Sunday, 29 December 2013

Holiday time in Meribel

Carol singing in Meribel Centre
Although a little late Merry Christmas from Meribel - here's what has been happening here over the past 2 weeks.

Firstly Santa did leave us some snow along with his presents which was lovely. Christmas Day itself was not a bluebird day but plenty of lovely skiing on very empty Pistes. We find that most people have a slow start on Christmas Day and many do not venture out at all preferring to spend the time with family. This year the weather was certainly changeable, the sun tried to shine but was beaten back by ominous skies which eventually gave snow. 

Carol singing in Les Allues

Many people ask what it is like in Meribel at Christmas and the answer is very "Christmassy". Most Chalets are decorated with outdoor lights, the centres at each level of the resort have beautiful decorations and the activities from Church Services to Santa arriving on his sleigh are all available to be enjoyed. One of our favourites is the Carol singing which we have seen grow over the last couple of seasons. The first Carol singing event is held in Les Allues and features Vin Chaud and the opportunity to catch up with the locals and visitors alike. On Christmas Eve a second Carol concert was held in Meribel centre and a large crowd joined in with the Choir and local schoolchildren. Explaining Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer to a French person takes some doing but they do join in with enthusiasm and true Christmas spirit aided of course by the Vin Chaud.

We are enjoying more fresh snow over the next few days which means continuing great conditions for those visitors arriving for the New Year week. Here are a couple of pictures taken over the last few days

Berries remaining defiant against the snow in Les Allues village

9.00am waiting for the first lift from Chaudanne

Early morning sun from Saulire mid station

Friday, 13 December 2013

More on the new Season

Sunny days in December

The 2013-14 Season is now 6 days old and as we have been out skiing every day it's time to report back. There has been no fresh snow in the area for 10 days however we have been enjoying great skiing not to mention glorious sunshine. The considerable snowfalls during November have provided a great base and the ability to run snow cannons most nights has ensured there is great snow coverage. The official depth at the top of the resort is 95cm which is pretty impressive for the time of year.

Every day this week we have found beautiful soft snow on perfectly prepared runs. There are very few people here, it is possible to ski an entire run alone. The pick of the slopes each day have been the ones "bashed" the previous night by the impressive fleet of snow groomers called "Piste Bully". If you don't fancy taking your chances going up in a lift to see what has been groomed you can find out before you even leave the Chalet and plan you day accordingly. On the Meribel website you can view an interactive plan of the runs where there is an option to see which runs have been groomed:

Plan des pistes - Meribel Official site

On the same Map you can also view which lifts/runs are open or scheduled to open and which 3 Valley Links are operating. If you are already on your way to the slopes and you forgot to check don't worry you can ask at any lift station for advice, the Tourism Information noticeboards display a list of groomed runs each day and many lift access points will have a blackboard listing the condition of the runs the lift serves. If a run is show as "D"  it has been groomed "ND" it hasn't. 

There will be more people around from Saturday although as more lifts and runs open it is unlikely to feel any busier. A change in the weather looks likely from Tuesday next week, in the meantime we will enjoy the sunshine and unexpected pleasures of picnics on the snow in December.

Lac de Creux run in afternoon sun

Sunday, 8 December 2013

First day of the season

The lifts opened in Meribel today including links to Val Thorens and Courchevel. This first week is known as Premier Neige - first snow and acts as something as a "soft opening" Not all lifts, runs, restaurants/bars are open but this is more than made up for by the quietness of the area and today in particular the lovely sunshine and blue sky.

This time last year visibility was poor and the huge amount of snow meant links were closed due to safety risks. This time we have a very decent snow depth although no fresh powder, a different situation but still the same excitement and anticipation of the season ahead. The snow conditions on the runs is excellent, we skied Meribel Valley and didn't encounter any loose stones or rocks. The off piste will need fresh snow to cover the inevitable obstacles but off the sides of the runs there is some nice fluffy conditions to play in if corduroy does not float your boat.

Planning to take a closer look at Courchevel tomorrow so will report back later in the week, in the meantime here are some snaps from today - happy faces all around.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Insurance - some things to think about

 It's snowing down in Les Allues today and as the booking season for ski trips moves up a gear many people will be making plans for their winter holiday. In all the excitement of travel arrangements there is something not to forget - Travel Insurance, or more specifically Travel Insurance which covers you for snow sports. 
It's not a very interesting topic and we are not Insurance experts so this post is more about giving a few pointers and clarifying a few myths.
  • Do I need Insurance?
It's a no brainer really, sadly accidents and other bad things happen so not having Insurance can end up being very costly
  • I live in UK and have access through the Public Health System to care in France so I am OK.
Well yes and no. It is true that with the correctly completed forms you can access care in the French system if you live in UK. What this will not help you with is getting off the mountain and to a hospital or health centre. Even the Pisteurs with their blood wagon will need to see your insurance cover or proof you can pay, a helicopter will cost a lot more. If you want to estimate the cost of a helicopter trip off the mountain take a look at the cost per minute which you will see posted at the main ticket offices, let's just say it's not cheap!
  • So how do I get cover to get off the mountain?
The easiest is to get the CarrĂ© Neige which you purchase along with your lift pass. It costs a couple of euros a day, store it next to your lift pass as it's the what the Pisteurs want to see when they come to your assistance. It covers other things as well such as reimbursement of the cost of your lift pass in the case of an accident and medical expenses up to 3000Euro if you are not covered by any other Insurance.

