This is one of three reviews based on a recent trip to "Les Trois Valles", the 3 Valleys region of the French Alps. Located about 30 miles southwest of Mont Blanc and 20 miles west of Val d'Isere, 3 Valleys lays claim to the title of Largest Ski Area in the World, with over 260 lifts and some 600 km of pistes.
The region had not had any significant snow accumulation for two weeks prior to my visit. Despite websites extolling an epic year for snow in the Alps, the details on conditions told a different story, with off-piste skiing described as "limited". That was a disappointment, because the off-piste potential for this area in a good snow year is truly vast.
Meribel is the center valley of the 3 valleys. If you have beginners in your group, this isn’t a bad place to start. They offer a discounted ticket for lower Meribel valley only, at about 30% less than the cost of a 3 Valles pass. Very crowded, stay higher on mountain, use mid-stations. Expect to wait 20 minutes or longer to board one of the main lifts such as Pas Du Lac or Tougnete.
When I first skied down to the main hub of Meribel Mottaret, I stopped a short ways above the village and looked in amazement at what seemed like an anthill...I'd never seen so many skiers swarming the slopes. Unfortunately, all those skiers were taking a heavy toll on the conditions, with the pistes quickly becoming scraped off.
Lunch was very pricey...almost 20 euro just for chicken strips, pomme frites, and a drink.
It's not that Meribel is a bad ski area; it's just that there are much better ones on either side of it.
If you are staying in Brides, it's a 25 min gondola ride to Meribel, so "sleeping low" to save money will cost you about an hour of skiing every day....and it makes it tough to beat the crowds. If you have the means, staying at a higher elevation will allow you to get up to the good stuff ahead of the throng.
I didn't rate nightlife, as I was staying in another village, but it seemed like there was plenty to offer.
For the advanced skier, Meribel is less a place to ski than a place to be endured while enroute to better offerings at Courcheval or Val Thorens.