I think that the last time I skied in Meribel I was still working on my parallel turns so it’s safe to say that a lot has changed since I last visited Méribel village.
But while the resort has grown enormously, offering more family accommodation options, excellent dining choices and a host of apres-ski activities (not just of the Folie Douce kind), one thing hasn’t altered and that’s Meribel’s position in the heart of the Three Valleys ski area.
Les Trois Vallées ski region in the Tarentaise Valley is pde up for seven ski resorts: Méribel, Courchevel, Val Thorens, Les Menuires, La Tania, Saint Martin de Belleville, Brides les Bains and Orelle.
While each resort has something different to offer, Méribel wins first place when it comes to location. Its position in the centre of the 600 km of pistes means easy access to everything that Les 3 Vallées has to offer skiers. This really is one of the best family ski resorts in France.
If you are considering a Meribel family ski holiday then this post is for you. Read on to discover why
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History of Meribel village
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Once upon a time Meribel was a traditional farming village but then in the 1930s Scottish Colonel Peter Lindsay arrived with a vision to create a ski resort. He worked with French skier Emile Allais to establish a resort near the village of Méribel Les Allues.
Over the ensuing years the resort grew, gaining cable cars and links to other resorts as well as ski-in ski-out accommodation and the first snow cannons in the early 1980s.
While the Méribel valley has changed considerably since those early days, what hasn’t changed is the look, style and feel of the resort. Lindsay insisted that the buildings blend with the natural environment and still today it’s a resort characterised by stone and wooden chalets in a traditional Savoyard style making it one of France’s most attractive ski resorts.
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Meribel Ski Resort
But Meribel is more than just a pretty face, this resort offers truly superb skiing. The Meribel valley alone has around 150 km of pistes but when combined with the rest of the Three Valleys, you are rewarded with the world’s largest ski area with fantastic skiing to suit everyone from the beginner to the serious skier.
Plus, the lift infrastructure and piste maintenance means that the slopes are extraordinary well groomed.
Meribel ski resort is made up of a number of different villages all connected either via bus or by the a ski slope – or both!
Méribel centre is the heart of the resort where you’ll find lots of the restaurants, bars and acres ski with ubiquitous live music. In terms of ski lifts, this is where La Chaudanne is and from here you can get to Courchevel, Mottaret and the Altiport area of Meribel.
La Chaudanne area is also where most ski schools tend to meet. It’s easy to walk around Meribel centre and there are some good family-friendly accommodation options including La Kaila (see below).
Sitting above the centre of Méribel at 1750 metres is Meribel Mottaret, a purpose built resort with ski-in ski-out accommodation options offering direct access to the pistes. The village has everything you need including supermarkets, restaurants, ski rental shops and some fantastic ski schools. A free shuttle bus runs from here to Meribel centre in roughly 10-minutes.
Tucked away from the centre of the resort in a quiet location, Meribel village is a great place for families. The Golf chairlift takes you to the Altiport area (with a protected children’s area) of Meribel and a blue run takes you from here into the Meribel centre. Or the free shuttle bus takes approximately 5 minutes.
Meribel Les Allues is the original town in the Meribel Valley before the ski resort was developed. It still maintains the feel of a traditional alpine village and has some great accommodation options.
Les Trois Vallées ski area
It’s easy to look at the Three Valleys and be overwhelmed by its sheer size and think that is only suited to advanced skiers. The reality is, however, that there are ski slopes to suit all levels. Plus, with 85 per cent of the ski area above 1,800m promising perfect conditions for most of the season (they also have an excellent snowmaking system should the weather not cooperate).
All of the resorts within the 3 Valleys have dedicated learning zones with gentle slopes – in Meribel it’s located on the sunny Altiport area.
There are myriad “easy ski zone” pistes, labelled on the piste maps and themed runs that are especially great for kids. And don’t think that you are limited to skiing in your resort if you are new to the sport; there are ski slopes that open up the entire ski area to beginners. If you are with a ski instructor then they will be able to guide you.
The Three Valleys is a brilliant resort for intermediate skiers with around 75 per cent of the pistes blue or red.
Some of the most popular runs in the Meribel valley include the thigh-burning Combe Vallon, a red run that’s one of the longest in the valley. The run starts at Méribel’s highest skiing point, the Mont du Vallon (2952m) and continues on, going for a total of 3.2km and a 1,000m drop. If you plan to ski this run then it’s best to do it first thing in the morning when there are fewer skiers and really good snow.
