Oh, man. Our travels often inspire “pinch me” moments. Even after a year and a half of expat life, it still happens. Our trip to Meribel, in particular, was full of those “pinch me” moments. I’ve been skiing since I was a little girl and skiing in the Alps is truly something out of a dream, especially for someone who grew up on the “mountains” of New Hampshire. Our French Alps Ski Trip to Meribel and Les Trois Vallees (The Three Valleys) was nothing short of incredible.
There’s just something about ski trips that make them extra special. The wintery wonder of it all, long runs out on the mountains, quaint villages filled with comfort foods and hot cocoa, I love it all. Meribel and it’s idyllic chalets really delivered.
Meribel and The Three Valleys Travel Guide
Getting to Meribel and the Three Valleys
The biggest “con” of visiting Les Trois Vallees over another Alps ski resort is it is a little bit complicated to get there. From London, we flew to Lyon, caught the shuttle to Lyon Part Dieux, took a three hour train to Moutiers then took a bus for another 45 minutes to Meribel Centre.
Door to door, this took about 11 hours from London. It was well worth it and our transfers went very smoothly, but it is a bit of a trek. An alternate route is to fly into Geneva, which is technically closer to Meribel, then take a series of trains and then the bus. Neither route is very direct, but I’d say they’re worth it.
There are private bus transfers than can take you to the resort from the airports. We were renting our gear and we’re on a budget, so the series of transfers was fine for us. We allocated full days to travel at the beginning and end of our trip.
What to Do in Meribel
What is there to do in Meribel? SKI! It is a winter wonderland, and even if you don’t ski there are ways for everyone to enjoy the beautiful mountains.
Les Trois Vallees is the largest ski resort in the world. In three days we managed to cover decent ground and rarely skied the same trail twice.
Meribel was very different from St Anton, where we went on our ski trip last year. I had read that Meribel was an “intermediate’s paradise” and also a good mountain for beginners and I would agree. There are many long, lovely blue and red runs with greens and blacks thrown in here and there. We came across far fewer moguls than at St Anton and the overall ski level of the folks around us was a bit more intermediate than the experts clad in avalanche gear we saw at St Anton.
To say my skiing is rusty is an understatement. This trip really solidified the importance of renting good gear for me. I absolutely loved my skis and boots from Meribel Ski Service and felt more comfortable in them than any I’ve tried over the past 5 years. The rental guy just seemed to know by looking at me what I would need, haha. With fabulous conditions during our trip, I was able to really work on my technique and get into a great flow out there on the mountain. It was paradise!
There is something for everyone at Meribel – even non-skiers can get out on the mountain on toboggans that run alongside the ski trails and, of course, take the gondola up to admire the view.
Where to Stay in Les Trois Vallees
Meribel is referred to as the “coeur des 3 Vallees” – the heart of the Three Valleys. After visiting, it is clear why. Meribel is in the center of the resort and is an excellent home base for exploring all that the Three Valleys have to offer. Meribel Centre is very convenient to rental shops, multiple lifts and gondolas and delicious restaurants.
Not only is Meribel well-located, it is also a picturesque and quaint little mountainside village. Filled with wooden chalets, it was more cozy than some of the other villages we skied through, which had beautiful and more modern hotels.
We got the deal of the century and stayed in a little studio right in Meribel Centre that Andrew found on Airbnb. It wasn’t much, but it was the perfect location and had a kitchen (and a deck!).
Where to Eat in Meribel
I did a fair amount of research trying to find restaurants to book for dinner during our stay. There was very little on the Internet that made me confident enough to book anything. GoogleMaps and TripAdvisor were unhelpful. The map makes Meribel look almost sparse, but I can assure you that it is adorable, quaint and has many options for a bite to eat, especially if you love pizza.
The food in Meribel is geared to tourists, so you’ll see a lot of familiar dishes on most menus (lots of pizza and burgers!). Less French and more Alpine, the more traditional menus feature Savoy specialities instead of your usual French food staples. Fondue is easy to find!
Meribel is popular with Brits and the resort was founded by a Brit, so you’ll see a lot of British options and a lot of British people working in the restaurants and bars. This influence meant everyone we interacted with spoke English, which is great because my French is horrendous.
We ate really well during our time in Meribel. Here’s where we visited on the slopes:
Plan des Mains
Our first day we stopped in the beautiful sunshine at Plan des Mains. The selection at the snack bar wasn’t too big, but we managed to find some options. Andrew even got a Chiara Ferragni branded sparkling water (I love her!).
