Well needless to say it’s because we, and many others, think it’s the best!
Fantastic skiing, fantastic surroundings, fantastic restaurants (both on and off the slopes), and even the shops aren’t bad.
Meribel is in the heart of the huge Three Valleys ski area (Les Trois Vallées), considered by many to be the largest and finest linked resort in the world.
Les 3 Vallées area originally consisted of the three valleys of:-
Saint Bon, to the west. Consisting of Courcheval 1850, Moriona, La Praz and La Tania;
Allues, in the middle with Meribel Les Allues, Meribel-Village, Meribel (Centre), and Meribel-Mottaret;
Belleville to the east, with Val Thorens, St Martin de Belleville , Les Menuires, Reberty, and La Masse.
The skiing area has since been extended into a ‘fourth’ valley, the
Maurienne Valley, which is adjacent to Val Thorens, but can also be accessed using a long gondola lift from Orelle.
The linking of these areas in Les 3 Vallées provides some of the most fantastic skiing in the world, to suit all levels and abilities. There is a huge variety of skiing, and boarding, from the rolling greens and blues for beginners, to the reds for more advanced skiers, and the blacks and mogul fields for more adventurous skiers. With peaks rising to 3,300m and couloirs to challenge even the most expert of skiers, to the beautifully groomed pistes and runs through the trees in Courcheval.
Staying in Meribel means that you are in the middle of Les 3 Vallées ski area, so you can choose to ski or board in which ever direction takes your fancy. From the top of Saulire (at 2700m) you can ski down into Courcheval, La Tania and La Praz, or you can ski back down into Meribel, a vertical drop of 1300 m. Or instead head in the opposite direction to Val Thorens, and challenge yourself to its high peaks, or to make it over to the Fourth Valley.
Non-skiers too are well catered for, from a gentle wander around the shops, to a snow walk through the woods, or perhaps a trip to the Olympique Park for a swim, or just spend the day in the chalet with a good book, a soak in the hot tub, or perhaps a lovely massage.
From Chalet Caro it is very easy for non-skiers to meet up with their skiing friends for lunch at a piste side restaurant, or why not meet up and go for a toboggan run together, so no need to feel like you are being left out.
Les 3 Vallées pistes are between altitudes of 1100m and 3230m, with 85% of the ski area being above 1800m. There are over 600km of runs (150km in Meribel), as well as 5 snow parks (2 of which are in Meribel), and vast amounts of off-piste skiing.
Les 3 Valleys has better snow parks than ever with the emphasis being put on giving world-class freestyle facilities. As well as the natural gullies and half-pipes in the area, there are also a growing number of snowparks, boardercross and freestyle zones for you to try out and a handful of fun zones for children.
There are over 160 lifts (including 4 funitels, 3 cable cars, 32 gondolas & 61 high speed detachable chair lifts), and 2383 snow cannons covering more than 50% of the ski area.
The lift system is one of the best in the world, and is being constantly updated, so despite the huge numbers of visitors to the area big lift queues are largely a thing of the past.
The pistes are, in our opinion, one of the best maintained. The high altitudes accessible from Meribel, and naturally good snow falls, together with the help of many snow cannons, make Meribel a resort where guests are virtually assured of skiing throughout the whole season from December to the end of April.
The area boasts 70 piste grooming machines, driven by a total of 160 piste groomers who work in shifts throughout the night: the first team work from 5pm to midnight and the second from midnight to 7am. The slopes are maintained every night, with priority given to green, blue and red runs and Les 3 Vallées connecting routes; the black runs aren’t maintained systematically in a bid to provide more enjoyment to fans of moguls and walls.
Méribel Centre ranges in altitude from 1,600m to 1,700m, with the highest being Altiport at 1,700m. Feeding into Méribel by shuttle bus and gondola are the lower outlying resorts of Brides les Bains (600m), Les Allues (1,200m) and Méribel Village (1,400m), and at the top of the valley is Méribel-Mottaret at 1,750m.
Meribel was founded by Scotsman, Colonel Peter Lindsay, who was looking for a new site for winter sports. He visited the town of Les Allues for the first time in 1936 and decided to start by creating a property company. In 1938, the first lift was placed above Les Allues, a 31 seater fixed rope sled. In 1950, the Burgin-Saulire gondola was built to link the resort to Courchevel.
Lindsay’s aim was to create a purpose built ski resort which remained faithful to the surroundings. In 1939, he began the construction of the first chalets and hotels in the hamlet of Méribel. Three years later, the war temporarily stopped the development of the resort, but when it was over, development continued.
Lindsay used specialized architects, so that all buildings would be in harmony with the Savoyard style. For this wood and stone had to be used for the walls, with slanted slate roofs.
Having celebrated its 80th birthday in February 2018 Meribel still retains all of the charm and character that Lindsay was aiming for, making it one of the most stylish ski resorts in the world. Planning regulations continue to ensure that the buildings in the town are constructed in the traditional Savoyard style, so although Meribel is a purpose built town, it is a resort of chalets, and certainly does not suffer from being like the “concrete jungle” that many other purpose built resorts do.
Staying at Chalet Caro, you will notice that this too is built in the Savoyard style with its wood and stone exterior, and slate roof, with copper pipes and stylish Meribel guttering. Yet inside you will find all mod-cons. A stylish and contemporary ski chalet.
Les 3 Vallées can boast some of the finest restaurants in the world, from a huge range of mountain restaurants and snack bars to gourmet Michelin starred restaurants, there is something to cater for everyone’s tastes. There are now even purpose built picnic huts where you can recharge you mobile phones.
And what about Courcheval I hear you ask?
Well, of course we’d rather be in Meribel, but you can always visit the other side of the mountain for the odd day trip/ski/board, where you will find what some describe as the St Tropez of winter sports. The playground of the rich and famous, with a long list of celebrity guests and Michelin starred establishments.. There are 50 Five Star hotels in France, 9 of which are in Courcheval, and there are 8 Six Starred hotels in France, of which 2 are in Courcheval. Needless to say the prices you would expect to pay for some things over there are eye-watering, so be careful of where you stop for lunch. See our restaurant guide for some tips, where you will find suggestions for some of the less eye-watering options.
Les 3 Vallées is in the Tarentaise Valley which has the biggest concentration of world-class ski resorts in the world, and also includes the ski areas of Paradiski (Les Arc, La Plagne) and Espace killy (Val D’Isere and Tignes). These in turn are in the Savoy department of France.