John Hendry from Parallel Lines Ski & Snowboard School has lived in the resort for nearly two decades. Here he shares the secrets of having a backstage pass to Méribel and the Three Valleys.
Méribel, what a place! With access to 600km of pistes from the centre of the Three Valleys, there really is nowhere else like it. For 19 years I have lived, worked and skied the Three Valleys from my base in Méribel. From first tracks in December to end of season in April, I’m very luck in that I barely miss a day. It’s an area of diversity, character and outstanding natural beauty. Fast, modern lifts and well sculpted and groomed pistes allow us skiers and snowboarders to travel across the entire four valleys, from Courchevel Moriond to Orelle, in the Maurienne Valley – almost in Italy – during a single day!
Let me take you off the beaten track to discover life behind the scenes and away from the main thoroughfares. These are my personal highlights combined with the favourites of the many clients I’m privileged to ski with:
Outstanding views – Cime de Caron 3200m
There are many great viewpoints but for me, taking the cable car to the Cime de Caron is absolutely outstanding. Once you’re at the top, take 5 minutes to climb to the orientation table just above, where you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular 360˚ view across the Alps. Pick out La Meije to the south in the Alps des Ecrins; look down across the Belleville and Méribel Valleys, and on the horizon, spot Mont Blanc from its southern, Italian side.
Fun terrain – Gunbarrel, Courchevel Moriond
From the top of the Ariondaz Telecabine, head onto the Petite Bosse piste for 100m. Before reaching the Signal piste, great fun is to be had cutting down into the valley on the right and enjoying the natural half-pipe terrain of the Gunbarrel. Kids and adults love swooping from side to side on the top section then picking their way through the narrower, lower section, skiing in and out of the bumps and dips down towards the Signal chairlift. Bring a sense of adventure! It’s not for the nervous, but it’s never steep and big smiles and bright eyes are the reward for those who pass through.
Snowy day? Be local and stay local!
Where’s a good place to ski when the weather comes in? Everywhere is probably the short answer, but if you’re looking for nice long pitches in soft snow, a good bet is to head to the Roc de Tougne chairlift, above Méribel Mottaret, and have a play on Bartavelle. It’s a black graded piste so it’s a great place to make some turns when there’s fresh tracks to be had.
Getting away from it all
(N.B. If I tell you these little hidden gems you’ve got to promise not to tell everyone else and make these slopes busy!) Tucked away just off the Perdrix piste, the Combe Laitelet, is often overlooked by people whizzing from Méribel to Mottaret. It’s a really nice pitch which is sheltered and makes a great short cut back to Méribel.
Another piste often missed is from the top of Olympic Express chairlift. Le Verdet is a blue graded piste that follows a natural valley towards St Martin de Belleville. The first section requires carrying some speed to carry you up a dip but from there it turns and opens into a lovely run where, if you stop, you’ll hear nothing but silence!
A special spot for lunch
There are many great restaurants around the 3 Valleys, but to find somewhere really good and off the beaten track takes a bit of effort. The Refuge du Lac du Lou can only be accessed from off-piste itineraries either from La Masse in Les Menuires or from Cimes de Caron or Boismint in Val Thorens. It has a stunning location by the lake and the food and welcome are terrific. It requires skiing off-piste so an Instructor or guide are recommended and conditions can make access impossible, but on the right day it’s something special!
In the know: new for this season!
During 2018, a total of €15 million was spent on the Tougnète area in Méribel. There’s now a new chairlift from La Chaudanne: “Legends”, the Plan de L’Homme chairlift has been moved up the mountain to replace the Cherferie drag lift, and 2 new pistes have been created to exploit this new area, the Gypaète and Daguet. Couple this with more snowmaking on the Choucas piste and it will give this sector a great new layout and make it easily accessible. And that means I’ll have to keep exploring to find some more secret spots!