View from mountainside of Meribel ski village, in the French Alps.

Méribel

Les 3 Vallées, Savoie, French Alps

A central location makes this arguably the best choice for exploring this vast ski area, although anyone looking for sheltered, tree-lined pistes will find them right here.

The sheltered, deep valley setting means that local pistes tend to be steeper than in neighbouring resorts, so you’ll come back a better skier.

Lone skier passing rocky outcrop at la Saulire, between Courchevel and Meribel

The Ski Area

There can be few skiers who aren’t already well aware of the vastness of the 3 Valleys ski area. Why visit just one major ski resort when you can ski four of them? Courchevel, Méribel, Les Menuires and Val Thorens all come at a price, however, the full 3V lift pass being among the most costly in the Alps, but when you consider the epic mileage on offer, not to mention the mind-blowing scale and complexity of the lift system then it begins to look more like a solid value package.

For many skiers it can be. Skiing even part of it takes longer than you might imagine, not least since in addition to the big four you’ll find yourself being sidetracked by some of the varied and rewarding terrain tucked away around satellite areas like La Tania, Saint-Martin de Belleville and Orelle. This means that there’s something somewhere for just about everyone, whatever their fitness level or technical ability. You can stretch both here, or back off and take it easy on the kind of long, wide blue-graded cruises which so many of today’s skiers have come to expect, and which modern family-focused resorts have become adept at providing.

If there’s a downside then we’d have to say that despite the sheer size of it all, the global awareness of the 3 Valleys means that certain connecting runs (and those immediately above the larger villages) can become congested at peak times. So if you’re happier in a wild, back-to-nature setting which for much of the time you have largely to yourself, you might do better to select somewhere on a more human scale elsewhere.

Resort Information

Altitude : 1100m - 2952m
Méribel
Pistes Total:
150 km
9 Green
36 Blue
30 Red
10 Black
Ski Resort Lifts : 42
1 Magic Carpets
13 Draglifts
17 Chairlifts
15 Gondolas
Trois Vallées
Pistes Total:
600 km
48 Green
135 Blue
119 Red
33 Black
Ski Domain Lifts: 180
38 Chairlifts
1 Funitel
33 Gondolas
2 Cable Cars

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Visitors among ski boutique and hotels at Meribel

The Ski Village

Don’t think of it as a single village, since the locations here are surprisingly complex. Altitude-wise, accommodation begins around Les Allues (1100m) and Le Raffort (1200m), two traditional villages with some surprisingly upmarket chalet accommodation and linked to the main ski area by the Olympe gondola from Brides-les-Bains. Next come Méribel Village (1400m) and Méribel Centre (1500m), which as their name suggests, look and feel like the heart of things.

The most prized locations, however, are to be found in Méribel Les Hauts, set among pine forests at upwards of 1600m. Here Le Plateau has many of the facilities and services found in Centre, including Piou-Piou kids’s club and ski-school meeting points, while Le Rondpoint is more compact and more chic, most of the accommodation being ski-in/ski-out. Just above, at 1700m is L’Altiport, with wide pistes, a snow-covered airstrip, direct access to the pistes, novice areas, boardercross, etc., and in summer an 18-hole golf course

Highest of all at 1750m is Méribel Mottaret, which although higher-rise in appearance is not unattractive. It’s also ski-in/ski-out and is particularly popular with early- and late-season skiers.

Staying There

Value for Money Accommodation Dining Out Nightlife Village Charm

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Skiers and other visitors at ski show with village and mountainside in background

Best For

If convenience and high-mileage skiing are important to you then Méribel should be near the top of your shortlist. True, there are more affordable locations in the 3 Valleys, but Méribel sits in the very heart of it all, so has a strong appeal to anyone planning to ski a different area each day with the minimum repetition, route-wise. It’s also celebrated for its classic piste-side serviced chalets, although there’s no shortage of similarly well-located hotel and self-catering apartment accommodation.

For a mountain location it’s surprisingly sheltered, since it sits in a relatively steep-sided valley, something to consider if you’re a novice or less than confident skier by planning in advance to complete your return journeys at the end of the day with a relaxing descent in one of the resort’s three gondola lifts. There’s really no shame in not over-stretching yourself.

The only downside of the central location is that it obviously won’t suit anyone hoping to ski in solitude, since in addition to the large numbers of skiers based here, many more will be passing through (and back again) during the course of the day.

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Skiing There

Beginners / Families Intermediates Advanced / Expert Mountain Scenery

Snowboarding

Plenty of choice from beginners fun zones to the DC Area 43, one of the best snowparks in Europe.
2 Snowparks
4 Snowboarder Cross


Cross-Country Skiing

Choice of two sites in Meribel offering beginner to technical challenges.
33km Cross-Country and Nordic Ski Trails

Handiski...

