A perfect run
Whether you’re on your first ski trip, in search of the best powder, or an active weekend away, the Alpine resort of Méribel-Mottaret has it all says Helen Etheridge
There’s nothing like a holiday to refresh and rejuvenate, and none more so than a ski trip. The feeling of freedom as you sweep down the piste for the first time without falling over. Or, for the more adept, the rush of adrenaline as you conquer challenging runs. The hot chocolate or mulled wine taken in a mountain restaurant surrounded by the most majestic scenery, breathing in the crispest of air. And that feeling of relief in the evening as you take off your boots and sink into a chair in front of a roaring log fire.
As with any holiday, its success depends on choosing the right destination for your needs. The village of Méribel-Mottaret, which is situated in the Alps at the top of the Méribel Valley and right in the centre of France’s huge Trois Vallées ski area, ticks many boxes. Despite being a purpose-built resort, it is still picturesque – the development is wood clad, low-rise chalet-style rather than the large concrete buildings that can be found elsewhere. Most of the accommodation is ski in/ski out and there is a plethora of ski schools in the vicinity. At an elevation of 1,700m it is one of the higher resorts in the Alps so you’re pretty much guaranteed good snow.
Seasoned skiers will find it’s the perfect base from which to explore the Trios Vallées with around 600km of piste and direct access to Courchevel and Val Thorens, Les Menuires and St Martin de Belleville. Adrenaline seekers will find there’s a huge amount of off piste possibilities including the fantastic Aiguille du Fruit route that finishes in Lac Tuéda at the bottom of the village. There are plenty of slopes suitable for families in the immediate area, and a dedicated kids’ terrain park. The Yéti Park has banked turns, tunnels to ski through and gongs designed for youngsters to bang with their ski poles as they whizz along!
On the slopes
For those new to skiing, lessons are a must. Méribel-Mottaret has an Ecole du Ski Français ski school esf-uk.co.uk or head to Méribel Centre where family-friendly, English speaking Oxygene Ski School is based. There is a free bus service connecting the areas and it is also very simple to travel between Méribel and Mottaret on skis via the pistes and lifts. We booked our lessons through Ongosa, a free service which matches you with the right provider according to your ability and preferences. ongosa.com 020 3176 7063
Off the slopes
If you fancy a day off skiing there are plenty of other things to do in the area. Walk through the forest and around the lake in the Plan de Tuéda nature reserve, at the far end of the village. In Méribel, The Olympic Centre, built for the 1992 Winter Olympics, is open daily offering a 25m indoor swimming pool, children’s pool, water slide, fitness centre, climbing wall, spa and indoor ice-rink. It costs €6 for an adult swim.
Aquamotion is in the adjacent valley of Courchevel and is the largest aquatic centre in Europe where you can swim, surf, dive, climb, and relax. Situated between Courchevel Village and Courchevel Moriond it can be reached by skiing (on a Trois Vallees pass from Courchevel Moriond, then a 10-minute free bus ride), or by taxi, which costs approximately €60. Entry prices are dependent on which activities you choose – an adult Aquawellness Day costs €26. aquamotion-courchevel.com/en/
Food and drink
If you want to stay out on the slopes at lunchtime there is a selection of mountain restaurants in the Méribel Valley. Back in resort, head to the Café del Mott, part of Hotel Le Mottaret which has an extensive lunchtime buffet. On sunny days you can sit outside, drinking in the beautiful view alongside your ice-cold beer. Dinner there sees an even more elaborate affair of hot and cold dishes, and a tempting array of desserts. Further down in the village try Pizzeria du Mottaret for great pizza and pasta dishes. If it’s lively après ski you’re after, Méribel Centre is probably your best bet, although there are a couple of bars in Mottaret itself such as Jack’s, which is renowned for its live music and comedy nights.
Where to stay
Hotel Le Mottaret offers doorstep skiing in the heart of Méribel-Mottaret. Situated close to many amenities, there is a very reasonable ski-hire shop next to the hotel. The recently renovated rooms are spacious yet cosy, it has anin-house bar/lounge, as well as unlimited food and drinks from 10am until 10pm daily, on the all-inclusive package, and a terrace cafe with heaters and regular live music as well as a Jacuzzi deck.
This season Ski France is offering free board to all children aged 17 and under on the same board basis as their parents. A week’s stay at Hotel Le Mottaret costs from £978 per adult (£1,956 total) for two adults and two children sharing a Superior Family Room on a half-board basis with the Kids Go Free Offer. Travel to and from France is not included but transfers, lift passes and ski hire can be booked directly through Ski France skifrance.co.uk, 0203 475 4756,
Before you go
Give yourself a head start before you head to the mountains with a lesson at the Chill Factore, home to the UK’s longest indoor ski slope. Visit chillfactore.com or call 0161 749 2222 to book
Time difference: GMT+1
Visa: Not needed
Insurance: Strongly advised – with winter sports cover
Ski Hire: The Sport 2000 Méribel-Mottaret shop, situated at the bottom of Hotel Le Mottaret ski-evasion.sport2000.fr
Lift passes: A six-day lift pass for Meribel-Mottaret costs from €255 per adult (age 13-64) and €205 per child (age 5-12). A six-day lift pass for Les Trois Vallees costs from €306 per adult (age 13-64) and €240 per child (age 5-12)
Getting there: Chambery airport is 1.5 hours from Meribel, while Geneva is approx 2 hours. Flybe.com serves both airports from the UK. The ski trains go from St Pancras direct to Moutiers (a 25-minute taxi ride from Meribel); there’s a coach service from London direct to Meribel with prices from £109 return, or you could drive, which takes about 8 hours from Calais or Le Havre.