With its craggy, snow-cloaked peaks and picturesque chalets like neat gingerbread houses, the ski resort of Méribel is the very image of traditional alpine France. But on the slopes and in the town’s many bars and pubs, it’s likely to be the British accent that you hear. Every year, Méribel sees a vast influx of British tourists and skiers, and this town becomes, as one newspaper columnist terms it, “Little England upon Alps”.
Méribel depends heavily upon British tourism – in fact, over one third of the total visitors to the resort hail from the United Kingdom. The Ski Club of Great Britain lists Méribel in its top five destinations for UK skiers. But what accounts for Méribel’s unique draw for the British?
British Roots in Méribel
For starters, Méribel was founded by a native of the British Isles. Scotsman Colonel Peter Lindsay visited the commune of Les Allues, which contains the village of Méribel, in the 1930s. Lindsay was looking for a site for a new ski resort, as Brits were moving away from the resorts of Germany and Austria due to the growing Nazi regime. Lindsay founded a property company and began to buy land from area farmers to create the resort, and the first ski lift opened on the slopes above Les Allues in 1938. Unlike the other ski resorts in the Three Valleys area, which were built with public funds, Méribel was created with private capital from British and French investors.
A British Feel
Due to the huge amounts of British capital sunk into Méribel, the resort has noticeable British touches, despite appearing classically alpine. You’re sure to find native Britons at Le Rond Point bar, an après-ski local favourite, or at the Pub below Doron Hotel, where there are live music acts nearly every night. Another local favourite is Barometer, a restaurant and bar in the town centre with a traditional English pub atmosphere.
Despite heavy British influence, Méribel is still infused with French alpine charm, and a vibrant Anglo-French community exists permanently year-round. Whether you fly the Union Jack or the Tricolore (or any flag of any nation for that matter), Méribel is waiting to give you a warm and international welcome.
How to Get to Méribel
Want to be a part of the “British Invasion” of Méribel? Luckily, it’s only a 90-minute flight from London to Méribel’s nearest airport, Geneva International. It’s easy to arrange a Geneva airport ski transfer with Shuttle Direct to take you (and your ski gear!) the rest of the way. Sit back and relax and let one of Shuttle Direct’s experienced drivers handle the two-hour scenic drives into the mountains!
If you’re looking to travel by rail, Eurostar offers seasonal ski trains to several locations in France. A direct train can get you to Moutiers, only 25 minutes away from Méribel. There are a number of public buses that serve the seasonal influx of skiers headed to the slopes of Méribel. The ski train does make allotments for your winter gear: passengers are permitted to bring one pair of skis or one snowboard in addition to a standard adult luggage allowance.
Where to Stay:
Eliova Le Génépi – Located right in the centre of Méribel, Eliova Le Génépi offers excellent access to the ski slopes only 150 metres away. The wide front terrace provides sweeping views of the mountains, while the hotel’s restaurant serves up delicious traditional French food. The rooms are simply decorated but comfortable and welcoming, making this hotel a great value for money.
Hotel Eterlou – This three-star hotel has all the charm and warmth of a traditional Savoie chalet. The rooms at Hotel Eterlou are panelled with the traditional light alpine wood so characteristic of the region and warm tones of red and green add a cosy touch. Downstairs in the bar and restaurant, get a taste of Savoyard cuisine with locally sourced products at the plentiful breakfast buffet!
Le Kaïla – After a long, cold day on the slopes, Le Kaïla is an ideal place to unwind. This five-star hotel boasts a sprawling aquatic centre, which is home to a pool, geysers, Jacuzzi and aquabikes. There is also a world-class spa with sauna, Turkish bath, and an ice fountain to help your sore legs recover from the day’s skiing! Afterward, relax in one of Le Kaïla’s sumptuous rooms or suites, which are furnished with alpine wood panelling, plush throw blankets and cosy plaid pillows.