Take to the slopes of Meribel for a ski Holiday you’ll never forget…

Embarking on a week-long skiing/snowboarding holiday is the highlight of the year for many, choosing the unrivalled buzz that skiing has to offer over all-inclusive hotter destinations. European skiing is renowned for being some of the best in the world, largely due to the combination of fantastic snow year on year and the vast ski area on offer. Meribel is no exception and thousands of Brits flock to this resort each year to seek out the exceptional snow, slopes and views that the French Alps are famous for. When looking to book your break, head to Ski Total for a stress free booking experience where you can book your accommodation, flights transfers, food and even wine in advance.

Meribel is the heart of the three valleys. Residing between Val Thorens and Courcheval, these valleys combined make it the largest ski area in the world. You can ski between all three resorts meaning you waste no time travelling between valleys, giving you the freedom to explore as much of the ski area as you possibly can. Meribel offers even more freedom being the central valley and gives easy and quick access to the bordering resorts, and less pressure to get back on time in the afternoon.

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Having visited Meribel in early January it was uncertain whether there would be much snow, as it was so early in the season – (a season generally starts mid December and can last until late April in some of the higher resorts.) Meribel has an army of snow canons supplied by the Mottaret reservoir which has recently been extended, doubling the snowmaking around the resort and reducing the amount of dreaded ice that is so very common early in the season. The canons were on pretty much around the clock, working tirelessly to create a fluffy snow layer which is a dream to start a day’s skiing on, particularly for those less confident. The canons aren’t on all year round but they certainly make a world of difference early on, it’s then only a matter of time before Meribel truly becomes a winter wonderland with snow covering every last inch.

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Aside from what Meribel offers in terms of snow conditions, you would be hard pushed to not be blown away by the glorious 360 degree mountain views and the 600km expanse of unparalled ski area that Meribel as part of the three valleys has to offer. Meribel is a resort for all ages and abilities and with over 330 slopes it offers numerous green/blue runs for beginners and red/back runs for intermediate/advanced skiers. The pistes are very well groomed making it a smooth ride for novices and perfect conditions for those confident enough to carry a bit more speed. The more adventurous out there and those seeking a bit of an adrenaline rush, there is superb off piste skiing to be had with experienced guides who have excellent knowledge of the local terrain.

There are various ski schools in the resort for those who need lessons, ESF ski school are a wonderful ski school offering both group and private lessons. Our group consisted of a mixed bag of skiers, including complete beginners to advanced skiers and everything in between. The lessons were very well structured, introducing different tasks to improve technique and confidence on the slopes, considering the lessons was only two hours it made a notable improvement to beginners in the group. The lessons are well worth the money especially  if you’re new to skiing or not that confident and is often worth doing the odd lesson here or there even for experienced skiers.

A seemingly endless ski area is not all Meribel has to offer, the resort itself offers a host of activities catering to families, couples and friends, making sure the fun doesn’t end at last lifts. There are a host of evenings events throughout the season such as torch-lit touring races, competitive skiing tournaments including french alpine skiing and cross country and the slope style European cup. Meribel is a certified family resort with lots of activities for families including luging, igloo building and the ‘yeti park’. If you want some adult only time there are various exciting options such as a romantic hot air balloon ride or if you’re looking for a bit more adventure there is always heli-skiing and paragliding.

There are various bars and restaurants on the slopes and in Meribel centre, meaning you’re never far from a bite to eat or a well deserved drink. There is nothing quite like enjoying an ice cold drink, soaking up the sun and marvelling at the beauty of the snow-capped mountains. One of the best spots in town is Rond Point bar, not just because it’s ideally located just below hotel Alba, but it has great music, atmosphere and does an amazing pizza all complete with views of Meribel valley. If you really want to party on the mountain, the Follie Douce is the place to be – on a sunny day it really kicks off and there is all the drink, fun and dancing on tables you can handle!

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There are various options for eating out in Meribel, offering many traditional French restaurants as well as host of other cuisines. For me however I cannot resist getting Raclette whenever in France (a traditional French cheese from the Savoyard region that is continually heated to produce endless amounts of melted cheese.)  La Kouisena offers a variety of sublime French food but the Raclette I cannot recommend highly enough, served with boiled potatoes and cured meats it truly is an indulgent dinner and definitely not one to miss.

The Hotel

We stayed in the Hotel Alba booked through Ski Total, Set higher up in the valley than the main part of the resort it offers wonderful panoramic views of the mountains with essentially ski in ski out access to the slopes. It’s clear to see why Ski Total wanted to snap up this gem. There was a warm welcome from the Ski Total staff upon arrival, after a brief but informative welcome speech from one of the hosts and the resort representative it was time to check out the rooms and freshen up for dinner.

The rooms have cosy furnishings, quirky wall hangings and are adorned with plenty of pine, giving the illusion of being in a traditional chalet. The bathrooms have delightfully hot showers and large baths to fully relax, unwind and soak your poor aching muscles after a hard days skiing. If a nice soak in the tub doesn’t quite cut it there is a spa room downstairs complete with steam room, sauna and of course jacuzzi. The spa is open from 4 – 8 pm, more than enough time to chill out before dinner. Above all else, the view is what elevates the hotel, there is nothing quite like opening the curtains in the morning to a truly spectacular view, an entire valley shrouded in a dusky pink haze of low cloud, the sun just peaking through illuminating the snowy mountains. If that doesn’t get you hyped for a days’ skiing I don’t know what will.

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The food

The four course buffet dinner runs from 6 – 9pm and offers a variety of hearty and delicious meal, exactly what the doctor ordered after a full day of skiing. The starter table was filled with lighter options such as salads, cured meats and cheese, the mains were a triumph of traditional French cuisine offering two main meat dishes as well as a vegetarian option every evening. One of my absolute favourites during the week was a rich and tender beef bourguignon, of course I went up for seconds, it was a buffet after all. Finally the dessert table, never a disappointment, normally consisting of a hot option and various other sumptuous cakes, my personal favourite of the week being the berry crumble and custard. As if that wasn’t enough food they also offer a selection of cheese and crackers, it’s safe to say you will not go hungry!

Breakfast is again buffet style meaning you can fill your plate to your heart’s content and be fuelled for the day ahead. Options included cereals, toast, pastries, fresh fruit and yoghurt, continental (cold cuts and cheese) and of course a complete full English.

To Conclude

Meribel needs to be high on the list for anyone looking for a heavenly ski adventure on the slope. It’s the perfect spot for anyone wanting to feel the thrill of excitement that comes with skiing down a pristinely smooth mountain side, or off the piste if that’s more your style. It’s somewhere you can relax and simply soak up the sun whilst revelling in the beauty that the mountain vistas offer, where you can sip hot chocolate to a perfect white backdrop. There’s no doubt about it, Meribel is the place to be.

 Ski Total (www.skitotal.com / 01483 791 935) is offering seven nights at Chalet Hotel Alba in Méribel, France from £674 per person. Price includes flights, resort transfers and chalet catered accommodation with wine. For more information on visiting Méribel, go to www.meribel.net and to book lessons or guides, go to www.esf-meribel.com.  


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