The old spa town of Brides les Bains was 'the Olympic Village' and thus home to the athletes participating in the 1992 Savoie Winter Olympics. It was linked by high speed gondola to Méribel on the Trois Vallées circuit as a result; there are no ski lifts at village level.
It's 'real small town' feel contrasts with the internationally better known resorts up the mountain which include arguably France's choicest resort Courchevel, Europe's highest major resort Val Thorens and the modern resort of Les Menuires. It also offers better value accommodation than the altitude resorts and is quieter in the evenings, although as the main administrative and shopping centre for the Méribel Valley it is no sleepy hamlet.
The resort's status as a spa town dates back to the last century and continues to be a second string to its tourism bow, today with the emphasis on health and weight loss, often in conjunction with a summer of winter sports holiday, rather than as a curative treatment for ailments.
The thermal resort at Thermes d'Orsi employs specialists and professionals including doctors, masseurs, dieticians and psychologists who can work out special weight loss and fitness programs, often involving a pleasurable dip in the 36º Celsius thermal pool at Salins a hydro massage and a visit to the mud bath.
Brides Les Bains is one of the best placed resorts for exploiting the power of the huge Savoie Olympic Pass which was created after the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics. The Pass is available for 6 days only and enables skiers purchasing a Trois Vallées pass to ski for one day in each of the other major vast ski areas in France's Savoie region, giving access to an incredible total of 1500km ( nearly 1000 miles ) of trails served by 600 lifts. So if you get bored with the mere 600km (375 miles) of trails directly above you in the Trois Vallées, you can spend a day at nearby La Plagne, Les Arcs or in l'Espace Killy (Val d'Isère and Tignes ski region). All of these resorts are up the mountain, so to make use of the Pass from them you have to get down the mountain before you can travel to the next resort. The beauty of Brides is that it's already down on the main valley road so access to other areas is much quicker, and you can normally reach them through roadside gondola stations down in the valley also, rather than having to drive up to the resorts. The main down side of the resort's position is that, although well placed to access some of the best ski areas in the French Alps, none of them is on the doorstep. The gondola ride up to the Trois Vallees takes 25 minutes and is included in the standard pass. It's best to use the gondola trip to plan your day's skiing in the world's biggest ski area as well as to apply sun cream and fine tune ski boot buckles. The skiing itself? Well let's see, the world's biggest lift linked ski area, the world's biggest lift pass, more than 600km (100 miles) of trails for every level of skier, a 1950 metre (6400 feet) vertical, the chance to try almost every winter sport imaginable, year round glacier skiing. Trying to offer detail inevitably means leaving so much out and further study of the vast array of opportunities before you arrive is highly recommended.
Brides les Bains has limited facilities for children. Day care and ski school are provided up at Meribel where the Saturnins day nursery accepts children from 18 months old between 9am and 5pm, proof of age is required. Ski kindergarten starts at age 3, with lunch cover available on request.
Brides les Bains has about a dozen restaurants mostly serving traditional Savoyard fayre for which the area is famous as well as international cuisine The resort itself is particularly noted for its healthy and low calorie specialities.
Nightlife in the resort is generally quiet and limited to hotel bars and a few other small establishments in addition to a cinema and two discothèques. If they wish, guests can choose to stay up the mountain at Méribel after skiing for a 'full-on' action packed evening. However the casino at Brides Les Bains casino draws guests back down the mountain to play roulette, black jack or the games machines. The resort also stages classical, jazz and rock concerts as well as exhibitions and other entertainments at regular intervals.
Snowboarders have the same vast range of opportunities as skiers. Snowboarding facilities are constantly being upgraded at the nearest resort, gondola linked Méribel. Currently these include a halfpipe under the Adret chair with jumps and table tops and a new terrain park at Plattières II. The Trois Vallees have endless wide open pistes and off-trail powder fields to enjoy.