Skiing In Meribel France A Realistic Look At A Great Ski Resort

Let me say this - I don't actually like Meribel. I don't mean the skiing, which is the best in the world. I don't mean the mountains, the glaciers and the forests with their incomparable views.

I don't mean the people who live, and work and stay there, some of whom are my good friends. It's the village, no, I mean the suburban spread of Meribel itself; it's just too big and just doesn't have the charm that would make it absolutely perfect!.The main resort is huge, with chalets spreading over the mountain like brown moss. In the twenty years I 've been going there, a few of the the small outlying hamlets around the centre have already been swallowed up by Meribel Ski Chalet Creep. Some though, lower down the valley like les Allues and Meribel Village still retain their rustic Savoyarde charm.There are now about 38,000 beds in the valley, mainly in Meribel itself and Mottaret higher up.

But what I find staggering is that at lunch time on a sunny day in high season, you will find the centre of this amazing ski resort empty. Out on the mountain at any time of the day, except for the Meribel rush hour as the lifts close, you can be skiing on empty slopes. This is incredible! Where has everyone gone?.Meribel lies in the middle valley of three.

On the map the three valleys resemble the claws of an eagle splayed northwards from the Chaviere Glacier 11000 feet above sea level. In the right hand valley is the chic Courchevel 1850 surrounded by the other Courchevel villages. In the middle valley are the resorts of Meribel and her sister Mottaret at the top with the charming les Allues half way down, and the spa town of Brides les Bains way down below. In the left hand valley lie the resorts of Val Thorens (the highest in Europe at 2300 metres), les Menuires, and my favourite village of them all, St. Martin de BellevilleLes Menuires and Val Thorens on the other hand are grim; they are both above the tree line and would win prizes for the category 'Brutal Mountain Architecture'.

Knowledgeable Meribel skiers pass through them quickly for what's on the other side.Getting back to the skiing, it is as phenomenal and the figures that go with it - 600 kilometers of prepared piste, 200 interlinked ski lifts carrying 260,000 people an hour - an hour, not a day - 1,500 snow cannons, seventy piste machines, 1,500 ski instructors.But please, what about the skiing? Well, I've been thinking of adjectives to describe it and all I can come up with is 'staggering' - quite literally for every standard of skier and snowboarder, there is so much to do that most people are staggering by the day's end!.Beginners can start on the wide open slopes of Rond Point and Altiport, intermediate skiers can go just about anywhere in the three valleys for a whole week without even retracing their tracks, and experts can try the best off piste on the Pointe de la Masse above les Menuires, or in the couloirs running down from the Saulire summit towards Courchevel.There are also wonderful open training grounds for would-be powder skiers and boarders across the snow fields to St Martin, where they can stop for a picnic in the sunshine, propped up against a cow shed, listening to the silence.

And if all that isn't enough, the serious mountain men and mountain women can go walking up the glaciers of Gebroulaz and Borne and Peclet with skins on their skis, and then glide slowly down through some spectacular landscape, being spied on from the surrounding peaks by the chamois.And Meribel, please forgive me for being rude about you at the start. Most people love you dearly.

You have fed us, wined us and danced us into the ground, but the skiing you have laid out before us has been without exception, and I'll say it again, the best in the world.

.Simon Dewhurst has has been involved in many aspects of the ski business for 35 years, including ski teaching, speed skiing and running chalets in the French Alps. http://www.


By: Simon Dewhurst


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