Why does the French ski resort of Méribel hold so much appeal for families? Sean King recently went on a fact finding mission to discover the ways in which Méribel wins over kids and woos their parents, year after year. Here’s what he found out.
The French ski resort of Méribel is one of the most visited in the world. If you like fun facts, you might be interested to know the resort was discovered by a Scottish Colonel, Peter Lindsay, in the 1930s. This might explain why it has long been such a favourite with British skiers and families. However, I suspect that popularity has more to do with the vast array of ski runs – 600km in total – as well as off-piste in the heart of the Trois Vallées: the largest ski area in France.
A French ski resort with a sustainable ethos
There are runs to suit everyone here regardless of level. Plus, tree-lined Méribel is undoubtedly one of the prettiest resorts in the French Alps.
But the good folk who run this particular French ski resort are also looking ahead. As a result, Méribel is constantly evolving to cater to today’s increasingly discerning and environmentally-conscious families. Ultimately the ambition is to ensure the resort has a sustainable future even in the face of the climate-change issues affecting ski resorts globally.
The skiing in Méribel, Courchevel and Val Thorens is as amazing as ever, and for most skiers that’s the number one reason for choosing the 3 valleys. However, what’s really striking is how much effort and investment Méribel has put into making sure it also caters for families and those looking for more out of a French ski resort than just being on the first run and last lift of the day.
Méribel is much more than just skiing
Ski touring and snowshoeing have really taken off now and offer a completely unique way to see the natural beauty and serenity of the mountains. As a first-time ski tourer slipping on some skins and literally walking up a mountain, I was slightly unsure to begin with, although quickly got into my stride. You kind of have to: ‘the only way is up’, as the saying goes.
Amazingly, we actually saw a deer in the forest. In fact the whole experience felt incredibly close to nature, something that’s almost impossible when you’re bombing down blue and red runs. I can definitely recommend ski touring. However, be warned, it’s not for the faint-hearted.
On a gentler note, and one for all-comers, is snowshoeing. This is far less strenuous than ski touring and offers a nice change of pace, especially for those who don’t want to ski all-day-every-day.
But if that’s not enough of an alternative, Méribel has Fat Bikes too. New from the US, these mountain bikes have very large, under-inflated tyres and rims, and are designed specifically for riding on snow. Or, when you want a day off the mountain altogether, there’s even outdoor Yoga at this French ski resort.
The French ski resort with a fun take on family holidays
A lot of effort has gone into creating a whole bunch of new activities on the mountain to bring all the family together.
- Turn & Run is a new family boardercross, with a giant snail, snowy bridge and whoops.
- The Altai dragon trail features the fun of finding life-sized dragons lurking along its length.
- The Animal slope offers an easy and pleasant trail through the heart of a protected forest.
- The Yeti Park lets kids search for Yooni the Yeti along a gentle, fun trail with talking tunnels, whoops, igloos and a secret cave.
- Family Cool area is for those who want a bit of peace and quiet away from the faster skiers and boarders
- Inuit slope allows families to discover the world of the Far North on a run which features mini slaloms and whoops.
Even LEGO® endorses Méribel
One of the cutest and, dare I say it, most unusual things I’ve seen in a long time has to be the partnership between the iconic LEGO® brand and Le Kaila hotel. This striking 5-star hotel in the heart of Méribel actually features a LEGO®-themed kids club, as well as DUPLO® for under-fives to play with after a day in the snow. There’s also a great LEGO® photo opp in the hotel lobby and all young guests receive a welcome gift of LEGO® sets created just for Le Kaila Hotel.
Antares Residence factors ‘wow’ into this French ski resort
For those ski-loving families looking for the ‘wow factor’, recently-completed Antares Residence – built on the site of the former Club Med – is an absolute must. Ski-in-ski-out, it’s set in the Belvedere area and caters for families looking for a 5-star luxury hotel experience along with the privacy of their own apartment.
The residence spa is to die for! As well as a sauna, hammam, swimming pool, jacuzzi, and aqua circuit, it also boasts a ‘first in the Alps’. As, thanks to its association with the Biologique Recherche professional cosmetics brand, it has created the ANTARES WELLNESS CLINIC – as I said, a first in the Alps. And I can confirm that at the end of an exhilarating day on the mountain, it’s hard to imagine anything more relaxing than a gong bath, overlooking the valley towards Mont Blanc. It’s literally bliss.
Additionally, the Antares offers room-services ranging from a delicious breakfast hamper through to private chefs or three-course dinners. And of course, everything is delivered to your apartment with impeccable French style.
Fabulous French cooking is a Trois Vallées’ specialty
For most, if not all ski-lovers, enjoying fabulous food is a big part of any holiday at a French ski resort. Méribel, and the 3 Valleys generally, have tons of places to eat and drink, on and off the mountains. Here are a few we checked out.
- Le Maya Altitude is a new restaurant which opened last December and has already established itself as one of Méribel’s must-visit dining terraces. Its 360° panorama over Mont-Blanc will take your breath away and the menu and decoration are Himalayan-inspired. But, word of warning, the desserts will blow your mind!
- For a more traditional Savoyard experience we chose Le Clos Bernard. At this high-altitude restaurant in the Altiport area, you can start by relaxing on the deckchairs in the sun. And as an added bonus kids have tobogganing or colouring-in to keep them happy. That’s before they eat in their own children’s tepee. Very cute.
- Wine lovers should consider a visit to Partâgo, the new gourmet destination in Pierre et Vacances L’Hévana 5-star residence. Only opened in December 2022, its concept combines a wine cellar with 350 fine wines, a delicatessen and a restaurant run by chef, Charles Erik Hostier.
- Five-star Le Coucou hotel sits at the foot of the Rond-Point des Pistes and offers a number of fine dining experiences. We chose aptly named, The Beef Bar, renowned for Black Angus beef from Argentina and the US, as well as Japanese Wagyu beef.
How to plan family ski holidays in Méribel
How to get there
Méribel is 2 hours’ drive from Geneva Airport.
Where to stay
Antarès Residence offers 2, 3 or 4 bedroom apartments, between 600 and 1,200m²
Five-star Le Kaila Hotel offers a range of Family Suites sleeping up to 4 guests.