Emily Sarsfield is the UK’s number 1 female Ski Cross athlete, has been ranked 20th on the World Cup circuit and is a member if the British Ski and Snowboard squad. For the last 10 years Emily has lived, worked and trained in Méribel and is a big fan of the Three Valleys. Recently we had a chance to sit down with Emily and talk to her about what she loves about our Alpine home.
Val Thorens World Cup, credit: Daniel Smye-Rumsby
Not only does Emily train in the Three Valleys she also runs a small ski school offering private lessons out of Méribel, this is obviously when she isn’t competing and is often during the school holidays. The reason she does this is because unlike many other athletes she doesn’t receive funding, so has to find ways to fund her own training and racing. As Emily bases herself in the Three Valleys and is always returning in Méribel, we started be asking her why she keeps coming back, her response was that the resort has a strong community, although she doesn’t behave like the usual seasonnaire and is likely to be found in the gym when everyone else is in the pub.
We then chatted about her missing out on the Winter Olympic Games and becoming a ski instructor but we soon ended up back on the subject of Méribel. One of the first thing Sarsfield mentioned was the fact that all of the resorts in America would fit into the Three Valleys before pulling out the usual but true clichés and declaring that Méribel is “postcard picture perfect”.
Megeve World Cup, credit: Daniel Smye-Rumsby
In the 10 years of skiing in the Three Valleys she doesn’t think she has skied every run, which is probably very true, after all the years we have been working out there we probably haven’t either. If you live somewhere for a long time you will inevitably notice the changes, one of the big things Emily has noticed is how the access to cross the entire ski area has developed and even beginner skiers can now move from resort to resort on mainly green runs.
“There is always something different” – Emily Sarsfield on the Three Valleys
Of course one of the main reason Emily loves the Three Valleys is because of the Ski Cross park in Val Thorens, which is one of the best in Europe and regularly hosts World Cup Events. Over the years she has fallen in love with off piste skiing which the the 3Vs has plenty of when the conditions are right and Sarsfield top tip is to head up the Loze chair on a bluebird for some easy access powder.
We saved our “best” question until last, when we asked her in our serious interviewer voice, what is her favourite run in the resort and the answer was the Mauduit. The run is from the top of Saluire and goes all the way down to Méribel Center, or you can choose to head down to Méribel Village. She described the run as “long, open, well groomed and a thigh burner”.
If you would like to keep up to date with Emily then check out her Facebook or Twitter.
We have had another fantastic, and snowy week in the 3 Valleys! Since our snow report last week it hasn’t stopped falling and we have a snow pack of 2 metres at the top of the lifts so the rest of the season is looking very good indeed. We have been kept busy in resort clearing the fresh blanket of snow that keeps appearing every morning, not that we are complaining about it when we hit the mountain!
The snow conditions this week have been amazing, the pisteurs have left a number of runs un-pisted to give everyone the experience of off piste skiing within the safety of the piste. The constant snow fall has meant that if you’re out early enough there has been fresh powder to be had every day, so getting first lifts is definitely worth it!
Inevitably with heavy snow comes clouds so visibility has not always been the best but blue skies have been poking through and the sun is on its way! Even when the visibility has been low we have had a great time exploring the little forest tracks on and off the piste in the powder.
Over the next week it looks like the snow clouds are going to clear finally and we are going to have some bluebird days. Temperatures are going to get a little milder to around -2°C, that combined with the expected sunshine means we might finally get to work on that all important seasonaire goggle tan!
With a whole pile of snow and blue skies on the horizon there has never been a better time to be in the Valleys!
It hasn’t stopped snowing since our last snow report! We are a week in to heavy snowfall with it set to continue until early next week so there has never been a better time for a visit to Méribel! Weather this week has been hit and miss, with lovely fresh snow comes clouds and even some rain in resort and on lower pistes. However this hasn’t put us off, nothing a vin chaud by the fire couldn’t fix, and is worth it for the mounds of untouched powder we have been greeted by on a daily basis!