  • 50% discount on the ski pass (proof required, conditions apply).
  • Reserved parking at all indoor car parks; 1 space at the Olympic Centre, 1 space at la Chaudanne, 2 spaces in Méribel-Mottaret.
  • Accessible public toilets at la Chaudanne, Méribel and Méribel-Mottaret Tourist Offices.
  • Various hotel accommodation available with lift access. Contact Tourist Office for advice on +33 (0)4 79 08 60 01
  • Access to the ski area from various points for beginner to advanced level sit-skiers. Visit Société des Trois Vallées for detailed information.
  • English speaking specialist instruction (including for visually or hearing impaired skiers, Down's Syndrome, seated skiing) and loan of equipment by ESF.

icon-smileyYes please...

  • Near-limitless skiing in the world’s biggest linked ski area.
  • Premium skiing experience.
  • Modern, high-capacity lift system.
  • Traditionally-styled architecture.
  • Hotels and staffed chalets catering for the most discerning.
  • Blue-chip ‘Cred Factor’.

icon-frowneyYes but...

  • Trois-Vallées lift-pass offers a lot of skiing, but at a price.
  • Its popularity means that the local pistes can get congested.
  • Be prepared to queue for gondola lifts at peak times.

icon-winkingOur Tips

  • Ski the steeper and most heavily-trafficked pistes early, before the careful overnight grooming is lost to more demanding moguls.

Practical Information

Getting there

By Car
For Dover-Calais ferry travel, other cross-channel routes, offers and bookings visit P&O Ferries

Autoroute A43 Lyon / Albertville, then N90 to Moûtiers. Follow the signs for Vallée de Bozel / Méribel.

By air
The nearest airport is Chambéry Savoie Mont Blanc with a transfer time of about 90 minutes. Lyon, Geneva, and Grenoble are all good alternatives.

By train
Ski trains run from late December to early April and take you direct into Moûtiers.
See Altibus for bus connections.

Book your TGV fast train from Paris or Eurostar’s ski train direct to the French Alps with .

Transfers
Visit Ski-Lifts for the best range of ski transfer destinations from airports and main rail stations.


Where to stay

Les Fermes de Meribel

Residence Les Fermes de Meribel

Les Fermes de Meribel is a luxury residence which lies in the heart of Meribel Village in wooded surroundings, 50m from the nearest chair lift. The resort centre is approximately 2km away (free shuttle bus 50m away).
This MGM built development has spacious and comfortable apartments divided between 6 traditional stone and wood chalets incorporating 119 apartments.

Les Fermes de Meribel has its own underground parking, a spacious reception with a lounge area and open fireplace, TV, and free WIFI internet access. There is a laundry room (payable), ski lockers and a left luggage room.
There is the “Deep Nature Spa” by Algotherm offering free access to the private indoor heated swimming-pool, fitness room, sauna and steam rooms. Also on offer are facial and body treatments (payable).
All the stylish apartments at Les Fermes de Meribel are fitted and furnished to a very high standard of comfort and convenience. They have a fully equipped kitchenette with 4-ring ceramic hob, fridge, dishwasher, oven, electric coffee-maker and a toaster. All apartments have TV, a telephone (payable)and a balcony or terrace.

Enquiries and bookings:
Ski Collection
0844 576 0175 (UK)
or +44 (0)2392 890 960
reservations@skicollection.co.uk


Insight: Méribel

View from the mountainside of skiers at Meribel ski resort, French Alps

Insight: Méribel

O

ur first glimpse of Méribel is from a cabin of the Olympe gondola lift, which has carried us on a truly epic 25-minute journey up from our base in Brides-les-Bains, with pick-ups along the way at the modest but increasingly desirable hamlets of Le Raffort and Les Allues. All the while we’ve been gazing in awe at the effects of the heavy and sustained snowfalls which have contributed to the 3 Valleys’ reputation as a world-class destination for skiers.

As we step from the gondola we join a rapidly-building wave of skiers already converging on the heart of Méribel 1450 and reckon we’ve got here not a minute too soon. Getting from the gondola to the other lifts takes a couple of minutes, during which we share the collective buzz of anticipation. Like all skiers we love arrivals, and the moment when we have to decide where to begin exploring a ski area. This time, however, the scale of what’s out there waiting to be discovered is something else.

