There are plenty of reasons to love Méribel, not least for its pretty, chalet-style architecture, wooded surroundings and friendly, village atmosphere. But the prime reason, for keen snow-sport fans, is its central position within France’s huge Trois Vallées ski area.
Founded by British skier Peter Lindsay in 1938, Méribel’s developments now extend high up a west-facing slope, including the villages of Mussillon and Altitude 1600 to the east and Rond Point and Belvedere to the west. A vast number of chalets, and an increasing amount of self-catering apartments and hotels too, provide plenty of choice for accommodation and enough beds to sleep the resort’s growing fan base, who return year after year.
Stay on track with the essential facts from the resort below, and scroll down for our insider guide to a day on the pistes, expert ratings and advice. For further Méribel inspiration, see our guides to the resort’s best accommodation, restaurants and après ski.
In this guide:
Inside the resort
The combination of extensive slopes, superb location and attractive architecture makes Méribel one of Europe’s safest bets for a great ski holiday.
The villages of Méribel Centre range from 1,600m to 1,700m in altitude; the highest is Altiport (1,700m). Feeding into Méribel by shuttle bus and Olympe 1 and 2 gondola, which had newly revamped cabins in 21/22, 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, a satellite resort.
To the east are the resorts of Courchevel and La Tania, and to the west, Les Ménuires and Val Thorens. Together with Méribel these combine to make one of the largest linked ski areas in the world, with more than 600km of pistes.
Access to Méribel’s neighbouring resorts and the giant ski area as a whole are impressively slick. The Saulire Express gondola whisks up to 2,400 people an hour from the centre to the Saulire peak at 2,700m, taking 12 minutes. From Mottaret, the fast, six-seat Bouquetin chairlift reaches 3 Marches at 2,704m – there’s also the Combes chairlift from Mottaret which helps reduce queuing times on busy days.
Mont Vallon is the highest point in Méribel’s local ski area at nearly 3,000m, this combined with the lofty summits and slopes on Saulire and 3 Marches means good snow throughout the season, even if it can get a little slushy in March. On the downside, Méribel’s high, wide slopes are unsheltered and not great on poor-weather days, while experts lament a lack of challenging terrain.
Méribel caters well for the alpine shopper, with a number of technical clothing outlets in the resort, plus shops selling designer brands and interior design. The best bakery is Glaciers on Route de la Montée in the centre of the resort, while the Maison de la Presse on the same street sells British newspapers. For local Savoyard cheese, head for La Fromagerie at Galerie des Cimes near the centre. Twice weekly (Tuesdays and Fridays), there’s a small market on the Route de la Chaudanne.
The Olympic Centre built for the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics is open daily, offering a 25m indoor swimming pool, children’s pool, water slide, fitness centre, climbing wall, spa and indoor ice-rink. Snowshoeing, horse-sleigh tours, snowmobiling and walking routes are also available in the resort.
The resort has an unrivalled selection of good-quality, upmarket chalets in its various sectors, but there is also a decent selection of hotels and self-catering apartments. There’s no denying that the thousands of international visitors who come here every winter know how to party in style. A branch of the French on-mountain après experience, La Folie Douce, at the mid-station of the main Saulire gondola, gets loud at 3pm before the clientele migrate to the Rond Point, aka The Ronny, just above the main village, with live bands and a fantastic, up-for-it atmosphere, or to Jack’s Bar, at the foot of the slopes.
On the slopes
Méribel Valley, home to the resort’s local slopes, is central to the Trois Vallées ski area, one of the largest linked ski areas in the world. It has more than 150km of pistes in its own right (the majority blue, with around 25 per cent red and under 10 per cent green or black), which form part of the giant wider area.
For beginners, the gentle green slopes at Altiport, reached by the Morel chair from the satellite village of Altiport 1600, and the nursery slopes at Rond Point make a good starting point. Dedicated beginner and young children’s areas also include La Sittelle, accessed by a new fast, six-seat Bouquetin chairlift which, in 21/22, replaced the Plattières 3 gondola from Mottaret and which, since 22/23, offers a large terrace with views of Mont Vallon. Also Le Rossignol, accessed by the Chatelet chair and Le Doron at the foot of the pistes in Mottaret.
