Located centrally in the world-famous Three Valleys ski area, Meribel gives the best possible access to some of the very best skiing to be found anywhere on the planet.
Yup. Bold claim. But you don't have to take our word for it. Ask any serious skier and Meribel will be right at the top of their bucket list. Snowheads travel from all over the world to experience the incredible piste and off-piste skiing on offer here.
And it's not just for people who do backflips off the first lift.
Meribel offers something for everyone, no matter what your background, your budget or your experience level.
Meribel was purpose-built as a ski resort in 1936 by a British army officer. It is a charming mix of chalets and small hotels – no sprawling concrete monoliths here. Although quite anglicised, Meribel has retained all its traditional Savoyard charms. At night, the resort is lively without being too loud or in your face. Compare the Three Valleys to other ski areas...
* Percentages based on Meribel Valley only. Prices are indicative and approximate basedon full-area lift pass.
** Local area (Meribel Valley only) and full area (all three valleys)
Welcome to an exciting new chapter in your life! Meribel is a great place to start out skiing.
You will need some ski lessons to get you started. Here in Meribel, there are loads of ski schools to choose from, all offering lessons in English - commonly from native speakers.
Your very first lesson will begin on what's known as a 'nursery' slope. A very gentle, short and wide-open piste.
After that it's on to the green slopes: nice gentle descents while you find your feet. Almost one-tenth of Meribel slopes are green. In relative terms, that's a lot. You can tell when you're on a green slope because all the marker signs will be green.
Once you begin to gain in confidence, you will progress from green runs to blue. Now the 'real' skiing begins, and you will probably never go back to the green runs again. After all, you're a pro now!
Meribel ski slopes are often very wide, which is ideal as you progress onto blue pistes. The hardest part about skiing is turning. On a wide slope, you have plenty of time to plan your next turn.
You will need to buy specialist ski clothing. A ski jacket and salopettes (trousers), base layers, mid-layers (fleece), ski gloves, ski socks, leggings/long-johns, goggles. Helmet can be bought or hired.
La Chaudanne is the name of the main chair lift in Meribel centre. It gives access to most of Meribel's skiing. Here you will find the main lift pass office and a kindergarten. It's a natural meeting place for groups.
If it's your first ski or snowboard holiday, you will definitely need lessons. There are many local providers and your accommodation provider will be able to recommend someone for you.
You will need to buy a lift pass to grant you access to the ski lifts which get you up the mountainside. On your first trip, a local lift pass should be sufficient, giving you access to the whole of the Meribel valley.
You will need holiday insurance with specific winter-sports cover. You can get this for as little as £15 for the whole week and, for a few unfortunate souls, it really is money well-spent.
It can get very sunny up on the mountain, so be sure to pack some lip balm, sun tan lotion and ski googles. The snow acts as a giant mirror so, on a clear day, you can get burnt without even realising it.
A good level of basic fitness is a big help with skiing, and a few pre-holiday gym sessions can pay dividends. You are going to be working your legs very hard and in ways which you might not be used to.
So you have a few ski trips under your belt already and you're pretty confident cruising the blues and a few reds. Well welcome to the intermediate skier's paradise.
Wide, cruising blues and reds connect the whole area, allowing you to tour from mountain to mountain, village to village. With such wide open pistes, you can sweep effortlessly from turn to turn. Take in those amazing views.
The sheer scale and variety here is mind blowing. With 600km of pistes, you can barely scratch the surface in a week-long holiday. The vertical drop is 1850m. That's double the height of Scafell Pike, England's highest peak. Imagine skiing down that twice without stopping!
With all that skiable height and distance, you need good lifts to get you back up again. Luckily, the ski lift infrastructure in the Three Valleys is world-leading. No fewer than 200 ski lifts! With the vast majority being high-speed lifts, you can back up top in no time at all.
If you've found your groove on skis or a snowboard but want to take it to the next level, then Meribel really is the perfect location to break away from the intermediate's plateau. Find out how and why...
Intermediate skiers sometimes suffer from a feeling of stagnation. "I've been doing that for a while now. I keep doing the same runs with the same techniques. I feel like I could be doing better."
Well first off, there's nothing wrong with staying at the same level. You're on holiday, after all. You're skiing for fun, not to be the next Olympic champion.
But what if you are enjoying your skiing less than you used to? What if you start to feel that frustration that you're not pushing yourself any more? What if you are feeling ready for new skiing challenges?
If that's you, then it's time to escape the intermediate plateau. And where better than Meribel?
Meribel has some amazing ski schools. After all, The Three Valleys is a Mecca for the world's most talented skiers and boarders. With so many top-flight instructors on hand, ski lessons in Meribel really aren't just for first-timers.
Learning something new and finding new challenges are what it's all about. Isn't that what got you hooked on skiing in the first place?
Joining a group for half-day lessons can provide an affordable way of sharpening your skills with others of your ability.
But some one-to-one lessons might be even better for you. When was the last time a real specialist took a good, hard look at your skiing and broke it down for you?
With a good instructor, one single afternoon could give you enough to think about for your next two or three ski holidays.
More importantly, it could take your skiing to the next level and reinvigorate your passion for the slopes.
Another way of creating a new challenge for yourself is to go right back to the beginning. With a totally different activity.
Meribel has so much to offer besides skiing. If you've always skied, then you can look for new challenges elsewhere. Snowboarding, telemark skiing, cross-country skiing, even sledging. Or perhaps hire blades for a day or two. They're short skis (with no poles) that are very easy and fun to use on the pistes.
