Skiing in Meribel
Most of the Meribel skiing area is above the tree-line and well connected. Whether some of the red runs should be graded blue and vice versa is debatable but this does not detract from the skiing in the slightest.
Meribel Ski Area Overview
The Meribel valley is orientated north to south so the good news is that you can ski in the sun all day. Start your day on the west side somewhere between Roc de Fer and Mont de la Chambre before working your way round to finish off on the sun-kissed slopes of the Saulire peak. All of which will give you countless opportunities to drop into the other valleys. Most of the skiing area is above the treeline and is well connected by over 150 km of pistes.
There are two main resort villages, Meribel and Meribel-Mottaret, which also serve as the two major skiing hubs. Meribel-Mottaret is more ski-in ski-out whereas Meribel stretches up and along the valley with the Chaudanne lift station at its root. From the Chaudanne, ride up to Tougnete (2,434m) on the west side for access to some superb red runs spreading north towards the fast quads of Roc de Fer and the Ladies’ Olympic downhill.
Off the back are deserted flanks of off-piste and a couple of classic reds leading down to St Martin de Belleville. Heading right from the lift leads you to the steep slopes of the Roc de Tougne drag. You can also drop down into Meribel-Mottaret from here but a better option for that on a sunny morning is taking the Plan de l’Homme six-seater chair – it is so much quicker although the run into Mottaret is flat so boarders take note.
On the other side of the valley the Saulire gondola takes you to the summit (2,738m) and the link into the Courchevel valley. Most of the skiing on the Meribel side is wide motorways. Georges Mauduit, the old downhill, has been regraded from black to red but still has a wonderfully steep shoulder to blow the cobwebs away. Steeper yet blander runs lead down to Meribel-Mottaret and the others on the Meribel side grade out towards the tree-lined nursery slopes of Altiport.
The Pas du Lac gondola runs from Meribel-Mottaret also to the top of Saulire. The other major lift out of Mottaret is Plattieres, a three-stage gondola that opens up the southern part of the valley and tops out on the summit of 3 Marches (2,704m).
The first two stages take you straight up the middle of the valley and over a terrain park. Underneath the final dog leg right is the steep and jagged Bouquetin black, often closed but a real pulse quickener in good conditions. The top is an ideal drop-off point into Les Menuires and is home to some zippy reds. Both the second and third stages allow access to the Cote Brune chair (which links to Val Thorens and has a great off-piste bumps beneath it) and down towards the base of Mont du Vallon. Stay on for the third stage then drop-off the edge of the path on the Alouette piste for a more challenging way down.
The views from the top of Mont du Vallon (2,950m), the emblematic mountain and southern sentinel of Meribel, stretch right down the valley and also encompass the Tueda National Park and the frozen beauty of Lac de Tueda.
Beginner Skiing in Meribel
Meribel is the best base for beginners, even though its excellent nursery slope is slightly removed from the resort base.
It is possible to ski all of the Three Valleys on green runs and, while some of the blue runs might at first seem a little daunting, their sheer breadth and the quality of the grooming means most of the ski area will quickly open up to beginners.
The best place to learn is the Foret green as it is by far the most gentle slope of the lot; it can often be so flat that it is necessary to schuss or pole along.
The Blanchot green, accessed by taking the Rhodos gondola from the Chaudanne, is also flat and winds nicely through trees in places to give beginners an opportunity of feeling as if they are travelling somewhere, albeit at a nice gentle pace. Halfway down there is a restaurant with a decent terrace if things get too difficult.
Altiport, a golf course in the summer, is rarely icy, wide and tree-lined. It is also blessed with very little through traffic. From here is also easy to access the blues slightly higher up the mountain and is the perfect place to learn or to progress to from the Blanchot slopes.
Those stationed in Meribel-Mottaret will have to rely on the Truite green that runs down the Chaudanne in Meribel proper.
The Rhodos green is the hardest of the beginners’ slopes in Meribel. If you can tackle the Rhodos then it is a fair bet that you will be able to handle the Geai, Biche and Belette blue area of Saluire or the Choucas, Escargot, Grive and Faonblues in Plattieres.
Ski Schools & Ski Lessons in Meribel
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Intermediate Skiing in Meribel
The Three Valleys is the place to clock up mileage and Meribel is the ideal base from which to do so.
