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Meribel: Little England in the French Alps…

Ski lodges on a snowy mountain in Meribel France

If you crave beautiful Alpine runs, dramatic mountain backdrops, sun, fantastic ski conditions and lovely wide pistes – then you’ll certainly be in your element if you follow in our snowy footsteps to Meribel.

Meribel – Picturesque resort

As a seasoned skier, and regular visitor to the Alps over the last decade, I’m no stranger to the vast beauty of this stunning, snow-capped mountain range. But what I wasn’t expecting, on my family’s latest winter visit here, was to be so taken with the ski resort of Meribel.

Located in the middle of the largest ski area in the world, The Three Valleys boasts a ski area four times greater than the surface area of Paris. We enjoyed the best week of ski-ing we’ve ever had in the French Alps at this picturesque resort. It ticked so many boxes for my family-of-four – both on, and off-piste.

Boasting a global reputation for being one of safest places in the world to ski, the resort’s been such a hit with Brits – a third of its visitors are British – it’s even earned the nickname of “Little England on the Alps”.

Skiing at Meribel

People skiing on a very snow mountain in Meribel, France

Ski conditions here are so great because 85% of the resort is based at 1800 metres above sea level, with its 150k of pistes, accessible on a local area pass, reaching its highest peak at 2952m. But, if you plump for a Three Valleys pass, then you’ll be able to reach runs at an even higher 3230m peak and explore an impressive 600km of beautiful pistes across 335 runs.

This includes runs on the other side of Meribel, within easy reach at Courchevel, and if you have got time to venture slightly further afield, you can also ski at Val Thoren and Les Menuires.

It’s easy to see why Meribel is such a hit with families and intermediate skiers. The bulk of its 68 runs are either blue or red –  6 green, 30 blue, 25 red and 7 black. And, it’s extremely easy to traverse the slopes by tackling just green and blue runs if you’re ski-ing with young children, or beginners, in tow. There are even “Family Cool” signs indicating safe and easy pistes for families with a mix of abilities.

Off piste at Meribel

Hot tub on an open terrace overlooking a snowy mountain in Meribel, France

Meribel also has dedicated sledging experiences, fun snow parks, secured freeride areas, reserved racing areas and dedicated ski touring slopes.

When it comes to sledging there’s a rather exhilarating run called Mission Black Forest (you pay per run here, including sledge hire, so it can be a pricey option). Or there’s a weekly evening sledge ride, (rent a sledge  and get a ticket at Coombes lift) which is great value for money, and more to the point, fabulous fun. To make life even easier, the sledge run, which was also a green ski run in the day, even ran past the hotel where we were staying – which was virtually ski in ski out (a one minute walk from the ski room to the piste’s edge).

If you’re a foodie, you’ll be in your element here. There are some great options for lunch on the piste, including the fantastic Le Plan des Mains at Les Allues. We enjoyed fabulous homemade delights here including homemade breads and cakes, and mains included succulent steaks to power us on for an afternoon of ski-ing.

Small horses pulling people on skis on a snowy mountain path in Meribel, France

There’s a choice of a host of activities to indulge in such as igloo building. At the resort leisure centre, Parc Olympic, you could enjoy a range of activities from a relaxing massage to sooth those achy legs to swimming and skating on its Olympic-size ice rink. A completely new experience for us was ski-joring. It’s basically ski-ing while you are being pulled by a horse (or it could be by dogs) that you have to steer (or try to!). It was fast, exhilarating, and I’d definitely do it again as would my 13-year-old son and husband, who were fans of this newfound activity. While we enjoyed an introductory lesson in the safety of a penned in snowy paddock with Le Coeur Equestre Des 3 Vallees, once you’ve honed your skills you can even venture onto selected pistes, for extended fun.

Driving to Meribel

Getting to and from Meribel, was straight forward. We enjoyed a smooth sailing with DFDS from Dover to Calais with priority boarding and very comfortable priority lounge access, which included free drinks, snacks, and day beds to put your feet up on. And, while there are airports nearer to the resort of Meribel, travelling by ferry and car, even adding on the tolls you’ll need to pay en route, driving is still, more often than not, the cheaper option.

But facing a near nine-hour car journey is a daunting one, so I would recommend breaking the journey up with an overnight stay somewhere near the half way mark, which is exactly what we did. I can highly recommend a stay in the beautiful city of Dijon, and a meal at Maison Milliere restaurant based in one of Dijon’s oldest houses.

Situated behind the Cathedral of Notre Dame – make sure you follow the lucky carved owl trail around it – the food here is fantastic, the service was excellent and the historic building intriguing too. On the way back we stopped off at Hotel Les Remparts in Rue de Verdun, Chaumont, Haut-Marne, Champagne, which was full of character.

All in all, Meribel is now our favourite French ski resort!

Justine Halifax and family stayed for a week with Ski France at Hotel Le Mottaret.  Ski France’s flagship hotel in the Alps, it had a three star-rating, but they say they would rank it higher than that. It had a hot tub, out door bar, free parking, ski and boot rooms at piste level…

Hotel Le Mottaret; www.skifrance.co.uk; Ski hire: Sport 2000 Mottaret Ski Evasion
For more information on Meribel visit: www.les3vallees.com/en/ski-resort/meribel/

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