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Resort Guides

Ski Resorts Guide – Meribel, France

Heart of the Three Valleys

Nestled in the heart of the Trois Vallées, Meribel Village at 1450m has long been a favourite resort with the Brits. With over 600km of pistes accessible from over 180 lifts on the three-valley lift pass, there is enough varied terrain to keep everyone in a mixed ability group happy. The British have been buying up real estate in this area for years now – so much so that French is far from the only language you’ll here in this often overpriced and overpopulated resort.

  • Highest Point: 2,952m
  • Descent: 1,852m
  • No. lifts: 169

Indeed, a large chunk of the seasonnaires seem to be UK teens on the ‘gap yah’. This popularity has its advantages though: a wide choice of accommodation, shops, restaurants and a lively après ski scene provides something for everyone in the two main villages of Meribel and Mottaret.

There’s also the cheaper, more authentic option to stay in Brides-les-Bains that’s connected to Meribel by gondola. wherever you stay you can bet that, with two well-maintained parks, extensive freeride terrain and well-groomed pistes, there’ll be some excellent riding to be had.

The Parks – 3/5

There are two main parks in Meribel with plenty of features for all ability levels. The Moon Park is accessed by the Plan De L’homme chairlift, and has rails and boxes for all ability levels. The kickers aren’t worth getting too exited about, however.

“A three-day, non-consecutive park pass is available, making it a little more economical for freestyle addicts in need of a fix

The DC Park accessed via Plattiers 2 is Meribel’s star attraction. Shaped by the DC crew and Hilltechnics staff, it’s popular with pros and the annual Shred Days event attracts the likes of Torstein Horgmo and Devun Walsh. At the top there is a perfectly shaped superpipe with roped off entry – making sure only riders that can drop in will be able to lap it and prevent those annoying ski schools from damaging the walls.

There is a step-up black kicker right after on one side leading into plenty of bonks, hips and suspended bells to jib. The left hand line has so many boxes and rail combos they will keep you busy for hours, whilst right next to the park there is a shipping container set up as a butter box, as well as a mini ramp for the skaters! Below the cabin, a channel gap leads into a decent 23-meter kicker, or if you prefer you can tackle a bunch of rails and boxes and a dedicated mini shred area.

And if all this wasn’t enough, there is a hip to do more jibs on the very bottom section before you arrive at the chairlift to do it all over again! DC have even set up cameras to allow you to record your run and re-run it online via the DC Live Park website. A three-day, non-consecutive park pass is available, making it a little more economical for freestyle addicts in need of a fix.

All hail the crail: Lauri Heiskari is a regular visitor to Meribel.

The Powder – 4/5

Meribel has a massive freeride area to explore, but as with most famous resorts you’ll need to get up very early if it’s first tracks you’re after. For beginners, try the sides  Tougnette and Salure pistes down to Mottaret. Under the Plan d’Homme chair there are some well-spaced trees with an easy pitch, but beware of rocks in this area.

Intermediates and advanced riders can try lines off the Olympic express heading down to Le Raffort. This is a wide-open north-facing bowl with some couloir lines that provide an 845m descent towards St Martin de Belleville. A short walk between two peaks off the Mount Vallon bubble will lead you to an area the locals call Marioland. This bowl has a ridiculous number of features to drop off – just be aware of avalanches and large boulders hidden under the snow on this face, particularly at the bottom (it’s a good idea to wear a helmet as well as the standard freeride equipment).

Julien Cave goes spelunking in Meribel. Photo: Matt Georges

The Pistes – 4/5

The Three Valleys is the largest linked ski area in the world, offering a total of over 600km of pistes to those who fork out for the full pass. Hardpack lovers are therefore unlikely to get bored! Meribel’s local pistes are enough to keep the average rider occupied for a week, however, and with snow cannons every 20m,  you can ride downhill to the village at 1450m throughout the winter – although these runs can become icy at times.

  • Opens: 9th December 2017
  • Closes: 22nd April 2018
  • 1 Day: €61
  • 6 Days: €300

Pistes are generally similar in style, with an easier option usually available form each lift, so groups of different abilities can often stay together in the same areas. In order to beat the crowds, avoid the main runs down to Mottaret at peak times as these are the routes taken by the people doing the Three Valleys tour. Try the Pointe de la Masse, above neighbouring Les Menuires, to escape the crowds.

Beginners – beware of the flat spots around the Mont Vallon area on your way home, and if you’re looking for lessons, check out rtmsnowboarding.com for a British snowboard school that holds beginner, carving and freestyle clinics.

How To Get There

Meribel is just over two hours’ drive from Geneva Airport. SWISS flies to Geneva from Heathrow and London City, Gatwick and Dublin. All-inclusive fares start from £74 one-way*, with no extra charge for your snowboard bag*.

The Parties – 3/5

Start the après ski off at the famous Pub Le Rond Point (aka “the Ronnie”) and if you are not already crowd surfing by 6pm, move on to La Taverne or the Doron Pub for happy hour.

“Get into O’Sullivan’s early, as this nightclub can become crowded”

If you’re looking for something more chilled, Le Saint Amour is a great wine bar to try local dishes and cheeses in a more relaxed atmosphere before moving on to the Den above Dick’s Tea bar. Leave relatively early, like 11.30ish, to get into O’Sullivan’s below, as this nightclub can become crowded.

It’s also inevitably always full of Brits. Be warned, all the bars are over-priced, so if you are staying in a chalet, make sure you ask them to chill the chalet wine so you can down plenty of it without gagging before you go out!

"Merry hell?" Not for Josh Dirksen...
*Price includes one piece hold luggage and hand luggage, plus meal and drink. 1 pair of skis or 1 snowboard, 1 pair of ski poles, 1 pair of ski boots or 1 pair of snowboard boots travel free of charge, in addition to standard baggage allowance (excluding hand luggage only fares) and is subject to availability. Price quoted as one-way, per person including airport taxes and surcharges departing from London Heathrow to Geneva. Price correct at the time of production and is subject to change and exchange rate variations. Availability is limited and on some payment methods a charge of 1.65% may apply.
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