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The thought flickers for a moment, then disappears. I’m determined to reach the summit. Without a word, Damien tightens the rope, giving me a little help and allowing my terrified disco-leg a rest.

The slacker the rope, the less supported I am; it’s meant to act as a safety mechanism rather than an aid. “Go on! Just a few more metres and you’ve done it!” he yells.

I mutter something uncharitable under my breath and carry on, taking the odd moment to look around me at the endless white hills. It’s incredibly peaceful up here and, for a moment, I’m struck by the silence in my head.

All focus has been on my body, coaxing it into action, convincing my muscles they are capable. But now, for a blissful few seconds, the mental chatter has stopped. Before I know it, I’ve reached the top.

Damien cheers. I edge backwards over the ledge, trusting that the harness will catch me. It does; now I’m abseiling down, a hell of a lot quicker than I went up. I hit the ground, take a breath and say: “Have I got time to go up again?”

Ice climbing from about £30 per person for two hours (including instruction and equipment) champagny.com

Eat, drink, sleep

Eat

Budget: Le Refuge in Meribel town centre is always full of people and life. Great pizzas, steaks and pasta are ideal
for partygoers who want a quick bite to eat before hitting the bars. Pizzas start at £11. (Route de la Chaudanne, 73550, tel. +33 (0) 47908 6197).

Midrange: At Chez KiKi in Meribel, the man himself cooks steaks over a fire and to perfection. A word of warning: vegetarian choices are limited and frowned upon. Mains from £16. (Route de Morel, 73550, Les Allues, tel. +33 (0) 47908 6668).

Luxury: Find Le Chaudron in the middle of the slopes in La Plagne (a 45-minute drive from Vanoise National Park) for a big fireplace, typical mountain atmosphere, and delicious food served fast – on a sunny balcony if you’re lucky. Meals from £18. (Montchavin 73210, Montchavin-Les-Coches, tel. +33 (0) 47909 2333).


Drink

Budget: Lodge de Village in Meribel has live music every other night and offers an electric après-ski atmosphere. Crowd surfing and toffee vodka drinking is the norm, and drinks are considerably cheaper than you usually find in Meribel. Beers from about £4. 

Midrange: There’s no doubt that Meribel, situated right in the heart of France’s Three Valleys ski area, is like a homing beacon for Brits. As such, there are a number of Brit-style pubs, including Jack’s Bar, one minute’s walk from the main ski lift area of La Chaudanne. Beers are about £4 during the daily happy hour from 4-5pm. 

Luxury: For a high-end bar, try Le Poste (next to the post office). Recently refurbished, it feels like a high-end Paris bar, and is the complete opposite to anything else you’ll find in Meribel – swanky, funky and with DJs most nights. Expect to pay a minimum of £9.50 for a drink. (Immeuble Gentianes Méribel, 73550, tel. +33 (0) 47900 7431).

Sleep

Budget: Residence Les Ravines are self-catering apartments right in the centre of Meribel town. Seven-night packages start at about £484 per person including return flights, accommodation and resort transfers – shop around for the best deal. (Méribel Cedex, 73552).

Midrange: Fish & Pips’ chalets are comfortable, welcoming and serve superb, award-winning food. Holidaying here ranges hugely in cost, from between £550-£1200 per person – depending on the chalet and time of year – for seven nights, but includes a lot, such as all-inclusive catering and booze.

Luxury: Opening this December, Le Kaila will be ideally located in the centre of Meribel, and is the area’s first five-star hotel. Perhaps most luxurious is the spa, a 500sqm haven of peace and pure pleasure. Prices start at about £340pn on a half-board basis. 

 

Photos: Fabrice Wittner, Getty


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Nice ice, baby: Try extreme sport ice climbing in France this winter
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