Meribel offers a world of variety. It almost seems a shame just to stay on the groomed pistes. The off-piste skiing here really is some of the best in the world, with great instrastructure to match.
But there are also some amazing snow parks, mogul fields and more. If you tend to ski groomed pistes only, then why not make it your aim to try some new terrain this year?
A private lesson or two might be a good way to get started with these new challenges.
So you measure your time on the slopes not in hours but in backflips.
Okay, maybe not that extreme. But you certainly know your way around a pair of skis or a snowboard. You'll get down any red. A fruity black run is totally fine. And you're not even lying when you say you had fun going off-piste.
Well, you're going to be in good company. Meribel attracts some of the world's very best skiers and boarders who come here not just for the vast scale (600km of pistes, anyone?). Nor even simply for the world-leading lift infrastrcuture (just the 200 lifts, then?).
There's the interconnectedness of the lifts and runs, the mountains and valleys. It's mind-blowing. You can ski for days and days without ever carrying your skis to a far-flung bus stop.
There's the world-class off-piste and cross-country opportunities here. Huge, unending swathes of majestic hillside just begging to be carved wide open. And lifts that deliver you to the very best points of departure.
There's the local guides. With so many competent skiers visiting the area, off-piste clinics and guided group sessions are happening all the time. Just let your chalet company know what you're looking for and they will be able to offer you advice on how to get involved.
There's the snow parks. Meribel has two itself. The Moon Park is easily accessible off the Plan de l’homme lift from the Chaudanne. For more of a challenge, head to Mottaret for the Plattières park (aka DC Park or Area 43) with its steep gradients and high walls.
If you've made it this far as an advanced skier or boarder but haven't yet experienced Meribel and The Three Valleys...
Well, all we can say is: Welcome home.
The Three Valleys is a Mecca for powder hounds the world over. And, while you may find some incredible pistes in most good ski resorts, you will struggle to find off-piste terrain that matches The Three Valleys.
With access to the whole Three Valleys ski area, Meribel is the ideal starting point for your off-piste adventure. Heading out from Meribel, you will find marked trails leading you both to the Courchevel Valley and to the Belleville Valley (which is perhaps better known for its cross-country skiing than for its off-piste).
Wider than piste skis, these will leave you floating not sinking.
You won't always be within 500m of the nearest vin chaud.
Radio Beacon used in finding people or equipment buried under snow.
Allows you to gauge the burial depth of a person or piece of equipment.
You will need one per person. You won't be using it if you're the one who's buried!
Check it covers everywhere that you might end up. Three Valleys full-area pass recommended.
Take a copy of your documents with you, but also leave a copy in the chalet.
Blue skies and pure powder are a dream. If you can see.
Be sure to save and clearly label the number for a local mountain rescue.
It won't all be hot chocolate and fondue where you're going.
You may need to buy supplies along the way.
Preferably one that has been checked over for potential hazards.
Leave your ego at the chalet ping-pong table and club together and hire a local guide. As with any off-piste skiing, there is no set trail and so no set record of potential hazards. With no margin for error, local knowledge is at a premium.
Especially on heavy powder days, it really pays to get on the earliest lifts. Meribel attracts a lot of advanced skiers looking for pure powder. When conditions are good, the best trails can get tracked-out pretty quickly.
R'Meribel Will Give Out The Avalanche Risk Every Morning On The Radio. It Is Important To Ask The Pisteurs And Check The Information Boards On The Mountain To Find Out About Latest Conditions. For more information and advice on Avalanche see Henry's Avalanche Talk Website.
Don't find out the hard way. Check that your travel insurance covers off-piste skiing and upgrade if you have to. If in doubt, call your provider before your set off.
If it's your first time going off-piste in Meribel, then the area between the Loze chairlift the Dent Burgin chairlift could be your ideal starting point.
If you are going off-piste near the Cote Brune chairlift, be sure to check in with the ski patrollersfirst. They're based at the top of the skilift. They can tell you whether the nearby trails are safe to ski.
It's never too early to introduce your young ones to the wonderful world of winter holidays. Especially in Meribel where there is so much to do.
Private ski schools generally offer lessons from four years and up. At this age, kids can just about manage a two-hour lesson before their legs, body termperatures and attention spans give out.
The main French ski school (which also offers lessons in English) is called ESF. They offer two options for even younger age groups.
From 18 months to three years, Les Saturnins does not actually involve skiing. But an age-appropriate mix of outdoor and indoor play can introduce the format and the fundamentals of future lessons on the slopes. It also gives you or the grandparents some time to ski for yourself. Morning, afternoon and all-day packages are available.
Aged three to five years, kids can enjoy the ESF Piou-Piou package. This introduces skiing in a fun and accessible way: putting on boots and attaching skis leads to their first gentle descents and beyond. Before you know it, your little one is a skier. Phew, they don't hate it!
Meribel has much else to offer besides the skiing, of course. Here are some ideas to give you inspiration in planning your time as a family here in Meribel.
Childcare provision in Meribel is very good, with lots of companies to choose from. If you're unsure which is right for you, your chalet company will be able to recommend a local nanny to keep the kids entertained while you get a well-earned break on the slopes.
An experienced local nanny will know all the best spots in Meribel to keep the little ones entertained. As well as knowing the best places to go sledging, build a snowman or get the best ice cream in The Three Valleys, they will have a range of age-appropriate activities for indoors on bad-weather days.Local Childcare Companies