This week the temperatures have dropped significantly so another layer was very much needed out on the slopes, the start of the week was milder with the snow falling a little wetter than we prefer. This has all changed now and the snow is falling thick, fast and fluffy!
The snow is amazing! Some runs have only been pisted down one side leaving the rest pure powder, our chalet manager Eloise (who has worked 4 seasons and skied A LOT) described the champagne powder as the best she has ever skied on, and that’s saying something. The snow pack is over 2 metres deep at the top of the runs and 75cm on the bottom and this is only going to increase over the next few days. As incredible as the powder is the avalanche warning in resort is very high so off piste skiing is not advised at this moment in time.
The good weather is set to continue with snow expected until Tuesday with some blue skies poking through on Sunday which is set to be spectacular! Temperatures will continue to be low so wrap up warm and layer up on the mountain.
For the time being we have a lot of snow clearing to be doing, not a bad thing at all!
The start of the 2015/16 season wasn’t the best in terms of snowfall with many resorts being forced to postpone their opening. The lack of snow at the start of the season has highlighted how impressive the snow-making infrastructure of the Three Valleys is. While other ski resorts suffered the Three Valleys was boasting that it had 70% of runs open and they were in pretty good shape.
When the Three Valleys opened up in full on the first week in December the last snow had fallen three weeks earlier and the temperatures were not consistently low. However, on opening day Méribel looked like this.
And after two weeks they looked just as good with the run down to La Tania being one of the best maintained slopes in the area.
So why is the snow cover so good?
The Three Valles has made a huge commitment to snow making. It currently has 2186 snow cannons located across one third of it’s 327 runs, which are attend to by a 72 strong fleet of piste bashers. The snow making starts long before the lifts open for the season as the cannons get turned on as soon at the temperature drops low enough. It is also rumoured the Méribel alone spends half a million pounds a year just making snow.
When we had a chat with the manager from Méribel Alpina, the company that runs the mountain, he was keen to point out that part of their promise to skiers coming to the area is to always have the highest number of runs open in Europe. We thought we would test this by comparing 29th of December 2015 in Méribel to five of Europe’s most popular resorts and looked at the percentage of lifts they had open.
Les Arcs 46%
St Anton 74%
Val d’Isere 37%
Booking a ski holiday at the beginning of the winter season has always been a gamble and this had been reflected in the prices of December ski holidays. But the work that goes on behind the scenes at in the Three Valleys means that snow is as guaranteed as it can be throughout the season. Take a look below at our snow report from the end of December and you can see that despite there being no snow since the resort opened the piste were in pretty good shape.
It has been a beautiful second week of the season here in Méribel and La Tania for our guests and us! Over half of the lifts and pistes have been open this week, with decent snow, mild temperatures and a lot of sunshine. Around resort you can begin to see the faint lines of goggle tans emerging, so you know the weather has been good!
With only a sprinkle of snow in the last week some of the busier runs are starting to show a little wear and tear, however thanks to the 3 Valleys trusty snow canons the pistes are being topped up with cultivated snow overnight. Half of the resorts lifts and pistes are now open with many more expected to open next week for our Christmas guests.
As we move into one of our busiest, and most magical, times of year we can expect more sunshine and mostly clear skies. There is no snow forecast for the next few days but the solid snow pack means you will be guaranteed a white Christmas! Temperatures are set to stay mild, between 2 and 5 °C with some spots of cloudiness throughout the day.
If you are coming out to join us this Christmas make sure to dig out your best Christmas jumper as there will be plenty to do in resort. Vin chaud, hot chocolate, Christmas markets and even a visit from the big guy himself, there truly isn’t a better place to spend this time of year!
