What to do in Méribel
Méribel is one of the favourite European ski resorts among Brits with its combination of traditional chalet architecture, unparalleled skiing for all levels and a lively après-ski scene.
British skiers have been flocking to Méribel ever since a Scotsman discovered this picturesque, mountain village in the 1930s. This cosmopolitan resort has facilities for the whole family from chic boutiques and chalet-style restaurants to ten-pin bowling and Héli-skiing, while there is round-the-clock entertainment for the party crowd.
With its enviable location at the heart of the Trois Vallées near Courchevel and Val Thorens, Méribel connects into the world’s largest ski region with over 600km of ski slopes supported by 183 ski lifts and over 2,000 snow cannons. Nearby are the beautiful Lake Tuéda and the Vanoise National Park.
Connected by gondola to all six resorts of the Trois Vallées, Méribel offers excellent skiing for all levels and also panoramas over Mont Blanc. It is also home to several British ski schools including the renowned Magic in Motion (www.magic-meribel.com). While Col de la Loze is ideal for beginners, other Méribel ski areas such as Mont de la Chambre, 3 Marches and Mont du Vallon offer extensive skiing for intermediate skiers. Advanced skiers will enjoy the Roc de Fer pistes, host to the women’s ski races for the 1992 Winter Olympics and the 2013 Ski World Cup. You’ll glimpse a memorable view of Mont Blanc and the villages in the valley on the way up by gondola to Tougnète.
Things to Do
Slip into the pool before spa treatments at the sumptuous Spa Nuxe at Méribel’s only five-star hotel Le KaÏla – new for 2013 or more spa treatments at Chalet Hotel Tarentaise. There’s fun for the whole family at the Olympic Sports Centre housing a swimming pool, an ice-rink, ten-pin bowling and a climbing wall.
Non-skiers can purchase a pedestrian lift pass to access mountain restaurants and feast on Alpine views. Take a tour of Méribel-Village forest on a dog sled with Traineau Evasion or
go fishing for fario and rainbow trout in Lake Tuéda from June to October.
Eating and drinking
Rich, cheese-based dishes such as raclette, fondue and tartiflette are all on the traditional Savoyard menu. Make sure you taste Beaufort Été, dubbed the Prince of Gruyère cheeses. You’ll find cozy, wood-panelled chalet restaurants with wooden tables and bench seating all over Méribel serving local cuisine, crêpes and pizzas. Raclette lovers should head to La Fromagerie, while Le Grain de Sel is popular for its gastronomic fare such as snails and foie gras.
You’ll find sports gear galore in Méribel from designer togs such as Prada and Dolce and Gabbana to fashion brands such as Descente, Patagonia and North Face. On Tuesdays and Fridays during winter, there’s a market on route de la Chaudanne selling local produce and clothing. You’ll find English-language books and newspapers at the Maison de la Presse. Most shops open from 10am to 7.30pm with a lunchtime closure.
Nightlife & Entertainment
Méribel lives up to its name as the British home of après-ski in the French Alps. Newcomer for 2013, La Folie Douce has taken Méribel by storm with its St Tropez vibe and excellent restaurant. You’ll find it just below the mid-station of the Saulire Express. A classic place to end your day on the slopes with a drink is on the main Doron piste at Le Rond Point, known as The Ronnie, where toffee vodka is the order of the day and night. At the bottom of the piste, Jack’s Bar offers live music and comedians, while neighboring Evolution Bar & Café will tempt you with its Bad Boy burgers. Night owls flock to Dick’s Tea Bar after 11pm.
Adrenalin junkies can take their pick in Méribel from Heli-skiing to Icefall climbing and paragliding. Mountain guides are available for off-piste skiing and ski touring. Méribel even has a flying school where pilots can brush up their mountain flying skills, while tourists can check out the views on a scenic flight. Snow-shoe excursions and cross-country skiing provide the perfect way to explore Méribel’s Tuéda Nature Reserve and Altiport protected forest. There are 33km of cross-country tracks with blue and green tracks for beginners and red for confirmed nordic skiers.
Founded by Scotsman Colonel Peter Lindsay, the resort of Méribel was created in the 1930s. His first idea to attract the Brits was to build a lift with the help of Olympic skier Émile Allais. After WWII, development continued with the help of architects Paul Grillo (Prix de Rome 1937) and his partner Christian Durupt. Lindsay insisted upon wood-and-stone walls and slanted slate roofs to fit with the Savoyard style.
If you’ve ever fancied zooming James Bond-style down the slopes, you should try out a snowmobile. Long-established Méribel company, Snow Biker rents snowmobiles for adults and kids from 4 years old. A more leisurely tour can be taken in a traditional horse sleigh, available from opposite the Piou Piou kindergarten at Châtelet Bridge in Méribel-Mottaret.
One of the highlights of Méribel is the abundance of beautiful nature trails to cycle or hike around. Bordered by the Grande Casse summit and the Tuéda Nature Reserve, the Vanoise National Park in Méribel provides 53,000 hectares of fenceless haven for Alpine ibex and chamois who wander through the grasslands and Scots pine, fir and beech forests. The park houses over 125 bird species including golden eagles and bearded vultures, as well as hundreds of insect species. You may be lucky enough to spot an Apollo butterfly.
Méribel suits early risers with sun-filled slopes before noon, while many pistes are in afternoon shade and can be icy.
To avoid the lift-pass kiosk queues, you can buy your ski pass through Mark Warner in the UK prior to departure ready for collection on arrival at your chalet hotel.
Don’t miss Moon Park with its ramps and jumps for skiers of all abilities. Younger skiers are also catered for with Le P’tit Moon with its banked turns designed for skiers from 7 to 12 years and Acticross with its tunnels and slaloms for kids from 6 years.
Pistes in Méribel are sometimes trickier than their colour coding suggests: some blue runs feel like reds and some red runs could be blacks.
Louise Simpson is a family travel writer who covers ski and food regularly. She is author of Frommer’s Provence & the Cote d’Azur with your family and Frommer’s Provence & the Riviera Complete Guide.
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