View of gondola ski lift with snow-covered mountainside
Wide view of skiers moving between lifts, with wooded mountainside in background

Up from Méribel and over into Courchevel, via Combe Saulire

Size may not be everything, but it’s hard to ignore, so after checking the piste-map, we decide to do what most skier do, and get the most obvious, time-honoured attractions out of the way first, before everyone else shows up. Climbing aboard the Saulire gondola for the haul up to the exposed 2378m summit gets us straight to an impressive point of entry to the neighbouring Courchevel sector. At the top the visibility is just perfect and so is the snow depth, as we thread our way among the other skiers attacking with varying degrees of aggression the already-forming moguls on the steep Combe Saulire then relax on the ultra-wide, immaculately-groomed final cruise past restaurant terraces an on into the unmistakable front-de-neige of Courchevel 1850.

This place is a magnet for celeb-spotters but we’re here to ski, so we press onward below le Forum and a couple of minutes later find ourselves arriving in Courchevel 1550. In all it’s taken us little more than thirty minutes to get here from Méribel. Now that’s what you call well-connected. However, given the numbers of people who had also decided to head over, it doesn’t exactly qualify for great adventure status, even if it is an established classic. But we have to admit that it was fun, and having got it out of our system we take a gondola-ride followed by a cable-car, and find ourselves back up at Saulire, with the idea of spending the rest of the day getting to know some of the ample terrain which lies above Méribel.

Wide overview of skiers on ridge with ski lifts and mountain background
View past piste sign to snow-covered valley, ski village and mountains
High view of morning skiers descending piste, with chairlift and mountains

As we’d expected, the red-graded return steeps have also become quite heavily moguled, but near-perfect weather conditions mean that the snow remains forgiving, with barely hint of slush. We soon discover Chardonneret, a much calmer blue cruising run, which connects to other less-travelled terrain, giving us plenty of time to enjoy the scenery on our way down to Méribel 1450. Blending into the forested lower sections are some of the showpiece individual chalets which have become synonymous with Méribel. It’s easy to see why this long ago became one of the most desirable of all Alpine locations.

Relaxed skiing like this certainly has its appeal (and feels even more so if it’s accessible instantly from your doorstep). We’re clearly not the only ones who share this sentiment, judging by the large number of skiers starting to make their way down sedately to see the displays of the Rossignol Demo Tour, which rolled into town a few days ago. Méribel 1450’s bar and restaurant terraces are starting to fill with early finishers – hardly surprising, since at any hour the village is a lively hang-out, particularly for those who don’t have lift to catch and head back down the mountain.

Wide overview of skiers setting off into big mountain landscape

Méribel to Saint-Martin de Belleville: skiing red (then turning blue)

The next day we return to re-ski a handful of reds and blues, warming up for a foray over to the Belleville Valley. The Tougnète gondola and onward chairlift haul us up to the dividing ridge for one of the great Alpine panoramas, beyond which lie Les Menuires and Saint-Martin de Belleville, our target for this morning. Our chosen route (recommended by fellow journalist and ultimate ski enthusiast Arnie Wilson) is Jerusalem, a red-graded piste which would be very easy to overlook on the map. Skiing it, though, we can see the appeal, starting with a couple of steep and currently moguled sections, followed by a series of much faster roller coaster humps before a sudden turn feeds onto a long blue run which snakes its way into the village of Saint-Martin de Belleville. Thanks for the tip, Arnie.

After a relaxed restaurant lunch overlooking the village square, we take the drag-lift beside the novice area and climb aboard the chair-lifts for the long ride back up to Tougnète. It soon becomes all too clear that weather conditions are now deteriorating fast, making it unwise to head over to Les Menuires, let alone Val Thorens. After a long lift-ride memorable on this occasion for searingly glacial winds, we finally get to defrost ourselves on the much more sheltered terrain above Mottaret, filling in a few gaps in our knowledge for awhile before powering down among the trees and into Méribel 1450. Today it’s an even better place to be, with no hint of the blustery conditions making things increasingly difficult for skiers elsewhere.

Rear overview of skier passing chalets, with big mountain background
Skiers on steep piste high above ski village set among trees

Further down the mountain things look even calmer, so rather than joining the return gondola for a long descent right away we extend our skiing time by discovering one of the less-obvious routes on the piste map. Villages, a long blue-graded scenic trail, leads us through silent, remote-feeling landscapes before dropping through woodland and petering-out just above Les Allues. From here a couple of minutes’ walk brings us to the intermediate station of the Olympe gondola for the final descent into Brides-les-Bains. Having previously merely skirted it, or passed through en-route to other areas, we’ve enjoyed spending some time getting to know Méribel. Being in the heart of things, it delivers exactly what mile-hungry skiers are looking for, and despite the image, the villages feel surprisingly friendly. In fact, both on and off the mountain you won’t be short of company here. MountainPassions heart icon

Lone skier on country trail passing mountain chalet, with forests