Are you heading off on a ski holiday, but you’re not a skier? Or will you be skiing every minute that the lifts are open, and then doing the après-scene until the wee small hours? Or are you somewhere in between – a bit of skiing, a bit of chilling?
Whichever way your cookie crumbles, Meribel is the perfect resort for you.
You’re staying in the biggest ski area in the world, with hundreds of miles of terrain, both on and off piste, moon-parks, glaciers, tree-runs – the 3 Valleys really does have it all. So for the first-lift to the last-run-of-the-day skier, box ticked.
But once you’ve put your boots on the boot-warmer, or if you never even put on a pair of ski boots, what else can Meribel offer by way of entertainment:
Bars – Traditionally apres-ski equals bars, and Meribel doesn’t disappoint. There’s plenty of on piste options where you can drink till lifts close and then slalom your way home. Most famous of these is the Rond Point, or The Ronnie as it’s locally known. A large sun terrace, and live music most evenings.
In Meribel itself there’s plenty to choose – from English pubs to French wine bars, and everything in between. Nearest to La Chaudanne (the main lift area) is Meribar, with TV screens, proper table football, and live music.
Just around the corner you have Jacks and Evolution (Evo’s) – a favourite hang-out with seasonnaires. Jack’s also does great food. As you head into the town centre, there’s the Grand Marnier Creperie (say no more), there’s the Arctic Café – a chilled small place to hang out, Bar 50/50 – a cosy bar. Then in the town centre, your first stop is Barometer, on the right hand side – newly refurbished, a classic English-run French bar, with food, football and friendly staff – a favourite with seasonnaires and holiday-makers.
The main square is dominated by La Taverne (the Tav, if your French is not up to it). Another English-run bar, this time with a tempting terrace that’s hard to avoid if you’re heading home from the slopes. The Tav also does good food, and has an excellent restaurant downstairs. Across the road is the Aubrevoir – French owned, and French prices (so not cheap but very chic – nice coffee too). Then the other side of the Tourist Office is Scott’s and Le Pub – right by the escalator off the slopes, so an easy après-ski spot – look out for the huge letters LE PUB – even my grandmother would spot them.
There’s also the Bar au Vin and the Rhumerie. All these are in Meribel Centre – there’s plenty more in the outlying villages, such as Lodge du Village (LDV) great for après in Meribel Village, and La Tsaretta in Les Allues.
If you’re staying in a chalet, by now it might be time to head back for a lovely cooked dinner. If you need to fend for yourself, then Meribel has a great variety of restaurants – serving everything from a traditional fondu to a curry. Watch this space for a more detailed restaurant guide.
And then after dinner, if you can prise yourself away from the log fire, the after dinner chocolates, the comfy sofa, or even a late-night dip in the hot-tub, then there’s some night clubs to entertain you – most famously is O’Sullivans, which you may have heard of when it was called Dick’s T-Bar. It’s open from 10pm until 4am every day. It’s just below the centre of town, past the little chapel, right by a bus-stop. The alternative is Le Loft located in the Olympic Centre, by La Chaudanne.
Now, there’s so much more to Meribel than skiing and a few bars in the evening. There’s absolutely loads of things for non-skiers to do in the day. Here’s a whirlwind guide:
Swimming Pool – in the Olympic Centre open every day from 2pm, it’s got lanes for the keen, and a slide for the kids (over 6) and a little toddler area.
By the pool is a well-equipped gym, and just upstairs is the wellness centre – spa, massage, chill-out zone. You don’t have to have skied all day to justify being gently pampered.
Next door to the pool, is an ice rink (home to the Olympic hockey matches at the Albertville 92 Olympics). Some evenings you’ll enjoy a cracking ice hockey match with a great atmosphere – check out Coup de Couer (the local Meribel What’s On guide) for more details.
Still in the same complex is a 10-pin bowling alley and arcade – you’ll need to book to get a lane on poor-weather days.
In Meribel Centre by the Tourist Office, there’s a cinema with French and English language films – again the Coup de Couer will tell you more.
If snow’s your thing, there’s plenty to do apart from strapping on the planks – try tobogganing – there are safe kids areas for the little ones, but for the more adventurous, there’s a great toboggan run through the trees down from the Tougnette mid-station to La Chaudanne – masses of fun.
You can go on husky rides, or more sedate pony rides. And for the real thrill-seekers, there’s paragliding – stunning views as you float down over the whole Meribel valley.
Pop into to the Tourist Office and pick up a Guide to Walks in Meribel, and you’ll see several stunning routes for pedestrians, all clearly marked with Yellow signposts. You can walk around beautiful Lac Tueda above Mottaret, or through the trees at the Altiport (a good place to walk and meet family on skis), or take a leisurely stroll down the valley towards Les Allues, or even down to Bride-les-Bains and take the bubble car back up. This is a lovely walk to do in March or April, as you start in winter, and end up down the valley in spring.
The French ski school also organizes Snow Shoe walks – a beautiful peaceful way to get around the mountains.
And I haven’t even mentioned shopping! If all this sounds too energetic for a holiday, there are plenty of cafes and bars, with lovely terraces where you can while away a few hours, taking in the stunning views, sipping a cappuccino and reading a good book.
And talking of the Good Book, every Sunday at 6pm, there’s an English speaking church service at the beautiful La Chappelle in Mussillon just below Meribel Centre, led by a visiting English church minister. So you can give thanks to the Big Man upstairs before enjoying a perfect week of fun in the mountains.