Méribel: Brit stop

8th February 2011, by Chris Gill

Rooftops in France's chalet city  [(c) JM Gouedard - Meribel Tourism]

Rooftops in France's chalet city [(c) JM Gouedard - Meribel Tourism]

Loved by Brits, cherished by chalet fans: that’s Méribel. The pleasant village has an established following and its position at the heart of the Three Valley ski area warms many a Francophile piste-basher. Turn east for Courchevel, west for Les Menuires or Val Thorens, or play local on long sunny runs that work for most abilities.

If you’re here for a few days, of course, the Three Valley mega stats are a bit pointless. The attraction is though that you get varied and classic terrain from a base with more pleasing architecture. Brits have influenced the party scene too, which for France puts Méribel top of the pops. Coming here will offer an upbeat but comfortable purpose-built base, plus the home from home sensation of mixing with your fellow countrymen – if that’s your preference.

So how suitable is Méribel for a short break? Specialist tour operators often head for Brides-les-Bains, an old spa town at the foot of a long gondola that links the two resorts. It’s a cheaper alternative to staying up the mountain and saves time on transfers. But it’s certainly possible to get accommodation in Méribel too, if a little more tricky. Finding spare rooms in chalets is one option, and there are companies to help such as Flexiski and Igoski (part of Alpine Elements). Flexiski operates its own catered chalet, ideally geared up for short-stay purposes.

Getting there

Geneva is the airport of choice for many visitors, although transfers (190km) take an hour more than from Chambéry (100km) – served by a Flybe and Jet2. Lyon is an alternative. Lots of companies offer private shuttles should you not hire a car. Try Three Valley Transfers (www.3vt.co.uk). And rail travel is an option too. TGV services from Paris stop at Moutiers. From there, buses up to Méribel take about 20 minutes and cost from 20 euro return (approx).

Staying there

Lodging is widely spread along the valley, so expect to use public transport at some stage. Flexski’s Chalet Leonardo is one of the few properties to welcome short-stay visitors. The traditionally designed wood and stone chalet sleeps 29 in nine rooms with en-suite facilities, plus an apartment. A hot tub and cosy fire add to the appeal. A big plus is the private minibus service that will ferry you around. Prices are £340 (Wednesday to Sunday) or £660 (Sunday to Wednesday) – transfers and flights not included.

Alternative chalet deals are available through Igoski (sister company to Alpine Elements) all season, using easyJet. Chalet board starts at £305 for 3 or 4 days.

A three day Three Valleys lift-pass costs from £118 (via Flexiski). Local passes available too.

Skiing there

The choice of slopes is endless. Long wide runs span two sides of the valley, with sufficient fast lifts to get you there. Mont du Vallon is a highlight for competent skiers, its steeper red slopes and extensive views the highest locally. And Tougnète provides good sport above and below tree level. Novices should head for the gentler Altiport slopes above the village. Beyond the local slopes we love the excellent blue runs from the ridge towards Les Menuires, or more taxing reds and blacks on the sunny side of the valley to and from Courchevel’s slopes. Huts aren’t a highlight, but you could try the Plan des Mains for lunch.

Après-skiing there

Méribel action can be pretty full on, with a youthful atmosphere among the village bars – of which there are plenty to try. The Rond Point at teatime comes closest to Austrian-style après-ski: live music, dance, and plenty of toffee vodka splashing around. Later on, it’s the legendary Dick’s Tea Bar that cranks up the nightlife just out of town. Or go for sophisticated cocktails at the quieter La Poste. You won’t go short of places to eat out either: Méribel has everything from the traditional Kouisena to the fancier Allodis. And there are cheaper alternatives away from the centre.

Links: Flexiski Chalet Leonardo

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