Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Overview of week one of the 2012/13 season

"Weather" is probably the best word to sum up week one of the 2012/13 season. We have experienced sunshine, poor visibility, a chilly wind, light snow, heavy snow and lower down even rain. Despite all of that we have amazing conditions here in The Three Valleys and have been enjoying skiing on almost empty runs for the last seven days. In Courchevel on Saturday we shared the beautiful Creux red run with 4 other people, once they had overtaken us it was all ours, a true treat.

Today was a particularly snowy day, we tested out the new Plattieres lift out of Mottaret which is very fast and blissfully quiet. The original Plattieres 3 Gondola is still in use and the transition from new to old is quite jarring although soon forgotten when we exited from the Gondola into deep, deep powder. The run down to St Martin was probably as good as it gets and lower down visibility improved dramatically.

Searching for lower altitude skiing saw us at the Meribel Altiport and onto one of my favourite runs "Piste des Animaux". Hidden at the base of the Loze Chairlift this short run through the trees features models of animals and informative signage. Not a person had skied down it and it appears no one with a shovel has been near it either as most of the animals are now hidden under snow or about to disappear.

The outlook is for more snow and hopefully a few clear days to take some pictures which really show off the area. In the meantime the following pictures represent the first week of the season.

From Saulire mid station looking down to Meribel Altiport

Golf Chairlift in need of snow clearing

No sun but lots of powder!

Halfway down Foret run and the sun decides to show up

Festive decoration in Mottaret fighting a losing battle with the snow

Piste des Animaux, hopefully someone will come and dig the animals out soon

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Day one of the 2012/13 Season

The most important thing to start off a season well is to have snow and it would be fair to say we have that by the bucket full. It would be lovely to also start with a nice sunny day to admire the scenery and also make finding your snow legs a little easier. We couldn't quite get delivery on the sun today, even at mid station the visibility was bad and the temperature was well into the minus numbers. Snow continued to fall throughout the day and it is still snowing now. Conditions under ski and up to about mid calf were lovely, now we just need to sort out the rest and see some blue sky.

At the start of the season there is always a limited area open, it's simply not worth it for the number of people around and due to the depth of snow there are safety issues to be addressed. The links to the other Valleys were not open today but will gradually open as the week progresses. We skied a limited area, just enough to get the ski legs and ski brain working and take some snaps. The weather forecast is for a least 2 clear days in the next 5 days so will report back when we have gone further afield.

Not a bad view for a bus stop
Waiting at the bus stop it seemed there may be some blue sky appearing
Higher up no breaks in the cloud but a lovely run through the trees. Perfect conditions - Piste bashed corduroy down the middle, untouched deep powder at each side

Skiing down into Meribel some of the smaller trees have now disappeared completely under snow

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Changes for the new season

We have previously posted about the changes over at Courchevel and as the snow continues to fall and the lifts open on Saturday it feels like time to cover what is new in Meribel for this season. The most dramatic will be opening of the first section of the Saulire Express gondola, the top section was opened last year. The lift station has been re-built with a large entrance ramp at the front. At the weekend they were putting the last finishing touches and the Gondolas were happily travelling up and down empty.

New lower stage of Saulire Express

 The completed Saulire Express will reach the top of the Saulire in just 12 minutes, compared with a previous journey time of over 20 minutes. This gives very speedy access to the red Piste Creux which first thing in the morning is one of the great pleasures of skiing the Three Valleys and gives access to the 1650 side of Courchevel.

The other big change for our Valley is the opening of the new Plattières lift which will replace the Plattières 1 and 2 gondolas. There will be no mid station and the lift entrance in Mottaret has been moved which will give easier access. The 9 minutes journey time will decrease the time taken to get to Mount Vallon and Cote Brune area although if it provides enough time to eat a sandwich is yet to be determined.

