Why ski in Meribel or La Tania? This week we’re asking our Operations Director, Benedict Butler, to spill the beans on the 3 Valleys. A Meribel veteran of "undisclosed duration", there’s not much to know about the 3 valleys that Ben doesn’t already know (or at least that’s what he tells us). A near permanent resident in both winter and summer, we employed our very best questioning skills to get to the heart of the matter. Just why does he love the 3 Valleys so much?
So, Ben. How long have you been skiing/boarding?
Erm, can we just say 'a while'?!
Fair enough. We'll allow that. For comparison purposes, which resorts have you skied over the years?
Wow. I'd say too many to name, but we can have a go if you like? Meribel, La Tania, Valmeinier, Val Cenis, La Toussuire, La Norma, St Francois de Longchamps, Bonneval sur Arc, Le Corbier, Valloire, Les Karrellis, St Sorlin d'Arves, Les 2 Alpes, Alpe D’Huez, Serre Chevalier, Montgenevre, Puy St Vincent, Risoul, Vars, Les Orres, Praz Loup, Isola 2000, Tignes, Val D’Isere, Les Arcs, La Plagne, ValMorel, Courchevel, Val Thorens, Les Menuires, La Rosiere, Les Saises, Megeve, St Gervais, Les Contamines, La Clusaz, Les Houches, Chamonix, Le Grand Bornand, Flaine, Samoens, Les Carroz, Chatel, Morzine, Avoriaz, Les Gets, La Thuile, Sestriere, Bardonecchia, Sauze d’Oulx, Montgenevre, Cervinia, Courmayeur, St Anton, Solden, Kitzbuhel, Lech, Mayrhofen, Soll, Innsbruck, Zermatt, St Moritz, Saas-Fee, Verbier, Zinal, Davos, Kloster, Pas de la Casa, Soldeu, Pal, Arinsal, Oukaimeden.
That's quite a lot. We assume you managed to get some work done in between. Why does the 3 Valleys make it to the top of your list?
If you come and ski in Meribel or La Tania you are in the biggest ski area in the world! Fact. The 3 Valleys combines 3 very unique resorts, Val Thorens (the highest resort in Europe), Meribel Valley and the Courchevel Valley.
The pistes are impeccable, well groomed and tended to. There are also some incredible off piste and touring routes. There are diverse itineraries and refuges to stay in for the more adventurous.
There is a great range of options for eating out, both on the piste and off; Michelin star restaurants to piste-side snack bars. At last count there were 12 Michelin star restaurants in Courchevel 1850. The area offers diverse night life and apres ski options; bars, pubs, nightclubs, karaoke, wine bars.
Occasionally you're also treated to a great celebrity spot; film stars, royalty, sports heroes and the odd Russian oligarch!
You've spoken to many, many guests during your time in the 3 Valleys. Why do they love to ski in Meribel and La Tania?
Families love the fact that there are plenty of easy routes that allow them to stay together whilst exploring the 3 Valleys from Courchevel to Val Thorens and back. There are fun slopes in Courchevel too. The family park in Courchevel 1850, which has the ‘stop zone’, the Avalanche camp and the wood camp.
The ‘Elements Park’ in Meribel is accessible for all the family. There is a border cross, the ‘whoops’, a ‘funcross’ and you can ride on the soft impact boxes, rails and jibs. Near to the altiport in Meribel area there is also the ‘Moon Wild’ which has an animal trail where you can discover some of the Alpine animals. There are also many family-focused events put on by the Tourist Offices during the week.
BEN'S TAG TEN
SKI OR BOARD?
ON PISTE OR OFF PISTE?
CHAIRLIFT OR BUBBLE LIFT?
MOGULS OR STEEPS?
GLOVES OR MITTENS?
BEER OR VIN CHAUD?
STARTERS OR DESSERTS?
SCRAMBLED OR FRIED?
CAKE OR BISCUITS?
HOT TUB OR OPEN FIRE?
Groups of friends also like the fact that there are loads of options to stay together or meet up if you have different levels of proficiency in your group. If you ski in Meribel or La Tania there are a good selection of bars and restaurants to visit; an afternoon spent at the infamous Folie Douce in Meribel or Val Thorens is on many people's itineraries for the week. There are also lots of marked 'selfie stops' to capture those super-cool mountain life moments that you just have to post to Insta!
