The Ski Resort
It is hardly surprising that Meribel is one of the most popular ski resorts in Europe when it is situated in the heart of the Three valleys, widely regarded as the most extensive ski area anywhere in the world. As the name suggests, the Three Valleys is made up of three parallel valleys with Meribel taking centre stage. This means visitors to Meribel can ski the extensive terrain around Meribel, or literally go left or right to pop over and ski the other valleys which are home to Courchevel or Val Thorens.
Being the central valley of the three, Meribel today is however a popular ski resort and as a consequence a series of satellite villages situated around the main village of Meribel at 1,450m. The highest village is Meribel Mottaret at 1,750m and offers both the best snow and quickest access into the vast Three Valleys ski area (600km of pistes). Mribel Mottaret is therefore popular with ski clients where skiing is by far the greater priority. However the nightlife is limited and if apres-ski is important the Mottaret is not recommended, whereas Meribel 1,450m is! The main Meribel ski it has a nightlife that is loud and boisterous. The Rond Point is legendary and live bars get the apres-ski well on its way. There are also numerous restaurants serving fast food, local specialities, and also restaurants that cater for upmarket dining. Meribel is however a very British ski resort so if French charm is your preference then you may what to look elsewhere.
In terms of skiing specifically for the various abilities, with 152 blue runs, 119 red, and 33 black, plus extensive off-piste, there is something for all. The beginners nursery area are around Rond Point where there is a small slope, and the Plattieres above Meribel Mottaret has three enclosed slopes for beginners to build confidence on. What is great for beginners at Meribel is that once you have mastered the nursery slope, you can then take a drag lift that has a long and green run through the trees. Once this is mastered you just take the chair above it and progress on a blue. In terms of intermediate skiing, nearly everywhere you ski you will be greeted with a choice of blue or red runs, the first time the extent will just take your breath away. Experts will love Meribel and the Three Valleys too and with one or two mogul freaks in our office we adore skiing here as there is plenty of mogul skiing to keep the knees entertained for a week(!), on and off the piste.
So is there anything even slightly negative to say about Meribel? Queues can occasionally be a slight problem during peak ski week but with such a world class lift system (high speed chairs are just common place), even queuing in such a popular ski resort is rare and therefore hardly a gripe. So I guess our only real issue with Meribel and the Three Valleys would be the mountain restaurants. Characterless, self-service in the main, busy and serving food that leaves you questioning whether France really is the gastronomic capital of the world! This aside, it is nevertheless a special ski resort.
Skiers should note that Meribel Village may sound as if this is the original and main Meribel ski village, however this is also a satelite village and a quiet one too (mores so than Mottaret), in this case a satellite away from Meribel (1,450m).
Off Piste Skiing
The Three Valleys has some of the best in Europe, particularly in respect of quantity. The Cairn from the top of the Plattieres Gondola is challenging and best accessed with a guide as it is quite a steep and narrow couloir at the top before widening through the descent.
Snowboarding in Meribel is pretty much perfect. Great beginners area, numerous red pistes for intermediates, and great expert skiing off-piste whether its skiing deep and steep, or amongst the trees. Not to mention the Moon Park that just seems to get bigger and better each year.