The new Plattieres lift station, Mount Vallon enjoying the sunshine in the background

Each year changes are also made to Pistes, sometimes a gentle re-shaping here and there or improvements to intersections. This season we also have a brand new Piste in Meribel to be called the Couloir Tournier. The 37-degree Couloir starts at the top of the Saulire Express and is to be equipped with cameras to allow you to have a lasting reminder  of your exploits. I am happy to report back at a later time on the suitability of the new fast Plattieres lift for snacking on a sandwich however the new Couloir will join the Grand Couloir on my list of 2 Pistes I will not be seen on. Happy to stand at the bottom and watch so will post later on the popularity of the new Piste.

For non skiers - or skiers wanting a rest day the Three Valleys offers an extensive network of footpaths which are well signed and bashed during the winter to make the snow firm and easier to walk on. One of the nicest walks is from  Meribel to Mottaret which we completed earlier this week, not as easy as usual as the snow is deep and the basher has not been out yet. Very hard on the legs but lovely views as seen below.

New festive decoration at the entrance to Mottaret

Walking down the Truite Piste
Bring your own shovel if you want to sit down

Walking towards Mottaret

Friday, 30 November 2012

Welcome to winter

Not quite the 1st December here but the last Autumn leaves are fighting a loosing battle against the snow. Down at Les Allues Village level yesterday we had a steady fall of snow which lasted most of the day. Walking boots have now been replaced by snow boots with spikes on the sole and a ski pole is advisable to at least minimise the slipping and sliding. 

These pictures were taken yesterday on our walk towards the Refuge de la Traie at 1650m:

Last of the Autumn leaves

The current forecast for the next 5 days indicates a further 53cm of snow at the top of the resort so the opening of the lifts on 8th December should be great day. Temperatures are falling, even at Les Allues level we are bracing ourselves for a minus 16 degree Sunday night bbrrrrrrrrr.
Today has brought us sunshine so we may venture up to Mottaret and report back on how the new lift buildings are looking, we may even see a Piste basher out busy preparing the runs for next Saturday.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Time for exercise and relaxation

In between finishing off a few jobs around the Chalet we are currently fortunate enough to have a bit of spare time and have been blessed with glorious weather. The autumn colours are especially strong against the snow capped mountains and the seemingly endless blue sky. Yesterday we walked on the opposite side of the valley which gives great views down towards Moutiers. Walking trails in the area are plentiful, well marked and well maintained.

Earlier this week we walked from Meribel to Courchevel 1850 where the cranes are working overtime to get building projects complete or at least to a lock up stage before winter sets in. The views this time were up the valley towards Le Grand Bec which sits between the villages of Pralognan-la-Vanoise and Champagny-en-Vanoise.

Walking can be a bit like skiing, sometimes more enjoyable while you are participating than afterwards when aches and tiredness sets in. We all know a massage can work wonders although once it is cooler and you have been out all day the thought of going out for a massage can be off-putting. Luckily there is an answer in the form of "Pamper Off Piste" who offer professional massage, beauty and spa treatments in the comfort of your holiday accommodation. From a foot and leg massage to help you forget your ski boots to indulgent facials the team can help you make the most of your holiday and leave you ready for another day on the snow. I made time last week for a much needed massage so I can vouch for the restorative effects even before my ski boots have been on. To read more about their great work and make a booking see their website or e-mail them on:

Saturday, 3 November 2012

First post of the new season

The weather has been getting colder in Meribel over the last month and several falls of snow have resulted. It is often the case that when snow arrives early it disappears very quickly because the ground and the air temperature is simply not cold enough. The early snow this season has been a little different and has settled being topped up every couple of days with fresh falls. Whilst we had read about the snow and seen web cams it was still a surprise to see the Alps look so white as we flew into Geneva.

The view coming into Geneva

Pretty as a picture alps

 By the time we arrived in Meribel we didn't need a thermometer to know it was cold, it felt more January than November the 1st. Day two at Chalet Vache Bleue brought welcome sunshine and it seemed only right that we took a break from unpacking and went to see the snow for ourselves. We climbed up from the Altiport to just below the new Saulire lift station building and can confirm it certainly has been snowy. 

The weather forecast for the next 5 days is for another 30cm of snow to fall on the summits with smaller amounts lower down. The cold will continue with a predicted minus 12 on Wednesday night - at the bottom of the resort, not even the top. Definitely time to rug up and maybe try the first mulled wine of the season.