If you want to know more about the CarrĂ© Neige this site will tell you everything you need to know: Carre Neige 

  • I have a Credit Card which includes Insurance so i will just use that.
True many credit cards offer "Travel Insurance" but you need to read the small print. Snow Sports are sometimes excluded and limits of cover can be small. Check the small print carefully especially if there are any restrictions on how much of the trip was purchased on the Credit Card, in some cases cover is only provided if the whole cost was purchase using the card. It pays to check all the details.

  • I am a fair weather skier preferring to spend my time in the resort restaurants and bars, I don't ski far enough to need Insurance.
 It's a bit like driving, often the shortest trips turn out to be the more dangerous ones.              Skiing and Boarding is a sport like any and accidents happen. Many will not be your fault but that doesn't make them any cheaper. You can be a great skier/boarder and get taken out by someone else no matter how careful you are. Insurance isn't just for rescue and medical expenses, it provides cover for missed connections, lost/delayed luggage and can compensate you if you are the victim of theft.

There are lots of good Insurance comparison web sites now to help you compare one Policy with another which take out some of the drudgery of selecting a Policy that is right for you and your trip to the snow. As we said at the beginning it's not the most interesting topic but it is important so get a Policy to suit your needs, take care and have a great holiday - no matter what happens!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Winter turns up and yet another Lift Pass option

As Sydney experiences a very hot and dry spring Winter is trying to take over Autumn in Meribel. Last week saw the valley transformed into the first winter wonderland of the season and temperatures are on the way down. At this time of year the snow is likely to disappear as quickly as it arrived but the lower temperatures are a welcome sign as colder ground means the next falls will stick around longer.

First taste of winter October 14th 2013
We posted a few weeks ago about the Lift Pass prices and options for the 2013/14 season and as we looked at our bookings and realised we have many guests who stay for more than one week and there are many lucky people who return to the resort several times a season. So to finish up our Lift Pass round up here are details of a pass which really is for frequent sliders.

If you ski between 8 and 21 days over the winter season the 3 Valleys Liberty Pass is worth looking at as an option. The Liberty pass is only available on-line not through the Lift Ticket Offices, an annual fee of 30€ is payable. Once you have established the Pass and paid your subscription there is nothing else to do but hit the mountain. At the end of each day the area you have skied is recorded and the appropriate daily fee is deducted from your chosen credit card.

You will pay less than the ordinary day pass rate, a 10% discount is applied Sunday to Friday, and a 20% discount on a Saturday. The 9th day of skiing is free, and then every following 6th day is free. The discounts are certainly worth having but the real value of the Liberty pass is the flexibility to only pay when you actually have been on the lifts and to only pay for the area you have skied in. It takes a bit of calculating to work out if it offers value for you based on the number of days you are likely to ski and where but for those lucky enough to hit the slopes on a regular basis but not quite enough to get a Season pass it’s an option worth considering.

Finally remember that the Lift Pass prices do not include Insurance. Needing to make an insurance claim is not really at top of mind for most people as they buy a lift pass at the start of their holidays but perhaps it should be so more about Insurance next time.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Walking in Meribel during the Winter season

The Alps are very popular for walkers during the summer months; well maintained paths, amazing scenery and plenty of delightful places to stop for a drink or bite to eat. What many people don't realise is that the same applies in the winter with a number of paths maintained and signposted for those who don't feel the need to hurtle down a slope with a plank or two attached to their feet. 

At Chalet Vache Bleue we have accommodated many groups where not everyone is keen to  get on a lift with the aim being to get down again as quickly as possible, amongst these less frantic visitors walking is probably the most popular activity. In Les Allues we are spoilt by the number of signed paths which pass through the village. From the Chalet you can head north, south, east or west to enjoy peaceful vistas but still be able to meet up with your speeding friends for lunch or a spot of apres if you wish.

Many of the footpaths around Les Allues are part of the "Poets Footpath"
network which provide poems and verses posted on the sign posts 
 Each day the lift company publish which paths have been prepared, this is available on-line and also in printed format from the Tourist Office. To enjoy the walking you do not necessarily need to use any of the lifts. The free bus links all areas and enables you to walk in different areas and walk from one area to another. To venture further there is a a Pedestrian Lift Pass available at 22 Euro per day or 66 Euro per week, alternatively if you just want to hop on one of the Gondola lifts to take in the view from the top or meet up with friends you can buy a pass per "troncon" meaning stage. For full details see the Lift Pass Guide

Preparing the footpaths to make walking easier

Whilst good walking boots will allow you to explore many of the paths a walking stick or ski pole and grips which fit on the sole of you boots will make the going easier. You can also hire Raquets de Neige which are great when the snow is deep, and throughout the season there are organised Snowshoeing activities with experienced guides who can help you see the very best the area has to offer on foot.

