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Meribel - Heart of France's 3 Valleys (Les Trois Vallees)

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Meribel - Heart of France's 3 Valleys (Les Trois Vallees)

A view from Mont Vallon

Mike Doyle

When planning a ski trip to the Alps, France's 3 Valleys - Les Trois Vallees - is an excellent destination. Expanse and grandeur are the expressions when thinking "Alps" skiing. Culture and Lodging are the operative words and Les Trois Vallees offers all this, within a short drive from Geneva International Airport.

From the U.S. you are only an overnight flight and short couple of hours from "the largest ski area in the world."

You can ski all Les Trois Vallees if you stay in any of eight resort towns and villages throughout the 3 valleys or in the bedroom communities of each resort.

However, for a visit that is most accessible you might choose to stay in Meribel which is located in the center valley - Les Allues. Meribel has the exacting and very catching nickname of - "Heart of the 3 Valleys" and it becomes even more inviting saying it in the French - "Coeur des Trois Vallees."

Meribel - Traditional and Modern

Meribel is an architecturally pleasing resort town with an accommodating town center and easily accessible streets lined with shopping and dining establishments. During the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics, Meribel held center stage for the ice hockey games and the Olympic Center has evolved into "le Parc Olympic sports centre" a main attraction in town offering concert venues, skating, swimming, and more family apres-ski events and activities.

The skiing at Meribel was not overlooked by the Albertville Olympics as it was the center of the Women's alpine events. Also, thanks to the Winter Games the huge Olympe gondola was initiated all the way down valley to Brides-Les-Bains.

A Great Ski Hub

As it's moniker implies, Meribel is the most central location to explore all of Les Trois Vallees. You can ski all day and return to plenty of apres-ski, savoring as much of the international flavors that you can stay awake for. Remember, you are in the Alps, Meribel sits at about 5000 feet and you are skiing high above that so sleep well.

Meribel has a variety of lodging options, including hotels, Bands, apartments, and catered and self-catered chalets. Whatever your price range or party size you will find lodging to fit your budget and no matter what your native language is do not hesitate to contact Meribel Tourism Office to explain your needs.

Restaurants abound in Meribel and you will be pleasantly surprised to find a few restaurants making early dining arrangements. This is counter to the traditionally late dining hours of many European establishments, but is great for getting a family fed and to bed in time for early skiing the next morning.

Boutiques and ski shops line much of the street space not taken by restaurants but haute-fashion winter and ski apparel shopping are part of the Savoie experience. State-of-the-art ski shops and attention to off-piste safety and necessities are readily available from local ski technicians.

At Sport Boutique, the oldest ski shop in Meribel (1947) and located at the Place de L'Office de Tourisme, technician Jean-Michel not only explained at length the avalanche escaping ABB backpack air bags but gave me a full operational lesson - even firing off the bags.

Meribel-Mottaret

A few kilometers up-valley from Meribel is Meribel-Mottaret. Meribel-Mottaret is a bedroom community to Meribel and has what I think is the most central access to all the skiing in Les Trois Vallees. I found more and easier ski/out access and quick up mountain lifts to either of the other valleys.

I stayed for a week at the Hotel AlpenRuitor, a Savoyard styled hotel offering full and half board and a short walk to the lifts heading out to either of the other valleys. The AlpenRuitor opens onto the center square of Meribel-Mottaret with several excellent restaurants, including one underground and open air dining for long lunches and lingering apres-ski.

Although Meribel-Mottaret seems to shut down a little after the lifts stop it does, in fact, wake up after dark and some nights the center square area can stay rocking late at night.
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