Originally established by British wintersport enthusiast Peter Lindsey back in the late 1930s, and still very much an Anglo-centric resort, Meribel is located at the centre of the world's biggest linked ski-lift network in France's world-class Three Valleys (Trois Vallées) ski domain.
A perennial favourite amongst a dedicated core of enthusiasts who return regularly most seasons, Meribel has a well-deserved reputation for offering a fabulous range of great skiing and snowboarding terrain, and for being one of the liveliest resorts in the Alps.
A longstanding and commendable policy of restricting the styling of most construction projects to maintain the traditional wood-clad, stone-tiled, chalet-style of architecture typical of this region, has resulted in Meribel being one of the more attractive resorts of its size in the French Alps. The wooded setting further enhances the effect and lends Meribel a pleasant Alpine village ambiance, despite the fact that it's actually a purpose-built ski resort.
NB: not to be confused with Meribel-Village or Meribel-Mottaret, the former a tiny satellite hamlet which lies to the north-east and which has just one lift and piste-link with the Altiport ski sector above the actual main resort of Meribel, and the latter a more functional-looking separate resort development at the head of the valley 3km beyond Meribel.
Located in the central valley of the huge Three Valleys ski domain, Meribel is a paradise for intermediates, entertaining for experts and great for snowboarders.
An amphitheatre of ridges and peaks sweeps round from above the Western side of the resort and curls around the head of the valley above Mottaret to run all the way above the Eastern flanks of Meribel; slope users are therefore able to follow the sun and best snow conditions around the valley throughout the day, all accessible via an extensive network of mostly fast declutchable chairlifts and recently upgraded gondolas.
Progressive novices don't really need to leave this local ski area, but most visitors are attracted to Meribel by the enormous scale of the full Three Valleys domain: there are half-a-dozen inter-valley link points on the Eastern ridges, linking into the Belleville Valley towards Saint-Martin-de-Belleville, Les Menuires, Reberty and Val Thorens; to the West there are a couple of cross-ridge link points into the St-Bons Valley, which houses the equally extensive, internationally renowned ski resorts of Courchevel and La Tania.
Beginners may find the scale and pace of the principal Meribel slopes a bit too daunting, but the scenic parkland-like Altiport sector at the uppermost suburb of Meribel has gently rolling wide pistes which are perfect for learners.
For more experienced skiers and riders, the Plattieres-Vallon sector above Mottaret, and the Tougnete sector on the Eastern slopes above Meribel, are the principal areas of focus in this valley: particularly noteworthy are the long sweeping snow-sure red pistes and terrific lift-served off-piste access on Mont du Vallon, as well as the excellent 'Moon Park' snowpark in the Arpasson area.
Off the slopes and apres ski
Thanks to the gondola lifts serving both sides of the valley, non-skiers are able to join their skiing companions on the mountains at a fair number of mountain bars/restaurants and viewing points; there are also a number of way-marked walking routes that enable pedestrians to get out into the midst of the surrounding scenery. In town, the Olympic Centre near Meribel's principal Chaudanne base area houses a full-sized ice rink, a spa and fitness suite, an indoor climbing wall and a swimming pool.
From mid-afternoon onwards, the volume of music rises and the crowds begin to gather at a number of popular piste-side and base-area bars, quickly building into one of the most animated apres-ski scenes in the Alps, for which Meribel is justly renowned. The Folie Douce and the Rond Point, perched on the eastern slopes just above town, are the liveliest piste-side venues, whilst The Pub and Jack's are two of the leading lights down in the village itself.
Later on in the evening, most of the still-rocking nightlife is focused around the central Route de la Montée and Route du Centre area of Meribel, as well as in the suburb of Mussillon where the well-established and popular Dick's Tea Bar is located.
Despite the fact that the vast majority of Meribel's guests are hosted in catered accommodation, the number of eateries to choose from for dining out is fairly good, and covers a wide range of budgets and tastes.
For top-quality modern French and fusion cuisine, book a table for the in-house restaurant at one of the resort's leading hotels, the Hotel Grand Coeur or Hotel La Chaudanne are fine examples; at the other end of the price scale, pizzas and hearty Savoyard specialities are ubiquitous on informal restaurant and pub-food menus throughout the resort, noteworthy such venues include La Taverne and La Bergerie (Chez Kiki).
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Bars and clubs
Dick's Tea Bar