All the runs to the right of the Tougnete bubble and drag are excellent, particularly the Blaireau red. It is also worth following the track along the ridge line along to the blue Choucas whose rolling hills you can ride as if on rails. From there the route down to Chaudanne along Gelinotte winds down through the trees but can get a bit icy. The reds Pramint and Jerusalem that take you down to St Martin de Belleville are perhaps two of the best red runs in the entire Three Valleys, certainly first up in the morning. They are not too bad on the way down to lunch, either.
All of the runs from the top of Saulire are wide cruisers (once you have navigated the sometimes rutted and always icy path around the headland to the runs leading down to Meribel). The Niverolle and Aigle reds combine for a nice long ski down to Meribel Mottaret.
The Chamois red has a nice steep incline to start off with but don’t miss the opportunity to ski the Mauduit red from top to bottom if the snow is good enough; it is almost 1,300m of vertical. Most of the blues are fairly easy.
Intermediates will love the winding reds that come down Mont du Vallon, Combe Vallon and Compagnol. Mouflon is a lovely red run when it has had a bit of sun, but can get icy and hardpacked in shade and flat light. Lagopede, accessed from the Roc de Tougne drag, has a fantastic pitch and camber and can be extended by taking either Fouine or Coqs down to Mottaret which, incidentally, are the nicest runs in to the resort centre.
Both the Venturon and Lac de La Chambre red off the Cote Brune are an excellent challenge for improving intermediates.
Advanced & Expert Skiing in Meribel
Meribel does not have the most testing terrain in the Three Valleys but there is still enough to warrant the serious skier’s interest, on and off the piste. And Meribel’s central location means that advanced skieres who are based there can quickly access the challenges in the other valleys.
The blacks of Bartavelle (which generally has good snow) and Bosses (which generally does not) in the Tougnete area are best for bumps though there is a tendency to keep most of the pisted runs mogul-free.
Of the other blacks Tetras struggles with snow and is almost always a mogul field, Le Face (the women’s Olympic downhill) can be sublime in unpisted powder or a massive adrenaline rush on freshly pisted corduroy. Grande Rosiere and Sanglier are unremarkable but testing and enjoyable and Combe Tougnete is a good quick run with a very steep first hundred metres.
Skiers wanting to sample the off-piste challenges in the valley should head to Mont Vallon and from the safety of the lift carefully inspect the area inbetween the Combe de Vallon and Campagnol pistes. But be careful: there are dangers here and once you go beyond the piste markers, you’re on your own – so make sure you have the right equipment and if you have any doubts, take a guide. For more details of the freeriding possibilities here and throughout the valley, see Meribel Off-piste below.
Strong skiers however, will not want to spend all their time in just the Meribel valley. Meribel’s location in the middle of the world’s largest lift-connected ski area means they can access a huge range of advanced skiing in Courchevel, Les Menuires and Val Thorens. As long as you make an early start, don’t do too much exploring along the way and avoid accidents, any piste on the Les 3 Vallees map can be reached, skied and returned from well before the lifts close. Keep an eye out for unscheduled lift closures though, particularly in bad weather – there are intereactive maps showing what is open and what is closed at all the major stations and for most expeditions there is more than one route back. Meribel to Val Thorens by lift and piste might be a reasonably quick and pleasant journey but the same can not be said for an enforced return by road, and if you have to hire a taxi (bus connections between the Three Valleys are few and far between) the fare charged will reflect this.
Boarding & Freestyle in Meribel
Meribel has two major snow parks, one with a completely enclosed beginners’ area.
The Snowpark at Plattieres has recently been refurbished and now also includes a completely enclosed area where beginners can evolve without being intimidated. There are 17 acres, two half-pipes plus jumps, whoops and banks.
The Moon Park in Meribel has a decent vertical drop, one competition standard half pipe, another for learners and a boardercross that stretches to a kilometre.
For those who like things more natural there is an enormous wall beneath the Adret chair just before you reach the top. The wall can be accessed from either the Marmotte or Geai blues. At its steepest it rises around two metres but it levels out the further to the right as you approach it. The landing is a little too flat for comfort.
Runs that boarders should consider avoiding due to their flat nature are the Ours blue from the base of Mont Vallon and Lac de La Chambre from the top of Cote Brune to the bottom of Mont Vallon. The last part is incredibly flat. The Boulevard de La Loze that takes you from Loze to Saulire is very flat, while the Perdrix green that takes you into Mottaret from the Tougnete is very flat at the bottom – make sure you get some speed up.
