Coming to a ski resort for the first time as a beginner skier or snowboarder can be a bit daunting. With a little locals know-how, our tips and tricks will help you make the most of your time here and hopefully leave you desperate for more.
Méribel is widely regarded as one of Europe's prettiest ski resorts, dotted with wooden chalets and treelined runs to swish and swoosh through. But its not all about huge powder bowls, glaciers and pro snow parks. Located at the centre of the Three Valleys ski area, there is a wonderful world of beginner areas to explore.
Here are our top tips:
- You may not need a full lift pass - beginner slopes are usually low down, easily accessed and some don't require a lift pass at all
- Book into ski school, don't let your mates / partner teach you, trust us and hire a professional
- Consider your choice of equipment hire shop
- Plan your outfit before you arrive
- Utilise free public transport
- Enjoy the fun zones, they usually have a beginner area
- Explore the whole resort, seek out the blue and green slopes away from the beginner zones
- Explore the blues and greens of the other resorts included in your pass
- Enjoy après-ski - after all you'll have earned your stripes
Whilst it is possible to arrange these things once you're in resort, we wouldn't recommend it - especially lessons. Plan ahead, book what you can, and take the pressure off that first morning.
If you're a complete beginner and booking into ski school you might not need a full Three Valleys six-day pass, which includes neighbouring Courchevel and Val Thorens. Méribel has two designated beginner areas with eight free lifts, so you may not need a lift pass at all for the first few days. It's worth checking with your ski school before you buy, some schools offer packages that include a lift pass. Buying online couldn't be easier and the pass itself can be recharged / reloaded next time you visit. And rather than opt for them to be mailed to your home address, simply pick them up in resort. It's one less thing to remember to pack.
Don't let your friends or partner attempt to teach you to ski or snowboard. Trust us, for the sake of your relationships, put yourself in the hands of the professionals. Luckily there are many ski schools in Méribel offering group and private lessons with friendly and knowledgeable English speaking instructors. If you're the only beginner in your group it's definitely worth joining group lessons. You'll learn in a safe and fun environment, and make new friends with rest of your crew over your shared experiences. Lessons are definitely something you should book well in advance to ensure you get your slot - especially if your ski trip is during the school holidays.
Renting your gear online is often cheaper than in resort, and most shops have beginner ski / snowboard packages on their websites. Also it's worth making sure your pick up point is close to your accommodation, so it's not too far to carry your gear. Some shops offer free locker use near the slopes for customers, delivery services, and may even come to you for fittings on arrival if pre-arranged, especially if there's a group of you. It's worth checking this with the shop before you book.
Make the most of your time
All the gear, no idea
For the beginner skier or snowboarder it might seem expensive to lay out for the right apparel before you arrive, and there aren't many places that rent clothing in resort, so borrow what you can, check out the sales and online discounts. At the bare minimum make sure in addition to your trousers and jacket, that you've got a helmet, some goggles, gloves, and technical ski socks. Plus a lightweight back pack is always handy for carrying water, sunscreen and an extra layer.
Get on the bus
Plan your route from your accommodation to the beginner slopes, and use the resort's excellent public transport system to get around until you get the knack of carrying skis and poles like the pros.
The beginner slopes
The beginner zones with free lifts are located in the centre of Méribel Mottaret - complete with its own magic carpet and drag lift, and at the Altiport area of Méribel. But once these are mastered you can move on up to the green Bolanchot run, which starts at the top of the Saulire Express 1 gondola, or the Combes chairlift serves a green run called Little Himalaya. Once you're ready to progress from the green runs, Méribel has 24 blue runs to up the ante so to speak.
The fun zones
The Chemin des Ecoliers is a long and steep boardercross for families near the DC Area 43 Snow park above Mottaret. It's popular with adults, is extremely well maintained, and even if you don't fancy trying your hand at these bad boys it's always worth a watch. For the children and adult beginners, the Méribel Elements Park has a series of whoops located by the entrance. Novices can enjoy the Fun Cross and try their hand at the boxes, rails and jibs. There's also video cameras dotted throughout to film your runs, they are free to use, and at the end you can download your own park run! Kids will love Moon Wild, a themed piste with life-sized animal models hidden in the woods.
It’s easy to stick with the tried and tested slopes that you've been practising on, but once you're feeling confident enough the Tougnete / Roc de Fer area has some of the loveliest rolling blues in the valley, and on the other side don't miss the very special Lupin run, which descends from Altiport to Méribel Village - an ideal tree-lined run, great in flat light or bad weather as the trees help with visibility.
After all you have earned your stripes (and probably some bruises), now it's time to share your stories from the day with your family and friends, new and old.
Méribel is a great place to let off some steam after a day's exertions on the slopes. Whether that's in the local après-ski scene over a beer or two, in a local restaurant, or with a swim and sauna to relax those aching limbs. With a 25m indoor swimming pool, paddling pool, flume, sauna, steam room, and relaxation area you really can't do better than heading to Parc Olympique to take advantage of the swimming facilities or ease the pain away with a massage. Alternatively, an ideal après-ski activity with friends and family is the ice skating rink located next to the pistes.
These are great options for a day off the skiing, in the event of poor weather or a great way to spend a few hours after the slopes close.
Families, at the very least, may finally have a shot at exhausting the kids with this option!
So what are you waiting for? Get yourself out here and have some fun in the snow!