Here are a few pictures taken today while we were out walking:

The view from Meribel Altiport

First snowy footprints

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Why did we pick Les Allues?

One of the questions we frequently get asked is why did we decide to base ourselves in Les Allues. Deciding to be within the Three Valleys was easy - the largest ski area in the world. Meribel is the middle valley so a natural choice giving easy access to the other valleys.  At this point the choice became interesting. We have spent many ski holidays in Meribel predominately based in Mottaret in an almost ski in and ski out position which in terms of ease of access to the snow cannot be beaten but when thinking about running a business and being able to "sell" a little bit of France to visitors Les Allues won hands down.

Les Allues is an authentic French mountain village. More than 2,000 people live in Les Allues all year round, it is the home of La Mairie - the Mayor of the area. There is a primary school, a bread oven (or two) a beautiful church and even a Museum.

Museum Les Allues

The links to the ski area from the village are excellent. The Gondola stops in the village and travels on to the central lift network at Meribel giving you direct access to the whole area. There is also a free regular bus service to Meribel Village giving direct access to the Altiport ski area and the Loze link to Courchevel

After a day in the mountains you can return by the free bus, the Gondola or when the snow conditions are good via the Village run which ends in Les Allues, (conveniently opposite a bar). With all those year round residents to serve we have more than one bar plus several restaurants ranging from Pizza to fine dining. Add a small supermarket - fresh bread and pastries twice a day- a ski shop, a post office and even an ATM what more could you want?

Well yes if you want night clubs, casinos, all night parties and being woken from your well earned sleep by over enthusiastic apres skiers then maybe a purpose built ski resort is more your thing. It's a personal choice but we are very happy and proud to call Les Allues home and love to share this slice of mountain life with all our guests.

Looking across the valley from Les Allues

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Future plans for Courchevel

Following the update on what is happening in Meribel as preparation for next season we now turn our attention to our neighbour  Courchevel and their plans for improvements.
Courchevel have released an ambitious and extensive 7-year plan, which is estimated to cost 118m Euro. The plan does not just impact the main area of Courchevel but extends to satellite areas of 1550, 1650 and Le Praz and as far down the valley as Bozel, which will also give a lift link from St Bon.

Like all 7 year plans there will no doubt be changes along the way but it certainly shows the commitment to the area and the bigger picture rather than seeing piecemeal changes year by year. The proposals encompass new lifts, piste improvements, new snow cannons and the re-naming of the satellite areas. No more 1650 instead it will be known as Moriond and 1550 will become Courchevel Village. They can change the name but we are sure The Bubble Bar in 1650 will still be the best spot in the whole area for great hot chocolate at great prices!

For next season the most exciting change will be the replacement of the Biollay Chairlift, which will transport more users, more quickly. This is great news for us as we often use this lift to reach the Suisse Chair on the way back to Meribel Valley. It looks like the new Biollay may end in a slightly different place when it is completed, we will have to wait and see.

Of course the best news about all the changes to the Courchevel area is that we will be able to get there quickly via the new Meribel Gondola previously posted about. So quickly we will beat many people actually staying in Courchevel!

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Video of how things are in the winter..................

We love hearing from guests from a quick "thanks we had a great time" as their car leaves Les Allues to the repeat bookings which are starting to appear in our in-box. We shared a couple of weeks last season with a pair of Australians and although they are now back living the beach lifestyle in Sydney they sent us this video, thanks guys come back soon.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Summer and Meribel is already getting ready for next winter

Fishing and more energetic activities available now in Meribel!

One of the great attractions of being based in Meribel is that every summer season improvements are made to the infrastructure of the resort giving us even more to look forward to each December. Visitors last season will have experienced the Saulire Express 2 which provided super fast access to Courchevel and the opportunity to ski back into Meribel or Mottaret on almost untouched pistes each morning. This summer the Saulire Express 1 lift will be built which includes a new lower lift station. The completed Saulire Express will reach the summit of Saulire in just 12 minutes, compared with a previous journey time of over 20 minutes. The cost of this work alone is in the region of 20 million Euro.

