t tackle it without an experienced guide, as good knowledge of local conditions is essential to stay safe here.
Snow Boarders *****
The terrain around Meribel is well suited to boarders with some great tree lined runs and an option to ski alongside the pistes between trees. The red runs will delight intermediate boarders some of which are pleasingly steep. For beginners the blues are ideal, however many will find the greens just not steep enough, but will be the perfect place for beginners to the sport. The two terrain parks are some of the best found anywhere. The only local run to avoid is the long and flat blue connecting Mottaret to Meribel, it’s a pig on a snowboard!
Off piste skiing in Meribel*****
If you like your turns away from the groomed piste, Meribel is definitely for you. A favourite of ours reached form the Tetras black run above the Altiport is perfect after fresh snow fall and something for everyone from steep to average in both open and wooded gullies. Cairn is fun too, reached from Plattieres 3 gondola and down a steep couloir towards the Sittelle piste.
If you like to earn your turns and don’t mind a 15 minute hike along a high ridge, a classic run from the Courchevel valley towards Meribel is the Col du Fruit, located well away from any lifts dropping down to the National park to Lac de Tueda, its accessed via the Creux Noirs chair in Courchevel. A local guide is definitely the way to enjoy the off piste skiing, never leave the piste without one here, as there are hidden dangers, but with a guide it can be a scream!
Where to stay in Meribel
Ski Chalets are by far and away the most popular choice for most visitors to Meribel. The choice of chalets to suit all budgets is wide, many featuring hot tubs such as the Chalet Indiana lodge. If you want a ski chalet in Meribel Ski Line feature a choice of over 100 and our team know them all and can suggest the best ones for your budget and taste.
For skiers on a budget the Chalet hotel Grangettes is perfect, but needs to be booked early because its location is A1 right by Chaudanne and always books early.
Club Med has two hotels in Meribel, L’Antares and Le Chalet both offer an all-inclusive ski holiday which are exceptional value for money, but looking at the selling price without not realising it includes a lift pass, full day ski lessons or ski guiding, lunches and drinks from the bar, it might not be so obvious.
For Families the Chalet hotel Alba is ideal, slope side and with excellent childcare. On peak dates this sells out almost before the ink is dry in the brochure, so early booking is essential. For families looking for smaller chalets to share with friends the Chalet L’Ancolie is a good choice.
Night life and après ski *****
If the night life is part of the fun of your skiing holiday, Meribel is ideal. It all kicks off from around 3 o’clock at the Folie Douce at the mid station of the Saulire gondola above Meribel, it’s on the homeward runs for many and is an obvious place to pause, even if you hate dance music, you will certainly enjoy watching the dancers, spraying champagne and letting off fireworks. No other bars in the Alps put on a show quite like the Folie Douce chain, also available in Val d’Isere Val Thorens and Alpe d’Huez. The food at Folie is very good try the burgers!
Later on at tea time, the Rond Point at the top of the resort is popular particularly with the Brits, it attracts a younger crowd and rocks until after the lifts have closed. Later on in the evening the bars around the main square and at Chaudanne are always busy. Dick’s Tea bar closed several years ago and is now an Irish pub, buts its location a good walk from the centre is less appealing. If you are staying in Meribel village, the choice is one bar, called “The Lodge”, we have enjoyed great live bands here and it’s the only choice for the village.
A final note about Brides Les Bains
Some tour operators are cheekily marketing Brides Les Bains as Meribel… Meribel it’s certainly not, the gondola on a good day can take 40 minutes and the queues getting on it can take even longer at weekends. If you can’t afford Meribel we don’t really think Brides Les Bains is a viable alternative, there are better places to stay.