Last week we wrote a blog on ski holiday planning, covering all the key questions to consider to book the perfect holiday. The greatest decision undoubtedly, which will make or break your holiday, is the choice of resort. Each resort has it’s own strengths, weaknesses and quirks and the key to the perfect ski holiday is picking the right resort for your party. To aid the process we thought we’d help with providing some handing resort guides, with insider tips and info. And with no further ado, to kick us off, we have our Méribel resort guide.
Skiing or Snowboarding in Meribel
Meribel, Coeur des Trois Vallees (the heart of the Three Valleys), as it proudly titles itself, is an amazing resort and a great base to explore them all. And with 600kms of pisted runs to explore, as well as considerable off piste terrain we’re pretty sure there’s plenty to keep all the party busy for a season, let alone a week. Combine that with a lively après and party scene in the main town, or plenty of quiet villages just a ski lift or short bus journey away, and you can start to see why Méribel is such a popular resort which offers something for everyone.
Méribel is perfect for…. Intermediates
Meribel is a treasure trove for all skill levels, but with 44 blue and green runs as opposed to 32 red and black ones it’s slightly more weighted to beginner intermediate than advanced piste skiers.
If, however, you’re intermediate-advanced and looking to do some freestyle or off piste then there’s LOTS to choose from. The Moon Park in Meribel has great green and blue lines, whereas the DC Park in Mottaret has challenging red and black kickers, not to mention the superpipe. The off piste in Meribel is also fantastic- keep reading for our recommendations later. Beginners will head up the Rhodos to use the wide gentle green runs around the Altiport area, and it’s best to go back down on the Rhodos bubble until later in the week when your instructor says you’ll be able to manage the blue run back down to the town centre. Once you’ve mastered the greens and blues you can head all over the valley.
Where to stay in Méribel
Before telling you about the different villages within the Méribel Valley, it’s worth noting that Méribel has a fantastic bus service is fantastic. Buses run frequently with 3 different lines to connect La Chaudanne and Méribel Centre with: Méribel Village and Les Allues (Line A), Morel, 1600, plateau and Altiport (Line C) and Mottaret (Line D). And the best part…. all buses are free. You don’t even need a lift pass to use them. Plus they run from approx 7:00 to 00:30.
Meribel Centre (1500m)
This is the busiest village in the valley with a large selection of shops, bars and restaurants, not to mention ‘La Chaudanne’- the main area at the bottom of the pistes and where you find the main lifts up the hill. You’ll also find the essentials in Méribel Centre, like the Tourist Office, Post Office, banks, cinema etc. There are different parts to the town: staying in Mussillion a little further down means you’ll take the bus to get up to the the lifts (or a tricky walk in ski boots); Les Hauts is to the east and includes the areas a little further up the hill (Morel, 1600 and Plateau) where you can generally find a little pathway through to get to and from the pistes; with Belvedere and Altiport a lot further up the hill but very easy for ski in and ski out. Expect to take the bus to get into town from here, or taxis after the buses stop around midnight.
Méribel Village (1400m)
Meribel Village, is a lovely little town to the north of Méribel Centre that you access by ski or road. With just one bakery, one hire shop, one small supermarket, one bar and two restaurants it’s not the busiest place, but the bar Lodge du Village gets pretty hectic on certain après and band nights. You can take the bus from here to Méribel Centre or Les Allues from 8am to midnight so you’ll have no worries getting around, but there is only a blue run down into the village. So if it’s your first week don’t expect to be able to ski back into the village. Instead you can take a bus or download on the Golf chair lift.
Les Allues (1100m)
Further north down the valley you’ll find Les Allues and surrounding villages. Known to the expats as L.A, it’s the most French in the area and has the town hall (Mairie) along with the older properties, French owned bars and restaurants and a wee supermarket for all your essentials. If you don’t want to take the bus then the Olympic gondola stops in Les Allues, but although there is a ski run down to the village, it can get a bit grassy and rocky if snow conditions are poor, meaning you can’t always ski to the village in early or late season. Most of the Tour Operator run chalets offer a driving service from here and the other local villages (Chandon, Raffort, Les Cruets).
Méribel-Mottaret is the place to stay if you’re looking for self catering options as you’ll find the widest and most economical selection here. At 1750m it’s higher than Méribel and further south up the valley, but only about 15 minutes drive or a short bus ride away. There are lots of French hotels and apartment blocks where you can rent an apartment for the week, and reasonable cost, so perfect for the budget conscious. It’s pretty quiet in terms of nightlife with only a few restaurants and the French bar Downtown.
