Do you always find an excuse to not ski at Christmas?
You have probably thought about going skiing at Christmas every year but something has put you off and you have always found an excuse. We have spent many Christmases in the 3 Valleys and we can confirm it is the most wonderful time of the year. You also get an extra thrill when you suddenly realise that it’s Christmas Day and you are on the slopes and having great time.
Whatever your reason for not going in the past here are a few excuses you can use this year.
#1 You just love skiing
Maybe not an excuse and more just a fact but if you love skiing then what could be a better present to you and your family that the gift of a ski trip. It also means that you get to try out that new pair of skis that you will have been bought for Christmas.
#2 Christmas is on offer
A week skiing during Christmas has never been so reasonably priced with all tour operators offering big savings, making the cost similar to off peak weeks. Our prices are starting at £599 pp for the festive week and there are savings of up to £350 pp on our best properties. So if you have always put off a Christmas ski trip due to price now is your chance.
#3 White Christmas
Every single year Bing Crosby sings “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas”. He is right to do so. If you look at the facts you notice that the UK hasn’t had widespread snow on the ground during Christmas since 2010 and before that it was 2004. So to combat this you could head to the 3 Valleys where they pretty much can guarantee you a White Christmas.
#4 Be looked after
The demands of Christmas day for those hosting can be huge, will Aunt Janet get too drunk, will the turkey be cooked in time, have you peeled enough potatoes? Why not avoid this and go on a catered ski chalet holiday and let them look after you? All you will need to do is go skiing and relax… unless you bring Aunt Janet with you.
#5 One for the humbugs
Spending Christmas in a skiing is a great compromise as in a way it always feels a bit like Christmas in a ski resort. But at the same time it doesn’t as everything is open and everyone is either working or skiing or both. This makes it a perfect place to spend Christmas for families of mixed festive spirit.
At the beginning of November, the ground was looking a bit brown with small patches of snow from previous snow flurries and snow cannons. Now the whole ski area is cover in the glorious white stuff! Here is a look at all the photos and videos from the last few days.
Latest webcam round up
Val Thorens capture the first few flakes of snow on the 5th.
One of the best parts of my job is being able to share my own knowledge of the ski resort, passing on tips and suggestions of which pistes to try, where to find the best conditions and how to get the most out of a week skiing in the three valleys.
As befits the largest ski area in the world, there are hundreds of kilometres of pistes to enjoy for skiers and boarders of every level. However, for experienced skiers, there is a world of fun to be had beyond the marked and bashed runs.
Before saying any more, we need to be totally clear that skiing off-piste can be extremely dangerous. It should only be considered by experienced and confident skiers. As minimum safety precautions you should always look to go in small groups – 3 or 4 is ideal – and never alone. Be aware of the published avalanche risk, but be aware that snow conditions can change rapidly. An hour in the sun can turn safe routes into an unacceptable risk in less than an hour.
Before setting off, you should ensure your insurance covers you for going off-piste and carry and know how to use the relevant safety equipment of a transceiver, shovel and probe. We would strongly recommend engaging an instructor or a guide, and it is always worth checking with the pisteurs for their views on where is safe to go. Always remember that skiing off-piste poses a risk not just to yourself, but also to those who on the mountain around you, such as other skiers on the same slopes, or the secouristes who would conduct a rescue operation if anything went wrong. If you are at all unsure, you should not go.
With the proper precautions however, off- piste skiing can be one of the great highlights of a skiing holiday in the Alps, so where are some of the best routes in Meribel?
My advice would be to head to the Vallon and Cote Brune sectors. On the Vallon gondola you will most likely see plenty of tracks underneath the lift, which can be accessed from the corner at the top of the Combe de Vallon piste. While this is one of the more recognised and accessible off-piste routes, beware of partially covered rocks.
For those looking to go further into the backcountry, head through the gap in the rock on your left as you come out of the Vallon bubble. There is another reasonably established route straight down hereto the side of the piste, but if you keep left, a small 10 minute walk and a short traverse lead you out to some powder field coming down from the ridge. Check with the pisteurs before attempting this route as the snowpack can be unstable above you, but in the right conditions the fluffy powder, comfortable gradient and spectacular views can make this route a showstopping highlight.