Some of the best blue runs in the Meribel valley include Pic Blue that starts at the link to La Tania above the Altiport section of Merle and runs down to the Loze chairlift. The Roc de Fer is another fun blue run that runs down into the Chaudanne area.
Serious skiers will want try some of the black runs including Le Grand Couloir, the toughest black run in the 3 Valleys. Before even attempting the run you need to pick your way along a narrow, steep ridge before launching yourself down the steep descent.
La Face is another famous black run, the world’s steepest giant slalom course that took pride of place in the Albertville Winter Olympic Games in 1992.
See a the piste map for Les 3 Vallees here
Meribel for Families
Meribel is a wonderful place for a family skiing holiday. It’s a Famille-Plus resort meaning that it has everything you need from excellent childcare and family-friendly restaurants to accommodation suited to families, entertainment and more.
Meribel has a number of slopes and snow parks dedicated to kids. These are fun places to play as well as being a safe environment for them to learn in.
The Animal Trail (Piste des Animaux) follows an enchanting path through the forest where children can learn about the Trois Vallée wildlife while also practicing their snowplough. There’s a walking path alongside the trail for non-skiers.
In the Altiport area of Meribel is the Inuit Village, a fun play area for kids where games and entertainment take place daily from 2pm – 4pm during the French school holidays. Take part in mystery fishing, follow the Inuit trail, go on a treasure hunt, play snow golf and much more. There are also picnic areas if you want to bring a snack.
Along the Pic Bleu piste is the Altai Dragon trail where magical dragons are waiting to be discovered and then there’s Yooni the Yeti at the Yeti Park. In short, there are a lot of fun runs to keep kids busy, happy and enjoying their ski holiday!
Ski schools in Meribel
Not surprisingly given how large Meribel is, there are lots of ski schools to choose from with plenty of options for small group lessons and dedicated children’s lessons. If you plan to visit during the February school holidays or at New Year in particular then make sure to book well in advance.
Parallell Lines have been operating out of Meribel for the last 23 years and have English-speaking instructors.
Oxygene offer ski and snowboarding lessons in English. They are a particularly good options for beginners and their lessons for young kids are capped at a maximum of 6 children pre group.
Marmalade is a small local outfit with English-speaking instructors and an excellent reputation for great technical teaching.
New Generation is a well-respected ski school operating all over the French Alps. They offer English-speaking instructors and lessons ranging from 2 – 4.5 hours.
The family-owned Snow School won the 2022 Tripadvisor Travelers’ Choice award. They offer skiing and snowboarding lessons across the Three Valleys.
ESF is still one of the best places to learn to ski and they have 320 English-speaking instructors and offer children’s ski lessons for all levels.
Prosneige offer a special ski program for children aged 2 to 4 years old.
Other winter activities in Meribel
Away from the ski slopes Meribel has lots to offer. Here are some of the indoor and outdoor activities that you can enjoy once you’ve taken your ski boots off for the day and they’re perfect for non-skiers too.
- Meribel’s Parc Olympique is home to a swimming pool, ice rink and an indoor climbing wall. Ice hockey matches are held here weekly during the ski season.
- There are two cinemas to choose from one in Meribel and the other Meribel Mottaret.
- Try snowshoeing either with an ESF guide or with Raquette Evasion who end their forest walks with a chocolate fondue.
- Go ski touring; book a guide with ESF.
- Meribel centre has a bowling alley, perfect for a family-friendly competition after the lifts close.
- Go horse riding or try ski-jöering (where you’re pulled on along by a horse while on skis) at the Nordic Ranch.
- Tackle Meribel’s 3.4km toboggan run that drops 470m and has a whopping 28 corners to speed around. It starts from the top station of the Tougnète gondola.
- Take to the skies with a tandem paragliding flight.
Meribel and the Three Valleys Ski Pass
There are various options for ski passes for your Meribel ski holiday depending on where you want to ski and for how long. Take a look at the most up-to-date lift pass rates here.
Family-friendly Accommodation in Meribel
Meribel has developed something of a reputation as being a destination for luxury ski holidays and this is certainly reflected in the accommodation options.
But the good news is that there are lots of excellent family-friendly accommodation choices ranging from the traditional catered chalet and luxury ski chalets to hotels designed specifically for families. The following are just some of options available, for more ideas and further information take a look here.
These super luxury apartments are on the site of the old Club Med resort in the Belvédère area. Privately owned but available to rent, the apartments are enormous and come with all the hotel amenities you could ever want.