At a cost of just a few million Euros less a new Plattières lift is being built which will replace the existing Plattières 1 and 2 gondolas. This lift will be the first ten-seat gondola in the 3 Vallées. With a journey time of nine minutes, compared with a previous journey time of 22 minutes it all means more time on the slopes for everyone. The existing Plattières 3 Gondola will remain providing a sneaky way to reach Les Menuires or start a zig zag journey into Val Thorens avoiding the often freezing cold Cote Brune chairlift.
There are improvements being made to piste layouts as well which we will post about at another time, there is so much to look forward to. So as construction is taking place on the slopes summer has arrived and there is a buzz around Meribel with a Mountain Bike event which covers the whole of the 3 valley area being held on the 7th and 8th of July. The event covers Meribel Courchevel, la Tania, les Menuires and Brides-les-Bains, this year is the 13th time the event has been held and it gets bigger every year. Of course there is also that other cycling event – The Tour de France which passes through our area soon, see the previous post for more information.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

The Tour de France in our area

As the southern hemisphere slides into winter things are warming up in Meribel as the date for the Tour de France gets closer. The Tour which was first staged in 1903 covers more than 3,600 km of demanding terrain and lasts three weeks. As the best known and most prestigious of cycling's three "Grand Tours" the Tour de France attracts riders and teams from around the world. Those not lucky enough to catch the Tour live keep up to date with extensive TV and Radio coverage which for Australians means a lot of late nights hoping to see Cadel Evans repeat his success of last year.  

In Meribel this year there were many activities to mark the 20 year anniversary of the Olympic Games being hosted by Albertville and on the 12th July the City will mark the start of stage 11 of The Tour. This stage is 140 km, the riders will tackle the Col de la Madeleine, the Col de la Croix de Fer and the Col du Mollard before the final climb towards the resort of La Toussuire. This stage is being seen as one which could single out potential winners of the Tour. Albertville is less than 30km from Les Allues so the stage is a real treat for the many cyclist enthusiasts who live in the village as well as the visitors who flock to the area for a taste of The Tour.

Monday, 7 May 2012

The end of one season and the start of the next

The snowy end to the season arrived as promised so we enjoyed great conditions and empty slopes until the day the lifts finally closed. For many this is now a wind down period after a busy winter but for the Lift Company there was an air of frantic activity as they start their work on two big new lifts in Meribel. As soon as the lifts started their gradual closure earth moving began and we even spotted one of the newly retired bubbles from the Burgin Saulire gondola sitting outside one of the mountain bars. We will post soon about the new lifts and other developments in the area which will greet us next season.

There is still so much snow in the Three Valleys area that many people will continue to enjoy sliding around having walked up in the absence of lifts. Ski touring is always popular in the area with access to glaciers and high altitude areas, this summer it promises to be as popular as ever. For those who prefer to take a lift skis and snowboards were quickly replaced by bikes. Lycra took over from merino layers and gortex and cows wearing huge bells started to appear at the base of the valley waiting to begin their assault on the fresh green higher pastures.

The speed with which the transfer from winter activities to summer activities takes place is shown in these pictures. Whilst we were enjoying our last few days of skiing at the top of the mountain summer was creeping in from the base. The floral display greets visitors as they climb the hill into Les Allues to take part in the myriad of activities the area offers. The next post will look at what The Three Valleys has to offer outside of the winter season.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Every type of weather plus cute animals

Melbourne in Australia is often referred to as the place where you can experience 4 seasons in one day, well we haven't experienced quite that but over the last few days "settled" is not a word which could be used to describe the weather. We started our week in Lyon where it was a very chilly 4 degrees, through 24 hours in the beautiful town of Annecy we went from freezing to sitting in the sun admiring the lake while people cycled by in their summer clothes. The lake was so inviting we took the long way home via Talloires and saw a touch of how many will spend their summer holidays lounging in the sun by the lake as this picture shows.

