Part of the largest ski area in the world, Méribel is famed for its spectacular slopes, magnificent panoramas and cosy, village-like atmosphere. Here we bring you our essential guide
Words: Caroline Harrap Photos: © Sylvain Aymoz, Méribel Tourisme
Look at any picture of Méribel and it’s not hard to see why this charming ski resort is one of the best-loved in the world. Tucked away in the Tarentaise Valley, an idyllic corner of the French Alps close to the town of Moûtiers, the resort is actually comprised of three neighbouring villages – Méribel Centre, Méribel-Mottaret and Méribel Village – each as picture-perfect as the next. Perched in a pristine, pine-filled landscape – which is part of the Vanoise National Park – they are also set against a breath-taking backdrop of snow-capped mountains.
Even the name conjures up idyllic images. Derived from the Latin ‘mirare bellum’, which means ‘the point from which the view is beautiful’, it’s hard to think of a more appropriate name for the resort.
Then there’s the exceptional skiing conditions. Part of the renowned Les Trois Vallées, the largest ski domain in the world, Méribel offers access to some 600km of connected pistes, including seven other resorts, with more than 62,000 vertical meters of skiing for experts, novices and families alike. In fact, 50% of the ski area is accessible to beginners and there are four ski schools from which to choose.
Alternatively, for the more adventurous, there are 15 summits above 2,500m from which expand six glaciers. No wonder this is a dream destination for skiers from all over the world.
In addition to all that, there’s the resort’s Olympic heritage, too. When the Trois Vallées hosted the Winter Olympics of 1992, this cemented its position as one of the top skiing destinations in the world. A legacy of the Games is Méribel’s Olympic Park – a sports and relaxation complex of 24,000m2 that includes a swimming pool, an Olympic skating rink and a spa and fitness area.
Indeed, while Méribel may be best-known for its slopes, it’s also a haven for all kinds of activities – from mountain-boarding, speed-sledging and yoga on the slopes to snow-shoeing around the beautiful Lac de Tueda. Hikers will also be delighted with the host of marked paths and routes that span this stunning natural landscape.
After all that fresh air and exercise, you’ll no doubt be ready for a vin chaud and some hearty fare and – and, as you might expect, the après-ski scene is buzzing here, too. There really is a bar for all tastes, but among the most famous is Le Rond Point with its superb ski-in-ski-out sun terrace, good grub and perhaps the wildest après-ski party scene.
For something a little more sedate, La Table du Ruitor is a rustic wine bar with a roaring log fire and outdoor terrace; the charming En Bord de Piste Bar, at the Hotel Adray Télébar, offers a warm and cosy atmosphere, comfy sofas and a large fireplace; or The Brewer’s Den Bar is the resort’s premier craft beer bar – and also the highest smokehouse in France, serving a range of smoked specialities.
On that note, there are some excellent restaurants here as well. For example, at The Cepe, chef Alain Plouzené serves up rich savoury casseroles, beautiful fresh fish delivered directly from the lakes and, of course, a number of recipes featuring the ‘cèpe’ (porcini) mushroom from the surrounding mountains.
Alternatively, La Cantine D’Alvar is a fun, friendly choice for families, offering classic dishes with a local twist such as jacket ‘raclette’ potatoes, and a wide, sunny terrace. Or, for a really special night out, L’Ekrin is Méribel’s first Michelin-starred restaurant. Located at five-star hotel, the Kaïla, at the helm is celebrated chef Laurent Azoulay with a menu full of originality and flair.
Speaking of nice places to stay, there’s no shortage of those in Méribel, either. First up, the Kaïla, mentioned above, is the epitome of Alpine luxury. As well as its fine-dining restaurant, it is home to a sumptuous spa and wellness area too. With direct access to the slopes, it also benefits from its proximity to the shops, services and life at the centre of the resort.
Another of our favourites is the aforementioned Adray Télébar, the oldest hotel here, known for its a cosy chalet setting and typical Savoyard décor. Located in one of the highest parts of the resort, close to the Adret chairlift, the hotel is accessible on foot and on skis. Lastly, another one for the super-keen skiers, Hotel Allodis is also found right on the slopes.
So there you have it! When it comes to Alpine ski reports, Méribel really is among the very best. Just like the name says, a beautiful viewpoint indeed.
• For more information, see the official tourist website here