A final route to try is accessed from the top of the Becca lift. In the snowbank opposite the lift you will most likely see tracks leading diagonally up to the ridge line. The top offers a spectacular view both down to Les Menuires one way and across to the Mont Vallon summit the other. Be careful of the entry point here. Traverse across the slope to the centre of the chute to avoid the treacherous rocky drops immediately below where the track up reaches the ridgeline.
The descent down from here looks clear enough but boarders in particular will want to avoid keeping too far left as they will risk being caught out by a flat section right at the bottom before regaining the piste. Equally however, head too far right and you risk being blocked by another few rocky drops, or finding yourself underneath a particularly steep section of the slope where the risk of avalanche is higher. Keep to a conservative line though and you should have a fabulous descent, with the added bonus of being able to admire your track as you head back up the Cote Brune lift.
Find out what is new in the 3 Valley this winter 17/18
The winter is not very far away now! Skiers will be on the slopes of Val Thorens on the 18th of November followed by Meribel and Courchevel on the 9th of December. As always the companies behind the 3 Valleys lifts and pistes have been working hard over the summer to introduce new or improved facilities for its customers!
New Lifts in the 3 Valleys
Loupit – Rond Pont – Covered magic carpet
The beginner’s area located by the Rond Point in Meribel will have new Covered Magic carpet similar to the one found in Mottaret. The learner zone alongside it will also be developed into a safer space for skiers to master the basics away from the busier slopes.
Ariondaz Gondola – Courchevel 1650 -Moriond
Over in Courchevel 1650 the old Ariondaz gondola that takes skiers and boarder out of the resort has been replaced by an 8 seater lift that can carry double the amount of passenger up the hill.
Moraine – 10 seater Gondola – Val Thorens
€14m has been spent on installing a new gondola in Val Thorens. The 10 seater lift is 2.5 km long and carries skiers up to the foot of the Glacier de Thorens.
Roc de Tougnete – 6 seater – Meribel
For many years there has been 2 drag lifts that served this area and for that reason it often goes unexplored by many. The arrival of this new lift will change all that and make the Lagopède and Bartavelle pistes a lot more accessible.
New Pistes in the 3 Valleys
Lac de la Chambre – Meribel
Previously a red run the Lac de la Chambre that started at the Col de la Chambre has been given a new course down the mountain to make it into a easier blue. The run is a great way to get back from Val Thorens into Mottaret and Meribel.
Croix d’Antide – Val Thorens
High up above the Orelle valley there is a new blue run called the Croix d’Antide it can be found under the Peyron chair and runs parallel to a piste of the same name.
Corniche – Val Thorens
Another new blue piste in Val Thorens. This one runs from the Folie Douce and joins up with the stade to make an easy run back to the resort.
New Luge run
A new 3 km luge run has opened up in 1650 and can be accessed by the new Arinodaz lift. This means that there are now loads of sledging opportunities in the 3 Valleys to complement the original and best one in Courchevel that runs from 1850 to 1550.
4 hours ski pass
This season sees the end of the half day pass as the 3 valleys will introduce a 4-hour pass that can be used at any point during the day and will cost €54.5 . It is worth noting that it is still better value to buy a 6 day pass at €300 if you are going to ski all week!
This year we are celebrating providing catered ski chalet holidays in Méribel & La Tania for 25 years.
We wouldn’t be where we are today without our amazing guest and wonderful staff. To celebrate we are collecting as many photos from everyone who has been involved in our 25 year journey and building this archive of memories.
Exciting news! The good people at Eurostar have just released their Ski Train prices for the forthcoming winter ski season! The service runs from December through until April and offers swift and hassle free access to Meribel and other resorts in the 3 Valleys.
Why catch the ski train to Meribel?
Anybody looking to save money on travel, make the most of their time on the snow and benefit from free ski carriage would be well advised to give the train serious thought.
Plus of course with the recent increase in media coverage, skiers these days seem more aware than ever of the ‘carbon footprint’ they leave behind them during their week on the slopes – taking the ski train is a great way to reduce yours.
The first advantage that Ski Train advocates will tell you is how you can use the timetable to your advantage to get an extra day on the slopes. By leaving on Friday night and arriving early on the Saturday, you can be on the slopes by mid morning!