Restaurant Chalet d’altitude Chinal Donat
Tucked away up in the mountains, we skiied by Restaurant Chalet d’altitude Chinal Donat at lunchtime and stopped in. A much, much better salad than before!
On our last day on the slopes, we stopped for a quick snack outside at Le Panoramic. Some chocolate chaud and frites with crazy mountain views were the perfect way to savor our last day on the slopes. Be warned: the prices are insane – the view comes at a cost!
And here’s where we visited in town:
Our first evening we dined at Barometer. It was nice but had a casual vibe and our fellow diners were lots of groups of friends. The menu was very varied. I got the Thai salmon salad and it was fantastic.
I also got a glass of champagne because they had a Jannison on the menu! We visited this champagne house’s storefront on the Avenue du Champagne in Epernay when we were there in the fall. It was pretty neat to see it on the menu and get to try it once again!
We had a fabulous meal at La Taverne‘s restaurant on Thursday night. They served simple, delicious, traditional food in a rustic atmosphere.
Don’t be fooled – the upstairs is the bar and does have bar food, but hidden underneath is the restaurant. This was our favorite meal of the trip. I got the duck and Andrew got the chicken supreme. Everyone around us was eating the King’s fondue, so worth checking out!
Our fancy meal for the trip was at Le 80 in the Hotel la chaudenne. This beautiful and perfectly apres-ski cozy restaurant felt very special. I would recommend making a reservation for this spot since it does fill up.
I got a beautiful chicken dish and Andrew got a stew. The food was very good and the ambiance was truly special.
Where to Drink in Meribel / Apres Ski at the Three Valleys
St Anton, which we visited last year, is known for its apres ski scene, so we thought we’d seen it all. We were wrong. Les Trois Vallees apres ski is absolutely insane! After a day on the slopes, there is a lot of fun to be had in The Three Valleys.
Le Folie Douce – Val Thorens
I will never get over Le Folie Douce Val Thorens. Never.
Whatever we were expecting when we skied up to this apres ski spot on Thursday afternoon went right out the window once we arrived. We approached on the chairlift and even a ways down the mountain, we could hear the music.
Once we got closer, we realized what we heard was not just a DJ. It was a DJ and a hype woman / singer, a saxophonist and a guitarist all playing together to the beats the DJ was laying down on a balcony overlooking the deck. Surrounded by picturesque mountain views this party on the mountain is truly the best apres has to offer – an incredible setting for an incredible party.
Groups in fancy dress were dancing on tables, a man offered me a chug from his personal bottle of rosé and the hype woman sprayed the audience with bottles of champagne at one point. We intended to only grab a drink and go, but stayed for two after getting caught up in the party spirit. It was wild!
I’m not sure how the people wiling out get down the mountain… for us, it was a 45 minute ski back to Meribel from there!
Le Folie Douce – Meribel
The next day, on our last run of the day, we took the gondola up from Meribel to discover another La Folie Douce at the first stop. This one was even bigger, with more hype people and a larger crowd than Val Thorens. Smoke machines, pyrotechnics and dancers in the crowd had the party going strong.
We stopped by to observe the madness for a drink, but found that we didn’t enjoy this one as much as Val Thorens. It wasn’t quite as scenic, the singer was less engaging and it was far more packed. Still a lot of fun!
La Rond Point
From La Folie Douce Meribel, we continued on to our original destination, La Rond Point. This slope side bar is much more chill than La Folie Douce, with a huge deck filled with picnic tables.
There’s a slide down to the bathrooms so you can avoid walking down the stairs in ski boots. Now that is some serious apres ski!
As we were leaving, a huge crowd showed up. Clearly this is the spot to go after La Folie Douce closes. I learned that I can ski after three drinks without injuring myself, but potentially hurting the ears of my fellow skiers as I belted Rihanna the rest of the way down … oops!
Our first night in town, we crossed the street from our AirBnb to grab a drink at Copiña. This cute little spot has a great cocktail list and was packed on a Wednesday night. Run by Brits, it has a chill vibe and our drinks were delicious.
- Everyone we met spoke English, so if your French is as terrible as mine, you’ll be able to get by and all signage on the slopes includes English translations.
- The best apres is up mountain, so don’t go too hard – you’ll need to ski down!
- There are buses that will take you throughout the towns.
- If you don’t ski, there is plenty to do in Meribel. There are spas, an Olympic sports center, dog sledding, tobogganing, pony riding, the works!