The snow for the 2015/16 winter season has arrived and who ever was in charge of ordering should be congratulated. At the weekend there was so much snow that may people were referring to it as Snowmaggedon and one person lost their car, although we are told that they have now found it. Then after a few days of blue skies the snow started again and is still falling as we type. There is so much snow that Courchevel has opened some of it’s lifts early which also meant that Val Thorens, who had initially postponed it’s opening date due to lack of snow, was able to get the lifts turning and people skiing.
It was reported that up to 120cm fell in some parts of the Three Valleys during the weekend leaving a base of up to 50cm in many places. In the La Tania snow report Ralph from Free Ride Republic described the conditions as “Fantastic” when they went out riding the Jardin Alpine piste. There were no words from Ian our resort director when asked to describe the off piste condition but his face in the video below says it all.
A video posted by Alpine Action 🎿🏂🚠 (@alpineactionski) on
The temperature is set to stay in the minuses which means that more artificial snow can be made to complement the exsisting snow. In the short term snow making isn’t going to be necessary as there could be another 40cm falling over the weekend.
If Alpine Action could arrange the weather …………………It would snow all night then in the morning, there would be fresh powder, clear blue skies and sunshine!
However, if you have skied a bit then you will know that you always get a bit of everything when it comes to the weather.
So if you wake up and see it snowing, don’t panic. Here is my guide to skiing in bad visibility. Take your goggles helmet or hat!
Try to stick to runs with trees, it gives you definition in a whiteout. There are lots of runs lower down in both resort Meribel and La Tania with trees.
If you are in Meribel then head up the Rhodos bubble and ski the Rhodos or Altiport runs, If you are feeling a little more confident and want to go a little further head down the Lapin run to Meribel Village, the Lodge du Village is at the end for a well-earned coffee or beer!
If you are staying in La Tania, just head to the Folyeres blue run, tree-lined and easy to follow back to La Tania, for those wanting a bit more of a challenge try the red run Murettes or Jockeys the black into La Praz, at both resorts you will find a coffee or beer waiting at the bottom.
Use the piste markers. The pole on your right-hand side always has an orange top. This way you will always know that you are on the piste if this is on your right-hand side. This is the best tip I can give you.
If you are really nervous just ski from pole to pole ensuring the orange tip poles are on your right-hand side. I often use this when leading my group.
Ski in pairs at least. If you are skiing in a group, stick together, stopping and checking you are all there. Discuss where you are going heading too.
Stay on the piste, so you know exactly where you are. It can be really disorientating, even for the most experienced skiers so stay on the piste, then there is no risk of falling off a drop or path.
Use your piste map and try to stick to runs that don’t split off in too many directions. That way you will always end up at the lift together.
And finally ……….. enjoy! A whiteout normally means that there is a ton of snow. It doesn’t hurt falling into the soft fluffy white stuff!
So smile, laugh and fall then get up and do it again. It is a great feeling having mastered skiing in a whiteout! And if you have ever decided to not ski you will know it’s a long boring day around a chalet!
This is our round up of what is new in Méribel this winter.
This winter Méribel is making learning to ski a nicer experience by expanding its safe haven areas for children and beginners. The Altiport area has a designated “Ski Cool” zone that is for gentle and peaceful skiing it is also the home of the piste des Inuits, a nursery slope. On the other side of the valley is the “Zen Zone” and Yeti park, located on the Little Himalaya piste and is also billed as safe haven for people new to skiing and snowboarding.
The new lift is the extension of the Combes, which runs from Meribel Mottaret up towards Les Menuires. This lift now has a mid station allowing beginners to get off and access the Himalaya “Zen” area. It will also shorten the time it takes for skiers to get over to the next valley and onto the runs down to Saint Martin de Belleveille. The lift also boasts magnets as increased saftey for children wearing a special bib.
Take a virtual tour of the new lifts and runs!
Méribel has introduced free on piste Wifi. You can find out more about it and the locations in this article.