Off-Piste Skiing & Freeriding in Meribel
Meribel’s official Freeride area is at Mont de la Challe and there is also a very steep ungroomed black piste called the GoPro Couloir. But there is plenty more unofficial off-piste at Mont Vallon, Cote Brune, Col de la Loze, Roc de Fer and Saulire. And then of course there is all the off-piste in the Courchevel and Belleville valleys.
Much of the off-piste in Meribel is easily accessible, with few hikes or tours needed to reach it. As a result, and due to the sheer numbers in resort, fresh powder near the lifts gets tracked out quickly. But if you make the effort and avoid the more obvious areas you should still pick up some fresh stuff even a day or two after a snow fall. The best way to do this is to hire a guide who will also keep you safe, make sure you have the right equipment
Mont de la Challe / Roc de Tougne
The resort’s official freeride area is around the Roc de Tougne chair which has a nice mix of terrain. It is prone to avalanche, so if there are signs up saying it’s closed, then stick to the pistes. And although it is an officially sanctioned freeride area, it’s not patrolled so make sure you have the right equipment and preferably a guide with you as well.
Saulire and the GoPro Couloir
Much of the off-piste around Saulire centres on the couloirs that head into Courchevel and a few that come back into Meribel. The North-facing couloirs that drop into Couchevel are covered in our guide to Courchevel Ski Area. The South-facing Meribel ones are rocky and exposed to the full force of the sun and so if it’s been a while since it’s snowed, they might well be unskiable, or at least unenjoyable. One of them is now a piste called the GoPro Couloir run which reaches 37 degrees in places. As you come out of the Saulire gondola most skiers carry on to their left. Those who want to access the couloirs leading into Meribel must turn right. Once you have done the official GoPro Couloir you can explore some of the others, but strictly at your own risk and without our recommendation. L’Echelle is known as ‘Death Couloir’ to English speakers and is reached by the ladder visible on the right. Further along the ridge is the Couloire de L’Antenne.
On the way down to Mottaret from Saulire there is some decent off-piste to be found off the Niverolle red and Grand Rosiere black that takes you down to Mottaret.
Col de la Loze
Between the Dent Burgin chairlift and the Loze chairlift there is easy pickings for novice off-piste skiers to try their hand in, particularly close to the Dent Burgin as the nearer you get to Loze the more avalanche prone the area becomes.
In good snow the whole area to the east of the Loze chair can provide superb off-piste through the forest to link up with the cross-country trails and Altiport below.
Roc de Fer
Further along the west side of the valley, check out the bowl and face under the Olympic chair from where you can also follow several itineraries down through the trees to the mediaeval villages of Le Raffort and even Les Allues. You need a bumper snowfall, however, and it is one of the most prone areas in the valley for avalanche.
The best off-piste from the top of the Olympic chairlift is off the back towards St Martin de Belleville. It is one of the classic off-piste itineraries in the valley, but one of the least used. It provides a good mix of terrain and endless routes to snake your way down.
Mont du Vallon and Col de la Chambre
Mont du Vallon has some steep off-piste both underneath the lift and dropping off the ridge towards the piste of Combe Vallon, a renowned red, as well as a classic itinerary off the back of the mountain which opens out to the left if you hike along the ridge line. There is also an excellent backcountry itinerary as you come out of the gondola on your left. There is a break in the mountain which you walk through to ski down to meet up with the Campagnol red.
One of the best descents in the valley can, paradoxically, only be accessed from the 3 Vallees 2 chairlift from Val Thorens. From here, go off the back and stay right before dropping down onto the very scenic red of Lac de la Chambre.
Be warned, the south-eastern area of the valley from the just beyond the Combe Vallon right around to the Grand Rosiere black is a nature reserve. This area is often patrolled by the pisteurs who take a dim view of skiers found in this area.
The nearby Cote Brune is a good off-piste vehicle; follow the Venturon piste until it turns down the valley, keep left and as high as possible, from where it is a short walk behind the rocky summit to a natural gunbarrel and a steep powder face. For the best bumps in the valley stay directly under the Cote Brune chair.