Equally, return travel can be booked for the following Sunday evening, giving you another extra day’s skiing and bringing you back into London for work or onward travel Monday morning.
Where to catch the ski train from
Train travellers to the Alps can either start their outward journey at London’s St Pancras International station, or Ashford or Ebbsfleet in Kent, before onward travel to a range of Alpine stations including Aime la Plagne, Bourg St Maurice or to access Meribel or otheer resorts in the 3 Valleys alight in Moutiers.
Perhaps most importantly, the range of resorts serviced by the Ski Train is superb! Highlights in France include iconic resorts such as Meribel, Courchevel, Tignes, Val Thorens, les Arcs and Val d’Isere and over in Switzerland ski trainers have easy access to stunning resorts like Zermatt, Saas Fee and Verbier.
With a small connection at places like Aigle and Martigny you can also branch off to resorts like Chatel, les Gets, Morzine and Chamonix.
The choice is seemingly endless! Moutiers train station, for example, is spectacularly well located for access to the resorts of the Three Valleys. Upon arrival into Moutiers it’s an onward drive of approximately half an hour up the mountain road to Courchevel le Praz and the upper Courchevel resorts, plus la Tania and Meribel too.
How to book the ski train to Meribel
With direct services to the French Alps starting at £150 return and connecting services also available, the Ski Train remains the modus operandi of choice for thousands of keen skiers each year.
We have done the journey to the alps many, many times and we are big fans of driving out to the Alps and we drive out to Méribel at least once a year.
Driving can have some great perks as well as some serious financial benefits, coupled with the fact that it doesn’t really take much longer and you can make the journey part of the adventure.
When Driving to Méribel should you take the Ferry or Tunnel?
The first decision you need to make is Ferry or Tunnel. No matter where you live in the UK the best place to cross the channel is Dover as you will still need to cover similar distance once you’re in France. If you went from further west crossings are also cheaper at Dover and at least every 30 min 24 hours a day.
The Eurotunnel is the fastest way to cross at 35 minutes compared to the 90 minutes on a Ferry. Speed comes at a premium with tickets starting at £79 one way compared to £39 for a more leisurely pace.
If you are travelling a long distance before arriving in Dover the Ferry is a good opportunity to have walk around and take a break.
Both routes offer a flexi ticket for a bit extra , which is great if you’re rubbish at being on time but we have found that if you arrive early for either you generally get put on the next available crossing.
Take the toll roads when driving to Méribel
There is a lot of debate surrounding this. The cost of tolls from Calais to Méribel is around £80 each way which is quite a large amount of money but is it worth the saving?
The drive time on tolls from Calais to the alps is around 9 hours and there is less chance of being caught in traffic. A journey on lesser roads is about the 13 hour mark and that comes with a high risk of traffic jams and unforeseen hold ups.
Do you drive during the day or at night?
If you can split the driving and can stay awake driving through the night is a good option as you are guaranteed a clear run on the roads and if you are doing a week’s holiday you can extend your mountain time by 2 days.
If you want to drive in the daylight stick to the tolls as you will get clearer roads through the day. But avoid non toll roads as you will be caught in traffic as you will be passing through towns and driving on single lanes for a lot of the time.
What about the coach instead of driving to Méribel?
You could always get the coach out there and with prices starting at £65 it can be a way to keep cost lower. You also get many of the benefits that you get by driving.
However it is probably the longest journey you can make. Always research the coach company and route as you can end up in a car-park waiting for connecting coaches for hours.
Driving is environmentally friendly
If you are looking at reducing your carbon footprint then hitting the road instead of flying is a good start at reducing your impact.
Carbon emission in kg per journey to the alps
Full car 67.8kg
Large car 90.8 kg
*not including transfer
Save money by driving
A rough total cost of driving out a car with an MPG of 40 including tolls etc can be as little as £450. Many tour operators, including us, offer an independent travel discount at around £120pp and if you factor in ski carriage, airport parking etc there can be considerable savings especially if you can seat more than 4.
It is a long wait between ski seasons in Europe. The wait is almost bearable if you’re are a resort worker. But for most of us who can only fit in a one-week holiday, it is 51 long weeks. So what can you do to get your skiing fix during the long hot summer months?
