The French ski resort of Méribel, founded in the 1930s, is unique in its landscape, authenticity and family friendliness
When Scottish colonel Peter Lindsay wanted to build a new ski resort in the 1930s, he was determined to avoid the traditional location of Austria as he sensed impending problems because of the country’s relationship with Germany. Instead, he settled on an undeveloped part of the French Alps around the village of Les Allues, which he named Méribel, from the Latin mirare meaning “to look at” and “bel” meaning beautiful. To ensure it remained beautiful for decades to come, a charter was written establishing strict rules about building and materials – these needed to be traditional wood and stone in classic Alpine style. Because of Peter, Méribel remains one of the most beautiful locations in Europe and one that is particularly popular with guests from the UK, who can enjoy brilliant skiing by day and fine dining by night.
“There is a lot to love about Méribel,” says Léa Borocco, Communication Manager for Méribel Tourisme. “The most important thing is the amazing landscape,” she says. “Everything is made with traditional materials of wood and stone on a smaller scale. When you come here it feels like visiting history. We are exclusive, but in a very different way to other resorts. It is not extravagant, it is more discreet, more chic. That gives us a very different identity.”
It is an identity that can be experienced in subtly different flavours, depending on which part of Méribel you visit. The traditional old town centre boasts hotels, private chalets, high-end restaurants, welcoming bars and top-of-the-line shopping, while Méribel-Mottaret is perched slightly higher up the mountains, with easier access to the region’s skiing. In the neighbourhood called le Belvedere, new luxury residences benefit from incredible views and five-star-hotel facilities such as a bar and sports room. Finally, Méribel Village is a more secluded and intimate introduction to the area.
Le Kaïla hotel in the centre of Méribel offers ski-in ski-out luxury, as does the slopeside Antarès, which includes 63 apartments and a wellness spa. For those wanting a mountain property of their own, Rising Stone is the go-to specialist.
The resort can be enjoyed all year round. The ski lifts open in July and August to take visitors to stunning hiking trails. There is even a golf course, which is covered by snow for most of the year but usable in summer for an unforgettable 18 holes. While there is a huge bike park for mountain biking (and the Col de la Loze, as climbed by Tour de France riders), paragliding and many other activities, the main attraction is the skiing. Here, Méribel is unique. Located in the middle of the Three Valleys – the largest skiing area in the world – it has excellent access to all the neighbouring resorts, for instance Courchevel and Les Menuires. There are numerous slopes close by, including a wider-than-usual range for beginners, children and families, another distinctive quality of the resort.
“Everything about Méribel is different,” says Léa. “We are more about authenticity, charm and elegance. Even our five-star hotels are different as they are more family-orientated. One of the most exclusive was built by a local family who wanted to create a family-friendly place, as they had not found this anywhere. It is adapted to family needs, and that is true of the whole resort. It is a place for anybody who appreciates beautiful landscapes, amazing restaurants and accommodation, and obviously the most incredible skiing.”