Beginners will find a really great selection of ski schools to help them get started. Two of the most popular ski schools in the Alps, New Generation and Oxygene, both operate here. There are also loads of great independent instructors to choose from. Check out the La Tania Ski Schools or Meribel Ski Schools pages on our website. Beginners choosing to ski in La Tania and Meribel also have access to well equipped dedicated beginner areas.
Intermediates & Advanced skiers and boarders often head to the “Snowpark DC Area 43”, which is the envy of all French ski resorts. Lots of Pro riders come here to practice and use the facilities, so it's worth a visit even if you're not keen on hitting the park yourself. There are dedicated DC riders living in the DC Chalet in the Meribel Valley all season. They are great to watch, and maybe get some tips from!
The “Go Pro” Couloir piste from the top of the Saulire is brilliant (in the right conditions!) and you can now film yourself from top to bottom, earning you bragging rights for the rest of the holiday......
Non-Skiers aren't neglected either. Courchevel has the hugely impressive water park ‘Aquamotion’. It is located in Courchevel 1650, and free buses run between the Courchevel Valley resorts all day. There is a spa area with treatment/massage rooms, and also a cryotherapy room!
You can buy a pedestrian pass for most of the cable cars, and some of the chair lifts, which take you up and over the mountains. This means that your friends and family can join you for lunch, or that afternoon at the Folie Douce for a dance and some people watching. A pass for the week is around €74.
In the Olympic Centre in Meribel there is a bowling area, a climbing wall and a fitness / wellness area. Also an olympic ice rink where there are Hockey matches each week in the winter. Oh, and the 25m swimming pool.
For the more adventurous, there is an altiport at both Meribel and Courchevel where you can take scenic flights in a helicopter or plane. Or if you feel even braver that that, you can book a ‘parapente / paragliding’ experience with an instructor and fly tandem.
And if that wasn't enough, you can also join one of the guided snow shoe walks organised by the Tourist Office, or visit the cinema to watch an English-language film. Plenty to do even if you choose not to ski in Meribel or La Tani during your stay!
Crikey. You'd need a separate holiday just to get through half of the non-skiing activities then. So out of the 600km of piste available, which is your favourite?
Now this is a really difficult one. Two of the pistes from the top of Orelle down to the Rosael chair lift are magnificent if groomed well (which they nearly always are). I recommend getting there are early as possible. The quietest time seems to be mid morning as most people are moving from the Maurienne in to the 3 Valleys. The blue is called ‘Gentianes' and the red is called ‘Mauriennaise’.
And where would you recommend we head to if we want the best view (and possible selfie opportunity) the 3 Valleys has to offer?
This would either be from the top of La Masse above Les Menuires, or from the top on Mont Vallon.
La Masse offers a fantastic view in to the Maurienne Valley and further south and to the Italian peaks. The view from the top of Mont Vallon is also magnificent and takes in the Parc National de la Vanoise and the Glaciers.
Name one thing you still haven’t gotten around to doing or seeing yet in the 3 Valleys?
I’ve not yet braved the zip line from the Point du Bouchet, but at €50 a pop I might wait a little longer! There are also many touring routes with refuges that I would like explore.
Are there any exciting new developments in the 3 Valleys for the coming season?
There is always lots going on over the summer with renovation or upgrading of lifts.
The chaudanne area in Meribel is having a small make over with the Plan de L’Homme chairlift being replaced by a new one high speed chair called “Legends”. The Plan de L’Homme chairlift is actually being moved to replace the Cherferie drag lift. This will arrive at a new higher place and will give skiers much faster access to to St Martin de Bellville and Les Menuires.
The whole of the Le Praz arrival / departure lift area is being redeveloped; new lifts going in and a new parking area.
Looking ahead, Meribel and Courchevel have recently just won the award and the prestige of hosting The Ski World Championships in 2023. This incredible achievement has resulted in new plans for more exciting piste developments!
And finally, if you booked to stay with The Alpine Generation in the 3 Valleys, which chalet would you stay in and why?
My favourite chalet would have to be the Chalet Oursons in La Tania. Although I love Meribel, this is the most perfect ‘ski in and ski out chalet’ that you can have. Right on the edge of the blue run called ‘Folyeres’ and the beginners green slope. An absolutely incredible location, plus the chalet is a lovely typical chocolate box chalet, nestled amongst all the wonderful Alpine fir trees.