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.
Once again the 3 Valleys has delivered when it comes to sunshine! This week has been sunny with blue skies every day and the perfect weather to hit the slopes. We have had a sprinkling of snow this week that has topped up the higher runs but we are still waiting for a dump! With Christmas just around the corner we are all feeling very festive in Meribel and La Tania with vin chaud, mince pies and questionable Christmas knitwear to be enjoyed over the next week!
The snow conditions are generally good although the warm weather has left the lower runs a bit slushy. The lower you get the thinner the snow cover, there are a few patches of ice and some rocks around so slowing your speed is advised. There is plenty of good snow to be had throughout the 3 Valleys and you can ski into every resort. Most runs and lifts have opened up this week, a few are still waiting for a bit more snow (it’s coming we promise!) but as the biggest ski area in the world we still have plenty to choose from.
Advice from the ski schools is to pick your runs carefully, check your speed and just ski with a little caution when it comes to lower and busier runs. Of course over the Christmas break the slopes do get a little busier but there is plenty of pistes for all ages and abilities.
Over the next week the blue skies are set to continue with glorious sunshine expected on Christmas day. You may have to jump on a lift to get your white Christmas but you will definitely have one! We are not expecting any major snowfall in the next week but the amazing cultured snow system in the 3 Valleys will be working hard to top up the pistes. Temperatures will stay relatively high for the time of year, between 1 and 4 °C throughout the day so don’t put on too many layers!
There is all sorts on in the 3 Valleys this week for the whole family. There are carol services, torchlight descents, live music and even a few visits from the big man himself. There is no better place to spend the festive season than with us in Meribel and La Tania!
The excitement is growing amongst the 3 Valley locals as the ski area is due to open on Saturday the 5th of December.
But some of us can’t wait so we strap on our touring skis and start the ascent. Its all familiar faces who make the climb up the Saulire , either from Courchevel 1850 or Meribel Altiport. Ski Touring has become much more popular as the equipment is far more user friendly, light and very trendy. Its most likely the athletic fat free look of most ski tourers that has brought in the most recent converts. The rewards for the 2 hours of effort are first tracks, either on the pockets of powder or manicured piste already prepared for Saturday.
The Current Conditions
The good snowfalls on the 26th November along with ideal snow making conditions have created a fabulous base on the main pistes of all the 3 Valleys. Its a consolidated 50cm at the top with a lovely base all the way down to 1450m.
The enormous investment into the latest snow making in Meribel and La Tania is a game changer in modern Ski Resort infrastructure. Its pure science at its best. The recent low overnight temperatures and an accumulated high altitude water storage equals big snow making.
The state of the art 3m high canons produce huge mounds of fresh snow,they appear like dorsal fins on the slopes. The exterior of these mounds are usually rock hard like egg shells but with the best chalky man made inside. Prior to the big day on Saturday the piste machines will move in and distribute the stockpile on the existing base. Its left very rough initially to avoid any melting. The corduroy effect is left to the last moment and in the 3 valleys its an art form.
The end result on Saturday is first class pistes from Saulire at 2750 ms to Meribel Chaudanne at 1450m.
The East facing Tougnete side has had the same treatment. The pistes under Tougnete 2 chair look particularly good. Most of the runs are at their mid winter width. The poles were put in yesterday by the security des pistes who get to ski weeks before every else.
All the locals will benefit from the quality skiing prior to Christmas, why don’t you too ?
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.
The Alpine Legends Ski Area – One Pass to Rule Them All
Have you ever thought to yourself “there just isn’t enough skiing in the 3 Valleys”? If you have then you will be please to know that there is now going to be a new mega pass. This new pass, called the Alpine Legends pass, will cover some of the worlds legendary and iconic ski resorts and areas. The 6 day ski ticket will allow you unlimited skiing in all of the 3 Valleys areas, Méribel, La Tania, Courchevel and Val Thorens which are all impressive ski areas in there own right. The pass will also include Les Arcs and La Plagne which form the amazing Paradiski and if that isn’t enough Val d’Isere and Tignes are both included, which combined makes 1325 km of pistes to explore.
The Alpine Legends lift pass is expected to cost around €340 which is only €51 more than a 3 Valleys pass, so that means you get an extra 725 km for less than the price of day pass.
How to get about
If you are considering buying an Alpine Legends Ski Pass you will need to think about how you are going to commute around the areas as they are not all linked by lifts and runs.
Car: Probably the easiest of all the options is to do a self drive holiday or hire a car either at the airport or in resort, then you can just drive yourself around from resort to resort each day. All resorts have car parks close to the slops and many have free parking if you are on a budget.
Bus: All these resorts are linked by a bus service of sorts. You can get from the Three Valleys to the Paradiski via a bus from Le Praz in Courchevel to Bozel at the bottom of the valley where you will have to change and catch a second bus to the small resort of Champagny that is linked to La Plagne. We have done this route many times and you can read our experience here. If you wanted to catch public transport to and from one of the resorts in the Espace Killy you will have to make your way down to Bourg St Maurice, which you can do via the funicular in Les Arcs. From Bourg St Maurice you can get on the daily service to Val d’Isere or Tignes and will cost about €18 for a one way trip, timetables can be found at www.altibus.com.
Ski: It is possible to ski from Tignes to Les Arcs, but this is a serious mountain route and you would need to take an experienced guide with you.
Where to stay: Naturally we recommend staying in one of our ski chalet in La Tania or Méribel and either would make a great base for exploring the Alpine Legends ski area. Take a look at what have to offer.
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.
Here is a little update on the snow and weather conditions out here in the 3 Valleys. Over the last week we have had a mixture of snow and sunshine with snow even down to resort level in La Tania.
We started of with a few centimetres of snow on Saturday night which was followed by sunny spells up until Wednesday afternoon, then overnight there was another few centimetres of snow. This was followed by snow on Friday morning which gave way to sunshine in the afternoon and into Saturday, it was even cold enough on Saturday morning that the snow cannons where working down in La Tania.
The weather for the week ahead is promising with heavy snowfall on Sunday night at around 1700m and above which is forecasted to become lighter but continue for most of Monday and even Tuesday morning, then the sun is set to return for a couple of days before more snow at the end of the week!
The forecast is looking like it could be a snowy end to the season so even if your not out until the last week there should still be plenty of snow for everyone out here on a ski holiday enjoy.