“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, than by the ones you did do.”
Meribel is a quaint village, high within the French Alps, which not only oozes hospitable charm but delivers a picture perfect play ground for an active family holiday in the snow.
What if I told you there was an affordable holiday option where you could stay in a ‘postcard worthy’ chalet, complete with all the comforts of home, including a Chalet Host to prepare freshly cooked meals every day. Someone with local knowledge who is assigned to coordinate your visit, allowing every member of the family the rare privilege of actually switching off from domestic routines and concentrating instead on enjoying that sweet holiday bliss…
I KNOW RIGHT!!!!!!
Meribel was established back in the late 1930’s thanks to the visionary foresight of one Peter Lindsay. The fact that this village was built from private capital might explain why even in the midst of winter, as a blanket of snow covers the valley, there is something immensely cosy about this charming area. Or perhaps it is the connection the early chalets have with the local environment, as they were constructed (as per strict building code) with local materials of slate, wood and stone.
The end result speaks for itself as the classic alpine style chalets, along with their double-pitched roofs, stand fiercely proud against the dramatic backdrop of white caped mountains.
In all my experience with snow holidays over the years, never has one of my blog posts began with…
Words cannot express how relieved we were to walk into the warmth of our chalet, after a day spent travelling. It was minus something degrees outside (a detail we underestimated as we chose our clothing for the transfer up the mountain) and night had fallen on the Alps. We were introduced to the other families who would be sharing our chalet with us for the week, as our home cooked meal was being served by our bubbly Chalet Hosts.
As we slowly began to thaw out and the children instantly made themselves at home chatting to the other guests, all that was left for us to do during ‘witching hour’ was to carry our luggage to our room. Wine had been poured by the time we returned downstairs and we were informed that, not only had our pre ordered skies and snowboards just arrived in the equipment room down stairs, but the representative from Slidecandy was here for our final fitting.
Six holidays to the snow and we had hit the jackpot – no picking up hire cars, grocery shopping, tag team in the kitchen, heading to town to hire equipment or lining up for ski passes. After weeks of pre-planning for this holiday, with the company called Ski Beat, we were here and living the dream. This week, in the middle of December, we had secured two bedrooms in a shared chalet accommodation package and all that was left for us to do was enjoy our holiday.
“The name ‘Méribel’ is believed to derive from the Latin ‘mirare’, meaning ‘to look at’ and ‘bel’, meaning beautiful”.
Meribel Town Tour
The sun is in no hurry to wake you during winter and the excitement of watching the mountain scene come to life on the first morning, especially if you arrive in the dark, is just pure magic. A hot breakfast was waiting down stairs and the living room was a flurry of excitement as everyone busied about getting ready. We opted for a ‘slow day’ for our first day, choosing to explore the town centre rather than joining the other guests on the slopes.
You can certainly find everything you need and more in the town of Meribel. From the practical supermarket, pharmacy, church and post office, to independent stores such as gorgeous locally owned delicatessens, specialty stores (especially those filled with winter ski attire and equipment), as well as quirky little homewares and novelty shops. Cafes and restaurants are dotted along the streets and, I was later to discover, a weekly street market is held every Tuesday and Friday.
There is a real buzz in the atmosphere and every store we entered presented a chance to practise our best Bonjour, Merci and Au revoir’s, which only added to the charm of this adventure. We had little use for the conveniences of the town during our visit as, for the duration of our stay, our Chalet Hosts prepared us a cooked breakfast, baked a cake for afternoon tea and a three course meal was served every night.
The Chalet Hosts had one day off a week (and gosh didn’t they deserve it!), which gave us the opportunity to ‘dine-in’ at a local restaurant. If you find yourself in Meribel and are partial to enjoying a warm curry, we highly recommend Tsaretta Spice – exceptional and contemporary Indian cuisine.
Hitting the Slopes
There is genuine excitement in the air on the first ‘ski day’ of the season. Our Little Man had even gone as far as to lay his entire outfit out on the floor the night before in excited preparation – certainly don’t see that type of enthusiasm on a school day! The smell of bacon and eggs was wafting up the stairs from the kitchen thanks to our wonderful Chalet Hosts and we had a date with the Chalet Driver (aka Maintenance Man), who took us up the mountain each morning in his mini bus.
The meeting point for the childrens ski lessons each day was a short yet picturesque drive up the mountain, to a neighbouring ski-in-ski-out village called Mottaret. So a daily routine was established. Although it was tough waking to an early start each morning to meet Ski School starting times, it did mean my Husband and I enjoyed ‘first tracks’ on the piste and the joy of a couple of ‘child free’ hours snowboarding down considerably quieter runs.
Mottaret is a self contained hub complete with all the necessary conveniences and novelty shops you need to ensure a hassle free snow season – especially a wide range of cafe/restaurants. We are traditionally a packed lunch family but certainly enjoy dining in on the days where well laid ‘packed lunch’ plans come undone. If you are looking to grab something on-the-run you can’t pass the freshly prepared baguettes at Sandwicherie Savoyarde or, if you are feeling decadent, try the oyster kiosk Chalet de l’Huitre.