For many years the neighbouring resort of Courchvele has had an epic Toboggan run, this year Méribel is introducing not one but two! One run is located in up the Altiport are and the other is next to the Rhodos lift down by the Chaudanne. Sadly neither will be as epic as the one over in Courchevel, which you can watch in the video below.
There will be added photo opportunities this winter as Méribel will be installing a selection of giant photo frames arround the resort for you to have your photo taken with, as soon as we know the locations of these we will let you know.
The Alpine Legends Ski Pass
We wrote about the Alpine Legends pass a few weeks ago. It is a pass that allows you to ski the 3 Valleys, Espace Killy and Paradiski for one price. In the past there was always the option to “upgrade” for a day but this pass allows unlimited skiing in every resort, there is a challenge waiting for some adventurous people to invent, 9 Valley Rally anyone?
Click here if you want to get in contact and talk to us about booking a ski chalet holiday to Meribel.
Our guide to why Méribel is the best resort in the 3 Valleys.
The resort of Méribel sits in the Tarentaise valley of the French Alps. It’s a vibrant ski resort with an international following, popular across the winter ski season as well as the more relaxing summer climbing and hiking months. But with two such illustrious neighbours as Courchevel to the east and Val Thorens to the west sharing the mighty Three Valleys ski area, we got to wondering what puts Méribel so far ahead of the competition! Well, we’ve made a list of exactly why Méribel beats Courchevel and Val Thorens.
Méribel takes pride of place in the centre of the Three Valleys and no other resort in the area offers such easy access to all corners of the ski area. With the Saulire gondola swinging rapidly up to its namesake peak for skiing over in Courchevel, and the Tougnete lift winging people swiftly up towards les Menuires and beyond, Méribel wins hands down in this category. You could argue that Méribel-Mottaret is the actual winner here, being closest to the true centre of the Three Valleys, but Mottaret is part of the Méribel Valley!
#2 Best après ski
Méribel’s après ski scene used to be good. Now it’s excellent. The Rond Point has been a favourite amongst seasonnaires and visitors for years and remains a wonderfully popular venue. As the Méribel Folie Douce grows in popularity it means we have two epic venues to choose from and puts Méribel firmly at the top of the après ski tree in the Three Valleys.
#3 Best beginners’ area
Anybody mastering their first turns on the snow, whether on skis, board or blades, needs to head to one of two spots in the Méribel valley that are dedicated to families and beginners. The first is the Altiport a long, rolling, green run that is simply ideal for learners and has trees on either side sheltering skiers from the elements. The other is the Yeti park located around Mottaret. It is comprised of a gentle blue run called Yooni and a green run named Himalaya. The Yeti park area discourages the more adventurous skier leaving you safe to enjoy the wide runs, obstacles and entertainment.
#4 Best nightlife
Whilst it’s true that Courchevel Moriond and Val Thorens have good nightlife, neither of them can compete with the proximity of great bars to be found in Méribel town centre such as Jack’s Bar, famous for its live music and comedy and Barometer to name a few. And when they close, O’ Sullivans down the road is on hand to welcome revellers into the wee small hours. Val Thorens’ Malaysia nightclub offers strong competition but the overall winner has to be Méribel!
This is really a two horse race between Courchevel and Méribel – Val Thorens doesn’t get a look in here. Courchevel 1850 is pretty enough, and so are Moriond and le Praz, but none of them match the lovely Savoyard wood and stone to be found across Méribel, and charming, traditional villages in the Méribel valley such as Les Allues complete the picture.
#6 Best range of accommodation quality/price
Courchevel dominates the luxury market and Val Thorens is often a great resort choice for the budget conscious, especially in the last minute market, but none of them offer such a spectacular range of catered ski chalets, hotels and apartments from basic 2* properties all the way up to top-end 6* opulence. Again, Méribel trumps the competition.
