Méribel is a chic chalet-style village in the heart of the extensive 3 Vallées ski area. It has some excellent slopes, a hopping après scene and luxurious hotels, mixed with private chalets.
- Despite being a purpose-built ski village, it still has quaint wooden buildings and the feel of a community.
- Being in the center of the 3 Vallées, it has the most convenient access to all valleys.
- Great restaurants and bars.
- You can’t beat La Folie Douce for an afternoon dance session on the slopes.
- The main village sprawls out and the other satellite villages can feel isolated.
- The resort is extremely popular with the British.
- Bottlenecks appear on some of the main runs and lifts.
- Méribel accommodation, food and drink are expensive.
- Slushy or icy conditions on some slopes based on the time of day.
Méribel is one of the most well-known of the ski resorts in the French Alps and for many good reasons. The resort consists of a huge ski area surrounding one central village and several satellite villages such as Mottaret and Méribel-Village (which is, confusingly, different to the central Méribel village). The majority of the cute shops, great restaurants and happening bars are sited in central Méribel though all villages have direct access to lifts and the slopes.
Situated on one side of the steep valley, the main village is quaint and charming, despite the fact it was purpose built. Most of the buildings are chalets but even the biggest hotels are restricted in height and are built primarily of wood, stone and slate. This is thanks to a strict building code written and enforced by the British colonel, Peter Lindsay, who founded the resort in 1939. He demanded that all architecture be in harmony with traditional Savoyard style.
Although most of the action is in the bottom of the village (called Méribel Centre) along Route de la Montee and Route du Centre, chalets and hotels spread well up the mountain, meaning that many skiers will use the public bus system regularly.
Unlike many other purpose-built ski areas, Méribel feels almost like a community where ‘real people’ would live – there are markets selling local delicacies such as saucisson (cured sausages) and cheese and some lovely stores selling anything from designer ski gear to tacky souvenirs.
Méribel Mottaret is the second major ski hub but is less charming than the main village, with larger hotels (and no building codes), but it is a fantastic place to stay for the quickest access to the best slopes - particularly if you like to ski Val Thorens and Courchevel. Most of the hotels there are ski-in ski-out.
Méribel has one of the great advantages of all the resorts in the 3 Vallées in that it has pistes in the sun at all times of the day. Of course this has its cons as well – those that get warm and soft in the afternoon will freeze overnight and be like a race course injected with ice in the mornings. What it means is that you have to plan your day accordingly. Head to the west side in the mornings, and make your way around the valley to the east side, on the Saulire slopes for a cruise in the afternoon. Conveniently (although no doubt well planned) this is also the location of the famous La Folie Douce après club, which gets packed from lunch-time with party-goers who end up dancing on the tables in ski boots and which stays open until after the lifts close.
Of course you’ll also want to plan your day based on whether you want to ski the neighboring resorts of Les Menuires, Val Thorens (where the snow is the most reliable) and Courchevel.
Most of the skiing is above the tree line and the runs are well connected with an extensive lift system (including many gondolas). The views from up on the peaks are nothing short of spectacular.
Great pistes exist for all levels of skiers, but intermediates in particular will have a blast cruising around the endless number of well-groomed slopes. There is some good, marked terrain for advanced skiers, including runs used for the 1992 Olympic Women’s Downhill and the upcoming World Championships. But in general more experienced skiers looking for a real challenge will benefit from taking a guide to access some of the great off-piste terrain that can be hard to find but great to ski.
There are several good terrain parks including a competition standard half-pipe and a skicross course.
Méribel is a good place for families, especially as there are several gentle beginner areas if your kids are first timers. The resort recently obtained the accreditation of the “Famille Plus” organization. The convenience of on-snow accommodation at Méribel Mottaret would make it a great base, and most of the children’s facilities are just down the hill at La Chaudanne Base area (including ski school, day nursery and Les Piou Piou kindergarten). There are other off-snow activities for kids such as ice-skating, swimming pool, snowmobiling and special children’s night outings during school holidays called “World of Snow” with tales of the mountains.
A large proportion of the Méribel accommodation is catered chalets, including luxurious private homes and those run by large, discount-style tour operators. As well as chalets, Méribel has some apartments and a wide range of hotels, from a few great value hotels in the middle of the village, through to 5-star, super schmick venues. The most convenient place to stay is as close to the center of the main village, or up in Méribel Mottaret.Search Hotels and Deals Get your
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Thanks to the 1992 Winter Olympics being hosted in the area (at Albertville) Méribel has a full-size ice hockey rink and games are played frequently. There’s an attached spa and wellness centre, swimming pool, gym, tenpin bowling and a climbing wall.
The usual side activities of snowmobiling, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing are also offered. For a real thrill you can take joyrides in a small plane from the small Altiport above the village.
The best way to get to Méribel is via bus transfer from the nearest main airports (Geneva and Lyon –three hours, Chambery and Grenoble – two hours) or via train to Moûtiers, just 18kms from Méribel. There are direct trains to Moûtiers from London, Paris and Chambery. A taxi from Moûtiers to Méribel costs about €35.
There is a free bus service within the resort and linking the different villages, as well as plenty of private taxis.
More details, including contacts and price guides are in our 3 Vallées Scout Field Guide.
Méribel opens in the first week of December and operates until the end of April. It is particularly busy during holiday periods as well as during Russian Christmas in the second week of January.
Major events this coming season include:
- FIS Men’s and Women’s World Cup Finals: March 18-22, 2015
|Base Elevation||4590ft / 1400m||Lifts||41||Green||9%|
|Summit Elevation||9680ft / 2950m||Cross Country Ski||90km||Blue||44%|
|Vertical Drop||5090ft / 1550m||Terrain Parks||17 hectares||Red||37%|
|Pistes||93 miles / 150km||Boardercross||Yes||Black||10%|
|3 Vallées total ski area||4410ac / 1785ha||Half Pipe||Yes|
|Operating Hours||9.00am –4.30pm|
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