Meribel and Motterat are part of the ‘3 Vallees‘, the largest linked ski area in the world and, even if you just explore the local Meribel-Mottaret terrain, as apposed to skiing or snowboarding between the linked ski fields, you have around 1400–2952m of range to play on.
During our first week we chose to ski and snowboard in the Meribel-Mottaret area, rather than venturing off to explore other valleys. This was due to both time restraints with pick-ups from Ski School and the fact that we were headed to Val Thoren’s for week #2 of our holiday.
You're off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so… get on your way! Dr Suess. . #whataview – the perfect place to sit in awe and wonder how on earth I can possibly top 2016, the year I called 'One Day is Today'. It's the same question I ask myself about this time every year, as I reflect on our amazing #lifeofadventure and start to plan our theme for the year ahead. Who has some ideas brewing … ? #letsdothis #livethelifeyoulove #finditliveit #nameyouryear . || Who is ready to Name Your Year? || link in the bio 👆 . . #ourfwhitechristmas16
Although our holiday didn’t coincide with peak season and there wasn’t the coverage of snow we have enjoyed on other snow holidays, we had an absolute ball and the views from the top at 2952m were (as I am sure you can imagine) nothing short of spectacular.
Our family consists of two snowboarders and two skiers. Our eight year old Little Man who (by the end of the holiday) was skiing his first black runs and our four year old Little Girl who enjoyed the green and easy blue runs. It is without even the slightest hesitation I recommend the Meribel-Mottaret area in the 3 Vallees, as a family friendly skiing and snowboarding destination.
Keen to see what’s going on in Meribel right now – well let me introduce you to Holly and Jasmine, who are the Girls’ behind my favourite Meribel Instagram account Chalet Girl Diaries. Here you will find regular updates on all that fresh white power, discover the best place to buy essentials such as green smoothies and the hottest venues in town for live and local entertainment!
Happy days 💃🏻 . . . . . . . . . . . .i . #meribel #alps #france #chalettime #chaletgirls #ski #skiing #mountains #snow #mountainlife #seasonnaire #skifashion #skiseason #ski2017 #winter #CGD #l4l #potd #instadaily #instagood #picoftheday #chaletlife #3valleys #lovemeribel #chalethost #travel #wanderlust #photography
Related Ski & Snowboarding Holidays in NZ:
Getting down to the ‘Nitty Gritty’
Ben’s Bus offer straight forward airport transfers up the mountain from Geneva, Lyon and Grenoble Airports. It is a three hour journey from Geneva with only one change over at Moutiers bus depot. Interestingly enough, if you are being dropped off at one village and, like us departing from another village, you will need to book two single fares per person.
*** Please Note ***
Ben’s Bus will drop you in the centre of town regardless of the time of day/night or temperature. Please consider how you will get from this part of town to your accommodation, with all your luggage, once you arrive. There are taxi’s in Meribel and, although they are considerably expensive, this is a sensible ‘short distance’ transport option in the middle of winter.
Our accommodation was organised through Ski Beat which came highly recommended to us via the personal experience of family members – and I can see why! Their loyalty is due to exceptional customer service, quality of food and accommodation, efficient and personable ‘on-ground’ staff and value for money. Ski Beat can arrange your entire holiday for you in a single package or you can choose to organise your own transfers, which is what we did.
There are several ways you can book lift passes, online, during the bus transfer, or at the ticket office on the slopes. If you still haven’t got yourself organised, Ski Beat can organise a member of their team to visit you in the Chalet. The price is the same regardless.
We pre organised our ski and snowboard hire online through Slidecandy, who delivered directly to our chalet. Because we booked online there was a slight variance of sizes during the time of the fitting however, new sizes were delivered within half an hour with no hesitation or extra expense to us.
Although ESF are the bigger Ski School company, we chose and were completely happy with the more personalised attention and smaller group offered by Magic Ski School. I would strongly recommend you pre-book your lessons online in preparation for the peak season. If not, a team member from Ski Beat can pop over to the chalet and organise your booking for you at your leisure.
It is a short walk to the ski fields from Chalet Daurel, which is where we stayed while in Meribel (Mussillon). Although we had the Chalet Driver there were times when his scheduled pick up times didn’t fit with our plans. For those times we used the ‘free’ Meribus which is the local transport option. You can check the timetable of this local bus service online or on the bus stop boards.
Does anyone have any questions?
2016 was the year we named One Day Is Today and we certainly ended the year on a high. Literally. Think 1450 metres above sea level enjoying the experience of our first ever White Christmas. It is not hard to see why Mr Peter Lindsay fell in love with the area and we can all be eternally grateful to the local farmers who sold him their land to establish this winter play field.
Looking forward to continuing the conversation in the:
Disclosure: CWMS has in no way or means been sponsored by any of the above businesses to write this post and the thoughts and opinions expressed are purely our own. CWMS is excited to share this discovery and to start conversations which align with our Keeping it R.E.A.L ethos.