Mountain Restaurants in Meribel
Meribel has a wide selection of mountain restaurants. As there is a wealth of competition throughout the Three Valleys the standards are pretty high. In Meribel itself, the options are pretty solid, but unspectacular, but as you go further up the mountain, the food, and sun terraces, become much better.
Meribel’s lunch options in the centre of the village are solid, if unspectacular, but if you stay up the mountain things get a lot more exciting. We go through the best in the valley.
Cactus Cafe (Tel: +33 4 79 00 53 67)
More a bar than a restaurant. It has a decent sunterrace, but it overlooks the Chaudanne roundabout. Good pizzas.
Bibi Phoque (Tel: +33 4 79 00 30 93)
Slightly further towards the hill into the centre from Cactus is the enterprisingly named BiBi Phoque. It serves large savoury and sweet crepes. Excellent value and also serves bigger main courses.
Evolution (Tel: +33 4 79 00 44 26)
Quite the best place for a quick lunch, hot chocolate and a warming Ginepi close to the Chaudanne. Think gastropub. What else would serve a Reblochon, sundried tomato, spinach, Chorizo, prawn and red onion compote omelette with fries and salad? Jacks Bar next door offers a cheaper alternative.
Rond Point des Pistes
L’Adray Telebar (Tel: +33 4 79 086 026)
Adray Telebar is just about the best place to eat lunch in the valley. It is slightly hidden away but is located just before the bottom of the Adret six-man chair on the opposite side of the Rond Point. Both the plat du jour and duck are highly recommended but it can be very busy at lunchtimes due to the sensational sun terrace. For colder days the traditional salon complete with wood burner and antiques is cosy, especially with a hot chocolate or vin chaud which is served in individual pichets and come with complimentary handmade cakes.
Chalet Marie Blanche (Tel: +33 4 79 08 65 55)
The Marie Blanche lies on the opposite side of the piste to the Adray and is also excellent. It is more of a walk to get to, but has a great view of the Stade Slalom. Accessible by public bus an d a good spot for pedestrians to meet up with skiers.
Le Rond Point (Tel +33 4 79 00 37 51)
The de facto place to be seen in the sun and is good for big plates of pasta and burgers. Around the side of the bar they have opened a cheaper shop window for sandwiches. Accessible by public bus and a good spot for beginners.
Grands Cafe des Pistes (Tel: +33 4 79 08 47 67)
Adjacent to the Rond Point, slightly further along the road is the Grands Cafe Des Pistes that offers luxury seating on the sun terrace. It is better for breakfast or a quieter more informal lunch, but as it has gas heaters the terrace is still perfect for a reviving vin chaud or hot chocolate in inclement weather.
Allodis Hotel (Tel: +33 4 79 00 56 00)
The 4* Allodis Hotel is found across the Rhodos green at the second Rhodos gondola. It has a menu that goes with its rating. The king of the Meribel lunch scene and one of the best sun terraces in the Three Valleys. Accessible for beginners.
Coeur de Cristal (Tel: +33 4 79 22 46 09)
Coeur de Cristal is found slightly further up than the Allodis on the Rhodos piste. The Coeur de Cristal has a snackbar window to the side, but if you want a more substantial sit-down lunch it does fantastic grilled meats such as ribeye and racks of lamb. The restaurant has a good suntrap terrace and is accessible for beginners.
Saulire, Altiport and Loze
Le Panoramic (Tel: +33 4 79 08 00 88)
Strictly, you should say Le Panoramic is in Courchevel. It is situated at the top of the Saulire gondola. As you exit the gondola, you turn left and walk around 50 metres up the slope. The walk is worth it. The views of Courchevel are stunning and the food, though expensive, is excellent. Lamb knuckle, fillet of bream in ginger, fillet of beef with morels is the general tone, although if you want to watch your money, the soup, served in an enormous hollowed out piece of rustic bread fills up anyone.
Pierre Plates (Tel: +33 4 79 00 42 38)
Also located at the top of the Saulire, but reached by turning right on exit. Do not be mistaken that this is Le Panoramic. Although the views are also excellent, the Pierre Plates has poor self-service food. Best take in the views, or better still watch the sun go down, with a drink.
Blanchot (Tel: +33 479 00 55 78)
The Altiport and Loze area provides three very good lunch options, but for food, the Blanchot wins hands down. It has a good terrace, and offers two ‘skier’s menus’ which comprise either the dish of the day or dish of the day and one of their many famed desserts. It is accessible by road as it is at Altiport is a good place for beginners who have earned a stylish lunch.