Where to eat in Méribel
Where to eat? Oh I could go on for hours! For budget nosh, get a tub of noodles on the Rond Point terrace or grab a Mountain burger in Mottaret next door to the Sherpa (mini supermarket) where you can buy a drink too. If you’re down in La Chaudanne then Jack’s bar do great pizzas and paninis, nachos and burritos from noon until midnight.
For regular priced meals, La Terrasse in Méribel Village has rotisserie chicken (and lamb sometimes) along with a tasty menu of steaks, salads, ribs and other grills. Evolution in La Chaudanne in Méribel Centre has a wide menu- Burgers, steaks, plat du jour, veggie options, Saturday night all-you-can-eat nights (Tapas, Indian, Thai, Chinese) and a bread and butter pudding to die for. La Taverne also in Méribel Centre has a lovely restaurant downstairs from the bar, serving savoyarde favourites alongside grills and salads. Last winter’s tuna sashimi and pork belly duo were among my favourites. La Fromagerie is a place for cheese lovers: It looks like just a shop on street level, but, you feel as though you’ve entered a cheese sauna as soon as you step down the stairs into the restaurant. Absolute heaven for cheese fans. But will little else to choose from other than raclette and fondue those with dairy intolerances might like to eat elsewhere.
For something a little more special, try Aux Petits Oignons in 1600 with an open fire in the centre of the room and delights such as carpaccio, fillet of lamb and baked cheese with salad. All freshly prepared by head chef Eric you’ll be left wanting for nothing. My other favourite? La Blanchot. Up by the Altiport. It has amazing views, exceptional food, and on a clear night you’ll get the best star-gazing up there away from the busier town centre.
Pick of the pistes
Due to it’s valley shape Méribel pistes can get a little icy at times so its best to follow the sun around the slopes as it softens in the morning. So, starting with Olympic first thing, you can take in the views before making your way down towards Mottaret, up Mont Vallon around lunchtime, over to the Pas du Lac/Saulire side in the afternoon, a quick trip down to Méribel Village and then back up to end with après at the Ronnie or Jacks bar (more info below!).
Favourite pistes along this route would be Roc de Fer, Blaireau, Combe du Vallon, Biche, Chamois, Lapin.
Secret powder stashes
Although not as renownded for off pistes as resort such as Val d’Isere there is certainly plenty to keep yuo busy if you’re lucky enough for fresh snow during your stay. There are big powder fields on Mont Vallon and under Tougnette and Pas du lac, with the Saulire couloirs if you’re feeling adventurous. If you’re new to off piste then the gentler lines off Boulevard de Loze or underneath Adret are a great place to start. And if its low visibility then the tree runs around Méribel Village stay clearer.
If you don’t know the area however then take a guide or instructor and ensure you’re fully equipped with avalanche safety equipment and know how to use it. And word to the wise, if you’re not sure, don’t go. There will be another holiday and fresh line to make.
Méribel doesn’t allow any high rise buildings so you’ll find that it’s spread outwards rather than upwards, causing the views of chocolate box wooden chalets when you look down on the town from the peaks.
There’s a market twice a week, Tuesdays and Fridays, running up Route de la Montee in Meribel centre.
The pastries in the Méribel Village bakery are unsurpassed,
After the lifts close
If you didn’t get your fill of snow, then after the lifts close you can have even more fun with night skiing and sledging in Mottaret on Christmas and New Year’s eve, then on each Thursday in February and Friday 4th March.
If you’ve had enough snow but still want some fun then two of the most famous french après bars on the pistes can be found in Meribel – Le Rond Point (Ronnies) and La Folie Douce. In addition, there is live music as après at various bars in town every night of the week. Speak to your chalet host or instructor, or to bar staff in town for recommendations. Last season’s favourites were Hobo Chic and Daisy B with gentle, more acoustic sets, whereas Bring Your Sisters, The Elements and The Dominoes gigs tend to get more raucous. For locations, try Jack’s Bar, Lodge du Village and Meribar.
The town tends to quieten down between 7 and 10pm when most people are munching dinner in a restaurant or in your chalet or apartment, but at around 10:30 the evening gigs begin. Scott’s Bar and Evolution have great open mic sessions so if anyone in your group is a budding performer they can get up on stage and often get a free shot or drink for their efforts. Otherwise head to La Taverne, Jack’s bar, The Pub or Lodge du Village for some party action. Tuesday nights often ends up pretty busy as a lot of staff in the valley have Wednesdays as their only day off.
So, drumroll….. the scores on the doors, to help you decide if Méribel the resort for you?
beginners *** 3/5
intermediates ***** 5/5
advanced ** 2/5
après scene **** 4/5
families *** 3/5
dining *** 3.5/5
But that’s just our opinion. We’d love to be disagreed with. Or perhaps you have some better suggestions? Please add any comments below and share the wealth.
Words Katy Jennings