Its sheltered setting means the blue and red runs leading into the resort are protected by the steep-sided mountains and enjoy more settled weather conditions than in the adjacent broader valleys.
Much to the delight of intermediates, two new reds were added in 2019 – the Gypaete piste, (accessed via the Cherferie chairlift) and the Daguet piste (accessed via the black La Face piste). Intermediates can also enjoy some of the area’s best pistes south of Mottaret, at the head of the valley, accessed by the Bouquetin chairlift. For the more experienced, the red Combe Vallon piste from the top of the Mont du Vallon gondola at 2,952m is a good option, or the Face run (created for the downhill races in the 1992 Olympics) from the top of the Roc de Fer at 2,290m.
For experienced skiers who want to try out some challenging descents, there’s a new black ibex piste and the summit sector of the Saulire offers the challenging Tournier couloir and the grand couloir.
However, with the exception of beginners and those who’ve had a couple of weeks’ experience, the joy of staying in Méribel is using the resort as a springboard for the area as a whole. Beyond the local slopes there’s access to a total of over 600km of pistes served by 200 lifts. Usefully, local lift passes of two days or more can be upgraded on a daily basis to include the whole of the Trois Vallées, but, unless the weather is forecast to be particularly poor, most people opt for the straightforward Trois Vallées pass.
Queues can be a big issue in Méribel. If possible avoid the Chaudanne at the start of ski school (usually around 9.15am) and the runs to Mottaret in the late afternoon, when overcrowding is also a problem.
The Moonpark terrain park is suitable for all levels, halfway up the mountain on the Tougnète gondola from Chaudanne, and next to the Arpasson drag lift. DC Area 43 Snowpark is 1,200m long with a mini-skate ramp, rails and an airbag. It’s served by the Chatelet lift above Mottaret.
P’tit Moon is a mini-boardercross with banked turns for children aged seven to 12 years, located above the mid-station of the Rhodos gondola, which leaves from Chaudanne, and served by the Côtes draglift.
Moon Wild, also on the western slopes, by Altiport, is a wooded area for children with animal sculptures and information boards explaining the local flora and fauna. Other areas for small children include the Inuit Village accessed by the Altiport chairlift or Rhodos Gondola.
Who should go?
Méribel’s 150km of local slopes suits intermediates well – the majority are blue, with around 25 per cent red, and under 10 per cent being green or black. Further afield and the huge Trois Vallées ski area is hard to beat for variety. The resort has a lively après atmosphere, boosted by a large seasonaire population and array of bars and restaurants. It’s an all-rounder that’s hard to beat.
Know before you go
- British Embassy/Consulate: 00 33 1 44 51 31 00; ukinfrance.fco.gov.uk
- Ambulance (samu): dial 15
- Police: dial 17
- Fire (pompiers): dial 18
- Emergency services from mobile phone: dial 112
- Tourist office: See ski-resort.meribel.net, the website for the Méribel Tourist Board, for weather reports, lift status, webcams, traffic details and local event listings. Pick up maps, leaflets and other information from one of the offices, located in Méribel centre and Méribel Mottaret.
- Currency: Euro
- Telephone code: from abroad, dial 00 33, then leave off the zero at the start of the 10-figure number.
- Time difference: +1 hour
Local laws and etiquette
- When greeting people, formal titles (Monsieur, Madame and Mademoiselle) are used much more in French than in English.
- The laws of vouvoiement (which version of “you” to use) take years to master. If in doubt – except when talking to children or animals – always use the formal vous form (second person plural) rather than the more casual tu.
- When driving, it’s compulsory to keep fluorescent bibs and a hazard triangle in the car in case of breakdown. Since 2021, it’s also compulsory to have snow chains in your car or winter tyres from the beginning of November until March.