Rhododendrons (Tel: +33 4 79 00 50 92)
The Rhododendrons lags behind other restaurants in the area in the food stakes, but it is another restaurant that has an excellent sun terrace. It is self-service and as it is the perfect place to meet beginners as it is at the top of the Altiport green it can be one of the busiest in the valley. Good hot chocolate, and there is often big air displays outside.
Le Roc Tania (Tel: +33 4 79 08 32 34)
For those linking up with Courchevel, the Roc Tania at the top of Col du La Loze chairlift has a sensational view of the valley below, a good terrace that gets the sun all day and proper dining including meat and fish plates as well as the ubiquitous giant salad.
Mottaret is a popular choice for lunch as it sits halfway up the mountain and allows the transfer from the Tougnette to the Saulire side as the sun moves round the valley.
Pizzeria du Mottaret (Tel: +33 4 79 00 40 50)
The Pizzeria du Mottaret is usually swamped, and quite rightly, too. It provides some of the best wood-fired pizzas in the valley and also does more sophisticated dishes such as steak tartar, raclettes and fondues. Difficult to find better in Mottaret. If the weather is cold, it has a roaring fire.
Brasserie Cote Brune (Tel: +33 4 79 00 40 97)
The Brasserie Cote Brune has an excellent sun terrace. It serves proper lunches as well, including grilled meat and fish dishes as well as salads.
Au Temps Perdu (Tel: +33 4 79 00 36 64)
Don’t be put off by the odd outfits the waiters wear, Au Temps Perdu is good for a quick bite if you want something more substantial than a simple sandwich. The giant soups that come with rustic breads are extraordinary.
Hotel Mont Vallon (Tel: +33 4 79 00 44 00)
If you want something a little ritzier, the Hotel Mont Vallon offers serious dining. It is perfect for those taking a day off who want to meet their skiing friends as it is accessible by foot from the bust stop in Mottaret. The Mont Vallon has two restaurants, the Schuss, which regularly offers one of the best value buffets in the Alps and the Chalet, which is more fine dining and is used for dinner. The Table du Mottaret in the Hotel AlpenRuitor nearby also offers serious dining.
Le Chardonnet (Tel: +33 4 79 00 44 81)
Names after the brothers Laurence and Gilles who run it, Le Chardonnet is a short walk (don’t worry, it is flat) from the Pas du Lac gondola mid station. It has an exceptional terrace and with dishes such as pig cheek, scallops or rabbit it is a welcome off-piste change to much of the other restaurants in the valley.
Cote 2,000 (Tel: +33 4 79 00 55 40)
It is not often in a ski resort that you get an oyster bar, but at the at the confluence of the Aigle and Aiglons reds, on the way into Mottaret, lies the Cote 2,000. They boast it is the highest oyster bar in the Alps but there are more traditional options available, and at a more reasonable prices, too.
As the sun pulls round to the Saulire side in the afternoon, the weather does not favour the Tougnete side of the valley for lunch.
La Sittelle (Tel: +33 4 79 00 43 48)
Located on the Sittelle blue down from the Plattieres midstation, Le Sittelle is perfect for those who has spent an active morning in the snowpark. The restaurant has not got a large selection, but offers decent sized portions of pasta. The hot chocolate is magnificent.
L’Arpasson (Tel: +33 4 79 08 54 79)
Situated where the Tougnete changes from gondola to chairlift, L’Arpasson is a large self-service restaurant. Its terrace is virtually useless if there is any early season sun but they try hard with DJs from 3pm and it has a Wifi hotspot. Good access to the Moon Park.
Cretes (Tel: +33 6 09 40 51 04)
Located at the top of the Tougnete chairlift, Cretes is a decent spot for lunch before tackling Mont Vallon in the afternoon. Decent sun terrace as it is at the top of the mountain, and good views.
Mont Vallon: Plan des Mains (Tel: +33 479 07 31 06)
Nestled at the bottom of Mont Vallon, the Plan des mains is an excellent spot to have lunch having explored Mont Vallon during the morning. It also provides a welcome beer stop if you’ve made the long journey over from Val Thorens. Provides good local specialities as well as big grilled meats. For those en route to elsewhere, there is a sandwich shop that serves hearty baguettes.