So if you don't ski or ride don't let that stop you from enjoying the mountain air and scenery. Bring your walking boots and chances are you will see a side of Meribel that many people miss.

Enjoy the peace and quiet of Lac Tueda on foot

Friday, 20 September 2013

Lift Tickets for the upcoming season

September view of Les Allues

It is definitely time to start talking about the snow now as Mottaret received the first light flakes this week. All evidence has gone now but it does herald lower temperatures and gives us all permission to start thinking about all things snow. Fashions come and go but the one thing most of us need to get out on the slopes is a Lift Pass so this post will be all about some opportunities to save money on Lift Passes in our area.

Last year the Tribu Pass was introduced which meant that once you had 2 friends who wanted the same type of lift pass as you did and you could organise yourselves to make one payment to the ticket office you received a discount. For a 6 day, Three Valleys pass you will save 15 Euro each which is a welcome saving. 

The Tribu pass was popular especially as many people do arrive in resort as part of a group. Having said that there are also many holidaymakers who arrive to ski or ride with one other person and this season the lift company have all that wrapped up too with the Duo pass. No prizes for working out that the Duo offers a discount of 10 Euro when 2 of you purchase the same lift pass. 

Finally we have the Family Pass where children actually save money for their parents which must be a first!  To qualify you need 2 adults and 2 or more children aged under 18. With a Family Pass, everybody pays the child tariff which has to be good news.

For the Tribu, the Duo and the Family Pass the rules are simple to remember: same lift pass type, same duration (6 days or more) one transaction. Not too hard to comply with.

For all the details and prices see the Lift Pass Guide for 2013/14.

Next time what about those in your group who don't ski/ride?

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Exciting news for American visitors to Meribel

Meribel has long been considered a "British" resort and whilst it certainly is popular with British visitors their dominance is challenged now by visitors from throughout Europe and beyond. Since opening Chalet Vache Bleue we have welcomed guests from far and wide including; Russia, USA, Holland, Ireland and of course Australia in addition to Britain.

The USA is home to a wide variety of ski resorts however the Three Valleys has been steadily gaining popularity with American Skiers and Riders and this week that received a boost with the following announcement:

"The 2013-14 Epic Season Pass from Vail Resorts recently added five free days of skiing and riding at Les 3 Vallees in France, an area that includes resorts at Courchevel, La Tania, Meribel, Brides-les-Bains, Les Menuires, Saint Martin de Belleville, Val Thorens and Orelle."

For visitors from USA the journey to Meribel is not quite the hop it is for British guests but we promise a warm welcome at Chalet Vache Bleue and like our Australian visitors the longer journey time is the ideal excuse to stay for longer than the usual one week. When we designed Chalet Vache Bleue one of the key factors we had in mind was our own experiences of "long stay" ski holidays. The result is a Chalet in which you can happily stay for more than the usual one week so we are delighted to hear about this change to the Epic Season Pass and look forward to hearing more American accents out on the slopes.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Winter is just around the corner

First day of Spring today in Sydney which means the first day of Autumn in France, winter is not far away! In Meribel the summer season is drawing to a close and although that usually means a quiet period before the winter preparation commences in ernest we do have some winter related news to share.

No new lifts for Meribel Valley this season which is hardly surprising given the huge investment over the preceding few seasons. Changes will occur to some of the runs and an improvement to facilities. Regular readers of this Blog will know I love to ski the Moon Wild Piste at the Altiport which is populated with life sized animal models and useful facts about the animals and their habitat. Great news then that even more animals will be added this season and that the start of the Piste will be changed slightly - hopefully to avoid the confusion which currently exists between the start of the Piste and the Loze chairlift.

New animals will be arriving soon

Also over at the Altiport another one of my favourites the Louveteaux Piste will become the base for an Inuit Village. This sounds like serious competition for the Indiens Piste over in Courchevel 1650!

The Doron Piste which leads to Chaudanne from the upper areas of Meribel will benefit from widening this year. It's never been a pleasant run so lets hope this eases some of the problems caused by the traffic it receives and the way the conditions seem to move from icy in the mornings to soft snow once the sun hits it.

Over on the other side we have a brand new Piste thanks to the World Cup events. Originally Grand Duc and the bottom half of Escargot this Piste is now to be known as Roc De Fer. In 2015 this will be the site of the World Cup Finals so take the opportunity to Ski/Ride it now before the experts are let loose.

Finally not a Piste change but something we have long been hoping for; the addition of a covered area where you can eat a picnic or simply wait to meet up with friends out of the elements. Situated within the Saulire Express building at Chaudanne this rest area is a great move forward and hopefully means in the future we can see more being provided throughout the Meribel Valley.

Love a picnic but a warm spot will be appreciated when the weather is not kind