A brand new high-speed chairlift with pull-down weather shield has been installed at the second stage of the Tougnete, replacing the gondola lift and this has allowed the Tougnete draglift to be dismantled and thereby reducing the number of pylons on the mountainside. The construction, in time for the 2007-08 winter season, has increased capacity from 1400 skiers per hour to 3000, an increase of over 50 per cent.<p>
This areas gives access to Les Menuires and Saint Martin de Belleville and allows travel from the Chaudanne plateau to other parts of the Three Valleys ski area without removing skis.
New last winter season was the "Plan des Mains", a new concept in the provision of a good mountain restaurant. Located at an altitude of 2100m the complex is based on research carried out with skiers who asked for a "comfort zone" including toilets, a place for good comfort and an area to relax.
Construction took place over two years at the foot of the Mont Vallon and access is via the Plattieres gondola. The "plan des Mains" has a sandwich bar for skiers "on-the-run"; a brasserie for those who like to sit down but not linger too long; and a gastronomic restaurant for gourmets who like to eat more than they like to ski!
Also in the Plattieres area, the Chatelet chair has been replaced by a 6-seater which doubles the capacity per hour. The lift also provides better access to the Valley of Belleville.
The 2007-08 winter season continues with a "hands-free" lift pass which I am sure will be welcomed by thousands of skiers who used to hate taking off their gloves and rummaging inside their anorak for a lift pass to enter the control gate!
Meribel offers excellent links to both Courcheval and Val Thorens so can best be described as the centre of this vast "ski circus" so when Colonel Peter Lindsay decided to settle permanently in the Valley of Les Allues in l945 he could not have visulised that 60 years later the village of Meribel could have gained such an international reputation as one of France's top skiing venues. Since those early days when the first ski runs were laid out uphill transportation has moved forward from the basic to the most sophisticated There are over 600kms of runs (328 pistes) together with a total of of 189 lifts. But fortunately such progress has not come at the expense of the mountains unique environment. Not for Meribel high-rise towering buildings, just chalets built with traditional local materials. The new winter season gets under way mid-December and will continue through until May, 2008 and for the coming season is a detachable 6-seater departing from La Chaudanne in the centre of the resort with an hourly capacity of 3,000 skiers. This lift replaces the Plan de l'Homme chairlift (a fixed-grip quad)which could only move 1,500 people an hour. Meribel is claimed to be the only resort in the world to offer 16 high capacity gondola lifts and 18 chairs. A further 26 snow-making machines have been installed in the Burgin/Saulire sector bringing the total number of snow-guns to 600 in the skiing area where there are 53 lifts giving a total hourly capacity of 74,565. There are 14 villages are scattered through the valley from Les Allues to Mottaret with Meribel nestling on south-facing slopes at a altitude ranging from 1450m to 1750m with a vast skiing area linking to the resort forming the Trois Vallees.
Meribel is the only resort within "les 3 vallees" complex (if not in the world!) to boast 16 gondola lifts. Add to that impressive figure 18 chairlifts (including an 8-seater and two 6-seaters, l4 surface lifts and 5-telebaby tows for the kids and you can see why Meribel has become so popular.
A fleet of 23 snowcats assures slope maintenance while 600 snow cannons ensure good snow cover throughout the season and on heavily used pistes. The slopes are groomed for a four-hour period every evening and there are two slalom stadiums, one of which is floodlit for evening skiing.
For the cross country skier, Meribel offers 33km of cross-country trails.
The winter season comes early to the Trois Vallees region and from mid-December skiing is great on freshly fallen, deep snow at "white week" prices which make a pre-Christmas trip a great idea.
One of the most spectacular descents is the run from the summit of the Mont Vallon (2900m) to Meribel village (1450m). If you have time to admire the scenery! - the view of the mighty Massif of the Vanoise and the Borgne and Gebroulaz glacier at the top of the run and there to be admired before descending down "La Combe" and into the pine forest of Tueda.
The diversity of Meribel's trails allows enthusiasts of every level of skiing ability to "schuss" with pleasure. The resort of Meribel has 150km of its own trains and 28km of groomed runs. You can select from 9 black, 23 red and 34 blue - or if you are a real novice - there are 8 green pistes.
If you are really good, there are 2 Olympic runs, 2 slalom courses, 2 snowboard parks and 33 km of cross country trails.
The village of Meribel is picturesque - but busy in the height of the season. One of the delights of the resort is to find dozens of very attractive chalets nestling on the slopes surrounded by pine trees but most within a short distance of any of the numerous lifts. Also new for the coming winter season has been a transformation of the Parc Olympic, built in l992 to host the Albertville XV1 Olympic Games. While the ice rink has remained (with a capacity of 2400 tiered seats) many other parts of the building have been transformed to provide a swimming pool, climbing wall, day nursery, meeting rooms, bowling alley and nightclub.
Meribel is also opening a brand new area dedicated to fitness and well-being within the Parc Olympic. Separate zones have been created for women and men offering Turkish baths, sauna and hydro massage, as well as a jucuzzi for up to 14 people. The herbal tea shop and rest room gives a view through a vast picture window of the Le Mont-Vallon, a summit of 2,900m which dominates the Meribel Valley.
The centre of the resort is well-served by shops, bars, cafes and restaurants and there is plenty of nightlife. If you like an early night, do not stay in the centre as it is a little noisy!!
There are no fewer than 400 ski instructors and guides available to teach the downhill enthusiast many of whom speak a number of languages. Next to French, English is the most popular language.
Of course Meribel as being the central point of the Trois Vallees Region, lifts quickly carry you to Les Menuires, Val Thorens or Courcheval and the vastness of the Trois Vallees region (see separate listing) ensures the skier is never short of a new piste and an adventure.
Travelling by air, you can fly into Lyon-St. Exupery airport (185km); Chambery/Aix les Bains airport (95km) or Geneva airport (135km). The closest train station is at Moutiers (18km) or if you drive, you take the autoroute A43 to Albertville, then the N90 to Moutiers, then follow the D90 for 18km.
We have teamed up with PV Holidays, leading supplier of French Skiing accommodation to offer a Christmas offer of one night free with every booking.