#7 Best ski schools
This category is open to debate, because many of Méribel’s best ski schools also operate in Courchevel and some in Val Thorens as well. But the fact remains that Méribel offers some of the finest tuition of any resort in Europe, with classes, courses and clinics for every pursuit and every level imaginable. Alongside the established ESF are some great independent schools such as Magic in Motion, Marmalade and Parallel Lines.
With the same range of basic burger joints as you’ll find in Val Thorens and the same quality (although perhaps not quantity) of Michelin starred restaurants as Courchevel, Méribel really is a foodie’s paradise. The resort offers cuisine to suit all tastes and budgets, from fine dinning in Le Blanchot over in the Altiport area to amazing pizza in La Refuge, located in the centre of town. Although prices can be high, the quality of the restaurants in Méribel means value for money is very good.
#10 Best off piste
This is another contentious point as both Courchevel and Val Thorens boast spectacular off piste in the right conditions. But with so many lines to choose from running down from the Saulire peak into Méribel Mottaret as well as the open powder fields to be found on Mont Vallon, to name but two, Méribel is the best part of the Three Valleys to find yourself in when the skies have opened and fresh powder has fallen.
Of course this is all hugely subjective and Courchevel and Val Thorens have just as many die-hard fans as Méribel does, and with good reason. One of the most wonderful things about the Three Valleys is the range and variety of the resorts, pistes and amenities found therein. That said, Méribel is still the best…!
*nb: In this article ski can be substituted for snowboard in most instances and as the ski v’s snowboard things is getting old we are just using the word ski because a). there are more skiers, and b). ski is a shorter word than snowboard. Any real ski geek may want to dispute this, please do so in the comments below.
Can you remember every ski holiday you have ever been on?
A true ski geek can remember more than if they just had a good time. They should be able to remember the exact dates, who went on holiday with them, which ski resort they went to, the flight times, the exchange rate at the time and the chalets hosts name.
Do you own your own skis?
Most experienced skiers will at the very least have their own boots, which is sensible and comfortable. But the true ski nerd will have their own pair of skis, preferably two, a set for normal conditions and a wide pair for powder days. They must also own a pair of ski poles.
Can you pack everything into your ski bag?
A proud ski geek should be able to proudly inform you that they can pack all they need for a ski holiday into their ski bag, thus making a saving on excess luggage. For extra kudos they should have a story about being told off by an airline for this, with the story concluding “anyway they let me on and they said don’t do it next time”.
Do you have a second “budget” ski holiday every year?
The best ski geeks will take a second ski holiday every year. However, this trip must be so cheap that it doesn’t sound any fun. The holiday must include some of the following; a coach trip from the UK with three or more stops: hostel style accommodation; two hour commute to the slopes each day; no free wine; other ski geeks; no eating out; hitch-hiking; homemade fondu; booking every aspect online separately.
Can you name every run in resort?
For most people a simple “I will meet you at the bottom of that run yesterday next to the bar we like” is all we need to arrange to meet up. For the ski nerd you must you use the piste name as well as give a recommended route and call each lift by name.
Have you ever been on a ski holiday on your own?
If you love skiing so much that you are prepared to leave your loved ones at home so that you can ski all day where you want and apres as late as you want, not get first lifts if you don’t want, drink as much at lunch as you want, then…. errm…. why don’t we all ski alone?
Do you have a collection of lift passes?
Most ski geeks will have at least one electronic lift pass in their wallet at all times. They will also have a collection of passes from all past ski trips. Attached to their ski trousers must be at least one day ticket from a snow dome or obscure ski resort. The older skier must also be able to produce a photo id ski pass from the good old days.
Is your facebook/twitter profile a picture of you skiing?
All true ski nerds live ski all year round on their social media pages. That is until they get married, then they will change their profile to a photo of them getting married, this will last a week then it will be back to a picture of them in hat and goggles, or of them getting some air, or a snow covered mountain range.
Have you ever had an argument about which is the best ski resort?
This is similar to an argument about which football team is better, the only difference here is that they will be using examples of black runs as opposed to formation strategy.