Why is Meribel such a well-loved French ski resort especially among Brits? Superb skiing, charming chalets and lively après are three very good reasons.
It's sophisticated, stylish and has great skiing. Ring any bells? Yep, it's Meribel. Karen Broom Smith, MD of Purple Ski gives an insider's view of one of the most popular and picturesque ski resorts in the French Alps...
Q. How well do you know Meribel?
A. Really well. Together with my husband and staff at Purple Ski, which has been operating in Meribel for 27 years, we know every inch of the ski area (on and off piste), can recommend the coolest bars, the best restaurants on the mountain and where to go for kit hire, guides and ski school.
Q. So why do you think we should come?
A. Meribel is probably the best located resort in the French Alps, situated at the heart of the largest ski area in the world, surrounded by 600km plus of pistes. There is something for every standard of skier – whether it be nursery slopes, beautifully groomed blue pistes, bumps, steeps, or powdery off-piste runs – and offers quick and easy access to Courchevel and Val Thorens. It is also one of the most picturesque resorts, surrounded by forest and with all of its buildings constructed out of wood and stone in the traditional Savoyard style (below).
Image: Jean Maurice GOUEDARD at Picturesonline
Add to this an unbeatable selection of shops, restaurants, ski schools and bars – and you have the perfect resort.
Q. Guess you know the resort like the back of your hand, what's your favourite run?
A. For me the best run in Meribel is ‘Crêtes’ which runs into ‘Choucas’, both of which are lovely rolling blue runs, quite out of the way and see very few visitors. However, for the 2019 season these are more easily accessible as a new chairlift links them with the Chaudanne.
Or there is 'Combe du Vallon' when it’s freshly pisted.
Q. Where should we head for off-piste and backcountry?
A. You can find untracked powder just under the chairlifts (above) in Meribel. St Martin-de-Belleville has some wonderful, low-gradient runs which are perfect if you’re just trying your hand at off-piste. La Masse (in Les Menuires) is great for those who are more experienced.
Q. Where is the most awesome view on the mountain?
A. It’s tough to choose but has to be from the top of Meribel’s highest peak, Mont du Vallon (below).
Q. Tell us what's so special about Purple Ski and your chalets in Meribel?
A. We keep our portfolio of luxury chalets intentionally small and special, offering seven of the loveliest chalets available to rent in Meribel. Our staff are handpicked industry professionals who deliver exceptional service in the comfort of your ‘home-from-home’.
Guests in our chalets have their own dedicated chauffeur and minibus who’ll take them anywhere they wish within the valley. They can indulge in unlimited champagne, fine wines, and an open bar of spirits, beer, soft drinks, teas and coffees.
Purple Ski’s cuisine is renowned for being the best in the industry.
Our chefs are always professionals with experience in top quality (usually Michelin starred) restaurants. With free rein to do what they do best, but of course tailoring their dishes to suit their clients’ tastes and preferences, they use their creativity and flair to turn the finest ingredients into truly remarkable meals (as their images show, above).
We like to think we have thought of every little detail to make a ski holiday special – from full-size Neal’s Yard toiletries and fresh flowers every day, to an extensive range of children’s and baby equipment, snacks to take on the piste, and the most comfortable beds in the world (see the sumptuous Chalet Varappe, below).
Q. Which restaurant would you recommend in Meribel (although, of course, it's doubtful we'll ever want to leave your chalets with their fine dining, hot tubs and massages)?
A. Our favourite is Le Cèpe, up near Le Rond Point. It’s a lovely alpine restaurant serving a modern take on local cuisine, with excellent service.
Q. Which is the coolest bar for après?
A. There is so much choice in Meribel for après – whether it be the Folie Douce, Rond Point, or the infamous O’Sullivan’s! For us, though, the best spots are the stylish l’Abreuvoir for a delicious cocktail, or a glass of wine at the intimate Saint Amour wine bar.
Q. Where is the best food on the mountain for lunch?
A. Le Clos Bernard is an adorable restaurant tucked away in a little clearing in the trees by the Altiport (below). It has a wonderful sunny terrace and makes a great rest stop for lunch and a vin chaud.
Q. Do you have to wear Chanel, Bogner or Prada skiwear to fit in with the Meribel Tribe?
A. No. Meribel attracts all types of visitors, from the fashion-conscious to families and those on a budget. Meribel is a friendly, non-judgmental resort with something for everyone.
Q. Anything to do in Meribel apart from ski and snowboard (and part from après, of course)?
A. Meribel has a plethora of activities for visitors to try out during their stay. If you’re a non-skier, you might want to give snow-shoeing a go, or try snow-mobiling, a scenic flight or a hot air balloon ride. Children will love the toboggan run, not to mention the Olympic centre with its swimming pool, bowling, ice rink and indoor climbing wall. And if your idea of fun is more wellness and relaxation, there’s plenty for you. too – with a choice of spas and a well-equipped gym. Purple Ski guests have access to in-house masseuses who can offer massage, yoga and Pilates sessions in the comfort of your chalet.
Q. When is a good time to come?
A. Meribel is a wonderful resort year-round, with plenty to do in the summer (hiking, mountain biking, paragliding and more) as well as winter. December is a magical time with the Christmas lights twinkling and the smell of mulled wine in the air, January and February are usually the best for fresh powder (below), and March and April offer spring snow and long, sunny afternoons on the terraces of the local restaurants and bars.
Q. How easy is it to get to / from Meribel? What's the fastest way? And do we need a car when we're there?
A. The fastest way is undoubtedly to fly. Meribel is easily accessed from a choice of airports – Geneva is the most convenient with a wide selection of international flights, Chambery is the closest, and Lyon and Grenoble are good options too. Purple Ski has its own transfer service, and we can arrange for your driver to meet you at the airport and whisk you to resort in 2.5 hours or less (with a champagne picnic to enjoy en route!).
There is no need to have a car in resort, as a Purple Ski chauffeur and minibus will be on hand throughout the day to take you anywhere you wish within the Meribel Valley, with just 20 minutes' notice.
Top image: Mike Jones of Waterline Media Ltd