MÉRIBEL, FRANCE - The best looking base for the wonderful Three Valleys

by Louis Bignami

For keen slope-bashers who dislike tacky purpose-built resorts, Méribel is difficult to beat. It is slap in the middle of the Three Valleys - the biggest interlinked winter sports area in the world. With 200 lifts and 600 km of slopes, and endless off-slope possibilities, it is difficult to be bored in a fortnight here. Fans of Courchevel and Val-Thorens sniff at Méribel's local slopes, but since Mont Vallon and the top of the valley were opened up some years ago, Méribel can stand comparison on most counts.

You won't like it if you don't like sharing the slopes with hordes of Brits. And it's not cheap - it has had several luxurious hotels built and has moved much more up market recently It's now much more of a rival than it once was for traditionally swanky Courchevel. But don't be put off: we both love it (one of us learned to ski there) - and it has lots of all-inclusive tour operator-run chalets.


What's Great
What's Not-So-Great

+ In the center of the biggest linked slope network in the world - ideal for intermediates who love covering the miles, but plenty for experts, too

+ Modern, constantly improved lift system means little waiting and rapid access to all slopes

+ Good slope grooming and snowmaking

+ Village purpose-built in pleasing chalet-style architecture

? Main village spread out, straggling along a long, winding road, with much of the accommodation well away from the slopes

? Expensive

? Méribel-Mottaret satellite is rather lifeless

? Not the place to go for any sensation of being a traveler in France

? too many Brits