On site is also a ski hire shop, kids’ play area, swimming pool (with kids pool area) and an exclusive spa that in addition to offering beauty treatments has a wealth of medical treatments to try too.
Le Coucou Hotel & Spa
This luxury 5* boutique hotel in Les Allues is owned by the same family that founded the French fashion brand Naf Naf. The highly covetable hotel interiors were designed by French interior designer Pierre Yovanovitch.
There are 55 rooms including two private chalets. Chalet Églantine is set over four floors and includes its own private playhouse. The chalet sleeps 12 people. Chalet Éléonore also sleeps 12 and is marginally smaller than Églantine but equally stylish.
The chalets come with their own butler, private ski room, private access to the slopes, an indoor pool, private massage cabin, and direct access to the hotel.
One of the best family hotels in town, Le Kaila, was designed and developed by a couple with young children and the result is hotel that is absolutely brilliant for families.
Accommodation is stylish and comfortable with kids’ bedrooms and bathrooms. Probably the best thing about Le Kaila, however, is the Kids Club that has partnered with LEGO®. Expect larger-than-life LEGO® ski figures, more bricks that you could every possibly use, comfortable play areas and even DUPLO® for younger children.
Located metres from the slopes, luxury Hotel La Chaudanne is the ideal hotel for getting kids to their ski lessons on time! The hotel has family rooms that sleep up to five people as well as an indoor pool and hamman. There’s a bar just for kids (serving sweets rather than your traditional apéro) as well as a kids and teen zone. The Spa has a range of treatments for children.
Hotel Le Mottaret
Located in Meribel Mottaret, this three star ski-in ski-out hotel is a great option for families. They offer a range of accommodation options including triple rooms, a Prestige Family room where kids stay free, a Prestige Quad and Prestige Suite that sleeps up to six people.
In Meribel Centre is The Savoy, a friendly hotel with family suites, cosy living spaces and a very good restaurant.
Pierres & Vacances Meribel
Offering great value for money are the Pierres & Vacances apartments. There are a number of different locations around Meribel to choose from.
Meribel’s restaurant scene is very impressive whether on the slopes or off. The following are some of the best restaurants in Meribel.
Located at the top of the Tougnète chairlift at an altitude of 2,400m, is this colourfully decorated restaurant that is part of the Maya Collection.
The bright striped ceilings and lampshades of the interiors area said to have been inspired by Tibetan and Himalayan design (where the Christmas tree made out of plush toys fits into this design idea is not immediately obvious!). But the decor is fun and the food is excellent featuring Savoyard specialities a well as meals cooked in the charcoal and Tandoor ovens.
The desert menu is out of this world so make sure you save space!
Le Clos Bernard
This popular Meribel restaurant sits in the Altiport forest and is accessed from the bottom of the Loze chairlift. It’s an especially great choice for lunch as skiers of all levels – including young skiers – can access it easily.
The menu features plenty of traditional Savoyard dishes including croziflette, fondue and raclette as well as excellent burgers and pasta. Its particularly well known for its meats grilled on a wood fire. Make sure to book in advance.
One of my favourite places to eat during our time in Meribel was at Le Lillie, named after the grandmother who built a hotel on this spot in 1964. The property no longer offers lodging these days but it does serve very good food.
Expect everything from delicious pizzas and local specialities (fondue, raclette and tartiflette) to curry, ravioli and beef tartare – and more! They sometimes have a DJ playing in the evening.
Beef Bar at Hotel Le Coucou
As well as being wonderful luxury hotel, Le Coucou has an impressive Beef Bar restaurant that’s easily one of the best restaurants in Meribel, particularly for carnivores! Grills don’t come cheap here but if you’re after Australian Wagyu, Japanese Kobe or Black Angus beef then this is the place to come.
Cheese lovers should head straight to La Fromagerie where the finest alpine cheese is served in myriad forms. The fondue is a favourite with locals and visitors alike but they also serve raclette, tartiflette, salads and charcuterie. A handful of vegetarian options also feature on the menu. Make sure to book in advance.
How to get to Meribel
Chambery Airport is the closest airport to Meribel, just a one hour and 20 minute drive away. Geneva Airport is a two hour drive from Meribel. Ask your accommodation about an airport transfer.
If travelling by train then Moûtiers is the closest train station, just 17km away. Eurostar ski trains from London and high-speed TGV trains from Paris stop here. From Moûtiers there are local buses that run to Méribel centre.
For more information on travelling by train to the slopes, take a look at Snowcarbon.