Launch yourself down Méribel’s legendary slopes and then soak up its lively après-ski scene. TNT‘s Inger Smith checked it out…
The Holy Trai
Pristine snow-capped peaks spread out on all sides as the ski lift takes us higher and higher up into the French Alps.
The mountains are grand, stunning and peaceful all at once, but their impressive size is making me feel like a tiny ant beneath the Eiffel Tower. After all, these are some of the highest in Europe with 80 per cent of the ski area above 1800m.
“Don’t worry, I’ll look after you – today I am your second mother,” says my ski instructor Veronique. She knows I’m apprehensive about launching myself down the sides of these giants, but my excitement soon takes over.
And it isn’t long before I understand why skiers and boarders from far and wide come here on their quest to find the ‘Holy Trail’ of Alpine sports.
Jumps, Slopes and Half-Pipes
We’re in Méribel, at the very heart of the legendary Three Valleys, surrounded by the largest downhill area in the world with 600km of runs and about 200 lifts from which to choose.
There’s also a nice selection of snow parks with half-pipes and jumps to try out, plus endless off-piste opportunities for adrenaline junkies seeking their fix.
Beginner or pro, there are runs to suit riders of all abilities, and Méribel’s long, wide slopes give its visitors plenty of room to manoeuver.
Break with French Cuisine and Oyster
After a few hours on the slopes, my energy levels are low, so it’s time to refuel. And what better place to do so than out on the piste, combining French cuisine with fantastic mountain views? Park your skis and boards and tuck in.
One of the most scenic spots is Restaurant Les Pierres Plates at a height of 2738m on top of Saulire. The lift will take you straight up to the summit, where you can enjoy a good selection of hearty meals before strapping your skis back on and heading down the mountain.
Another pearl is the Oyster Bar, which can be found at Cote 2000. Here you can stop for delectable oysters and delightful wines in a cosy Alpine setting.
Prices are reasonable with six oysters for €12 – a lavish-yet-affordable treat.
A ski trip is not complete without the essential après-ski session after a long day on the slopes, so unbuckle your bindings and let your hair down.
Le Rond Point is the No. 1 venue – the party pumps from the early afternoon until 7.30pm, seven days a week. The venue is beautifully situated on the slope above the town centre and has an attractive terrace where you can soak up the atmosphere.
Continue the fun at Le Poste de Secours, a stylish club playing funky tunes and boasting a divine cocktail menu, slap bang in the centre of town.
Not far from here is Barometer, a laid-back bar where you can quench your thirst with the notorious French brew Mutzig Old Lager (7.3 per cent).
For late-night dancing, Dick’s Tea Bar is the place to be. Step down into this underground cave where the DJs keep the party going ‘til the small hours.
And if you’re heading to Méribel in March, get into the festival spirit and check out the Altitude comedy and music event (see altitudefestival.com) and the Little World music festival (see littleworldfestival.com), which will bring international stars to the mountains.
Alternative Ways to Get Around
Strap yourselves into a pair of snowshoes for an adventure beyond the slopes. French Ski School ESF (esf-meribel.com) offers snowshoeing lessons for ¤28.30 for a half day.
Try a Segway. These futuristic-looking stand-on scooters are available for hire in Méribel-Mottaret – €5 for 10 minutes or €25 for an hour-long guided tour.
For a more conventional ride, jump on to one of the local town buses (Meribus). They’re free and run every day between 7am and midnight, in intervals of 15 or 30 minutes, depending on your destination.
Need to Know
When to go: The ski season runs from December 4 to April 25.
Getting there: Take the Eurostar ski train to Moûtiers (see eurostar.com/ski), then it’s a 20-minute shuttle ride; or fly to Genèva for a 2.5-hour shuttle ride.
Getting around: Bus, car or taxi.
Visas: Saffas need a Schengen visa.
Currency: Euro. 1 GBP = 1.12 EUR.
Going Out: A pint costs about €6-7.
Accommodation: Hotel l’Orée des pistes costs €160 per person per night half-board.
» Inger Smith stayed at Hotel l’Orée du Bois pistes (meribel-oree.com), which costs ¤160 per person per night half-board.
Inger took ski lessons with ESF French Ski School (esf-meribel.com).
One-day ski passes cost ¤39.50. For more information, see meribel.net
(+33 (0)479 0860 01; email@example.com)
Words: Inger Smith