The very next morning we woke up to snow falling in Les Allues and thick cloud obscuring the view to the peaks. Undeterred we went up to the summit at Saulire and were treated to blue sky and sunshine - for about 30 minutes at which point it started to snow quite heavily however we were treated to a very Spring like sight of 2 Marmottes under the appropriately named Marmottes chair lift.

We continued skiing runs around Suisse and Combe de Saulire enjoying beautiful soft fresh conditions underfoot while more fresh snow fell from above. The temperature at the top was a chilly 0 degrees but every now and then the sun appeared giving amazing views over empty Pistes.

The weather forecast for the next 5 days shows up to 60 cm of fresh snow could fall on the peaks. Not perfect April sunbathing weather but we are being treated to lovely conditions and have the added pleasure of skiing most runs with only a handful of other people to share the space with. As this winter like weather looks set to continue we will venture across to Val Thorens over the next few days and report back on how conditions are over there.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

April skiing

Although there is just 2.5 weeks left of the season here in Meribel we are enjoying fabulous snow conditions. As to be expected by this time in April the lower runs have softer snow but thanks to recent snow falls we have been enjoying fresh snow over much of the area. These pictures were taken on Easter Monday:

Meribel sits at the heart of the largest connected ski area in the world but size is not everything. Meribel benefits from a great aspect giving the choice of sun and shade skiing through most of the day, and more than 70% of the ski area is found above 2,000 metres which means snow sure conditions throughout the season. Having said all of that the maintenance of the runs is something which the area takes very seriously both in winter and summer and is what makes the difference between a good resort and a great resort.

Every night a team of Pisteurs in their amazing machines groom, soften and spread the snow so next morning we have the pleasure of the best conditions possible. During the summer while the area is a playground for walkers, cyclists and other outdoor enthusiasts  the ski runs are prepared, in some cases this involves being re-shaped, de-stoned and re-grassed so as to ensure the best possible snow cover in winter. The condition of a run impacts the level of difficulty, the picture below shows the targets the Pisteurs work towards. Notices are posted around the resort and at lift stations to show which runs have been groomed the previous night, you can also access this information on-line to help you plan your day. Just all part of the great service we receive here in The Three Valleys.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Worth getting up early for

During February and March the Meribel Lift Company; Meribel Alpina offer their "Matinale" activity which we participated in this week. Each Tuesday a group of 25 skiers have the pleasure of skiing on empty slopes above Meribel for an hour before the lifts open to everyone else. As if this is not enough temptation a delicious breakfast of cold meats, cheese, bread and pastries is served at the summit of Tougnette just as lifts become open to all

The 18 Euro cost and the effort to get up to Meribel by 8.00am is truly worth it, the sun is just making an impression on the pistes, there is silence aside from the whir of the Lifts and skiing piste after piste of untouched corduroy almost alone was an amazing experience. Next season we will be encouraging our guests to seize the opportunity to participate in this activity, in the meantime here are a few pictures we took.

The sun just starting to warm up the pistes

Empty, perfectly prepared pistes

The icing on the cake - a delicious breakfast

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Strange sights on the slopes

We see some strange things out on the slopes, red crocodiles, Jelly Babies, people wearing one piece ski suits circa 1990 but today probably topped all of them. Having just enjoyed a well earned rest at the Plan des Mains at the base of Mont du Vallon we came across one of the many "Piste Basher" machines used throughout the Three Valleys which appeared to be full of Beer Kegs. If they really were beer kegs (full or empty) we may never know but here is the photographic proof.

We have been enjoying gloriously sunny weather for the last 4 days together with mild temperatures. Towards late afternoon lower slopes are softer but still lovely to ski and the upper runs are in perfect condition. The freshly groomed runs first thing in the morning are especially nice and make almost everyone look and feel like good skiers. Today we have skied as low as 1,400 metres (La Tania) and as high as 2,952  (Mont du Vallon) and have enjoyed every minute of it. The Three Valleys has the benefit of a long snow season due to height, aspect and impeccable grooming and this year will be no different with lifts open until the end of April there is no better place for an end of season ski holiday.
Here are a few pictures from around the area taken over the last few days:

Early morning Balloon sighting Courchevel

View from top of Cote Brune chairlift