1. Indoor and Dry Slopes
There are 100’s of these dotted around the UK, some big and some very small. You can find a full list of slopes on the Ski Club of Great Britain web site. There will be one close to you and they should have a small range of ski hire equipment too. In fact, why you are at it, you may as well take some non-skiing friends along and try and tempt them into taking it.
If you can convince them to come on your next holiday you will benefit from amazinggroup discount, which is time well spent.
2. Water Skiing and Wakeboarding
Admittedly it isn’t the same. For a novice, it can be a bit like spending time on a slushy drag lift and it can work out costing a lot more than a week’s skiing. You will also get wet. But if all that doesn’t put you off then it is a great way to feel that comforting leg burn that you get after a good day hooning around the slopes.
You could probably fit the whole of Australia’s and New Zealand’s ski runs into the Three Valleys or even the Meribel Valley, (not an actual fact). Sadly we don’t offer catered ski holidays there and there is a long flight to consider. But that shouldn’t put you off. The skiing is actually very good in both countries.
What more could you want from a bit of summer skiing than to be carving down Kangaroo Ridge with a tinny instead of a demis.
5. Find a Glacier in Europe to go skiing on this Summer
There are some wonderful glaciers that are open for skiing during the summer. You could even pop over for the weekend. Our favorite is located just down the road from our spiritual home of Meribel, in Tignes. There is also a great one in Zermatt although it will take you about an hour to get to it from the resort.
We missed Méribel when we went skiing somewhere different
As you probably know we love Méribel and we love skiing in Les 3 Valleys. During the 25 years of operating in the area, we have witnessed the resort and slopes evolve into the incredible ski experience they are today.
But that doesn’t stop us venturing to other resorts for a ski day or even a holiday. Over the last few years, we have visited the Espace Killy, Chamonix, Ischgl, Borovets and recently La Clusaz. It was this last one that made us realise how amazing The 3 Valleys are!
We are not about to character assassinate another resort and the truth is we had a lovely holiday skiing in a different place. Nor do we want to be the sort of people that say “why would you want to go anywhere else?”.
We understand that we all need to try something different, but we also know how good it feels to return to the familiar especially when it has the added bonus of being the best!
Our spring trip to La Clusaz was great, the resort was lovely, and the scenery stunning. In short, we had a great time. However, when you come from one of the best resorts in the world you do start to miss things.
By going skiing at the extremities of the season there is always the risk that the snow conditions won’t be at their best. Our trip was in spring and the snow cover across the alps wasn’t outstanding.
The 3 valleys have over 2000 snow cannons across ⅓ of the ski area, in our spring destination there were just 200 and many of them were not in use due to the temperature and low altitude.
We can all have an opinion on what is good and bad skiing. What you can’t argue with is that the 3 Valleys is the largest ski area in the world and offers terrain and runs for every skier. Yes in a small resort it is harder to get lost and in this case it was a great way for a mixed group to easily split up and hangout at the same time.
But if you consider that we occasionally discover a run that we haven’t skied for 10 years in the 3 valleys you can forgive us for not being satisfied with the amount of skiing on offer in other resorts.
Like the 3 Valleys the Annecy Ski area is many small areas linked. During my weeks stay none of the links were skiable, no runs were open into the resort and we relied on a car to get between ski areas. During the same week over in Méribel all the links were open and there was a plenty of runs open and runs back to resort were kept open.
During the same week over in Méribel all the links were open and there was a plenty of runs open and runs back to resort were kept open.
The next thing I started to miss was the quality of the infrastructure found in Les 3 Valleys. Every year there are new lift developments in the 3 Valleys and there has been clear progress in upgrading old lifts. So it is easy to tell when you’re in a resort that hasn’t had seen heavy lift investment.
So it is easy to tell when you’re in a resort that hasn’t had seen heavy lift investment. Many of La Cluzas lifts were old and none were covered, there was also a reliance on draglifts to access many of the ski areas.
One of the charms of La Cluzas is how it has retained its original charm and very much remains a French ski resort. This has also meant that it isn’t quite up to scratch when it comes to Apres time! There is nothing to rival the Folie or the Ronnie and the bars in town are a more subdued affair.
Also after a recent Austrian ski trip and experiencing the whole Europop, Flulgle , dancing on the table madness I realised how well balanced the Apres ski scene in Meribel feels.
As we live in Meribel for half the year we can sometimes get complacent so a trip to another resort is good for us to realise how lucky we are to have the 600km of piste that we do.
Keen British skiers flock to France each winter for the country’s spectacular ski slopes, vibrant après ski, wonderful family facilities and catered chalet holidays.
But there’s one more thing which keeps us coming back for more each year, the food! Not just in the chalets but on the slopes and in the resort restaurants.
History of Savoie Food
A large part of the French Alps sits across the Savoie region, and like any other region or départment in France, the Savoie has its own unique cultural, historical, political and social background.
A hugely varied terrain, much of the Savoie is covered by high-altitude mountain plateaux, steep gradients, deep river valleys, farmland and lakes, plus of course huge swathes of the land are covered in snow for half the year, so the people who historically lived and travelled here were very hardy folk.
Food sources had to be readily available and that meant their diet largely consisted of hardy vegetables, cheeses and cured meats.
Since the turn of the twentieth century, the Savoie has changed from a largely agricultural terrain to an area more readily associated with tourism and skiing, but the cuisine of the area is inextricably linked to the Savoie itself and over the years has proven hugely popular amongst skiing visitors from all corners of the globe – so much so that for many people the Savoie food is now a major reason to return to France for the annual ski trip!
Savoyarde cooking relies exclusively on products and ingredients from the area and, because of this, is unmistakably authentic. Staple ingredients include potatoes, which were grown over the summer and stored during harsh winters, and cheeses.
Of course, being an Alpine territory cheese making has always been a hugely popular pursuit in the Savoie and abondance, Beaufort, Tome and of course Reblochon cheeses all work wonderfully well with traditional Savoyarde fare. Cured meats also form a large part of the Savoyarde dishes we enjoy today, and they feature in a number of traditional recipes.
Perhaps the most instantly recognisable of all the Savoyard dishes, fondue is like no other meal! Wonderfully convivial and great fun to enjoy with friends, eating fondue involves placing hard bits of bread onto a skewer and dipping it into a pot of melted cheese.
There are two schools of thought on the history of the meal, one a lot more fun and interesting than the other. The traditional view is that fondue came about when poor mountain farming communities had experienced lean times and were forced to make meals out of nothing more than stale bread and hard cheese, so they melted the cheese down and ate it with the tough bread as a warm and hearty meal. The truth of the matter, if you believe the nay-sayers, is a lot less intriguing… fondue came about as little more than a marketing ploy to get punters
The truth of the matter, if you believe the nay-sayers, is a lot less intriguing… fondue came about as little more than a marketing ploy to get punters into restaurants when skiing because popular in the Alps. I know which one I’m happier believing!
Named after the cheese it’s made with, raclette is another wonderfully convivial dining experience – there are more flavours at play than with the fondue as well, and it’s a complete meal.
Potatoes are cooked in a pan of boiling water with the skins on, and placed on a plate alongside pickled gherkins, picked onions and a selection of dried meats.
Then diners take melted slices of raclette cheese and pour them over the dish before tucking in. It’s a hearty meal and leaves you fit to burst!
For a dish with as much flavour as tartiflette, it’s surprisingly simple to make. Butter is melted in a frying pan then finely chopped onions, bacon bits and thinly sliced potatoes are added.
Once the potatoes are nearly cooked you put them in an oven proof dish, layered with the bacon bits and onions. Then you cover the dish in strips of reblochon cheese and bake until melted and browned.
Tartiflette is a very old and very traditional Savoyarde recipe, but it’s one that anybody can try. Wonderfully simple to prepare, it tastes amazing and goes well with a crisp Savoyarde white wine.
These Savoyarde dishes are all wonderful in their own ways, and although no trip to the Alps is complete without one they are also perfectly simple to make and enjoy at home.
It’s all pretty carbohydrate-heavy though, but if you’re feeling too full after one of these dishes a shot or two of Genepi, the Savoie’s own digestif spirit, will sort you out in no time at all!
A great place to taste all these delicious dishes is the 3 Valleys. We have catered accommodation in Méribel and La Tania.