Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Busy Bees

At this time of year there is an air of "busy busy busy" throughout Meribel. Chalets are being completed, shelves are being stocked, snow tyres being fitted. At Chalet Vache Bleue we always try to allow a few weeks pre-season not just to open up the Chalet but to add and improve where we can. It all adds up to being busy which made me think about Bees.

Bee keeping is becoming very popular in Australia especially in the cities where rooftop Hives are appearing.We buy Honey in Brisbane from a local who explained to us that as land is taken up for development there is less room for Bees so these Hives appearing in the City are helping to keep Bees alive - and producing Honey of course. It all makes sense to me, warm weather, plentiful sunshine and a great product at the end, what I am surprised about is Bee keeping in and around Meribel.

I have always associated Bees with warm weather and to be honest thought that the Hives we see around the Villages would be out of use for the winter. Apparently not, the Bees are largely unaffected by the cold. Wet damp weather they do not like but cold and snowy - no problem at all. As we ski past the Hives on our way home to Chalet Vache Bleue I have a new appreciation for the many creatures great and small who share this space with us.

Bee Hives in the snow

I hope they have at least a little bit of insulation as the temperature drops. This morning it is minus 3 in the Village, maybe that's why Bees like to keep busy, it's a keeping warm strategy.

Friday, 31 October 2014

What to expect this season

Since the last post snow has fallen in Meribel including a light covering down at Les Allues. At this time of year the ground is still quite warm so it melts quickly but no doubt as the temperature drops more snow will be on the way.

Unlike many ski areas Meribel invests an enormous amount of € in developing the area which of course includes new ski lifts and changes to Pistes. Here is a round up of some of the changes you can look forward to this season.

One of the changes that will impact us - in a good way almost every day -  is the upgrade of the Loze Chair to a 6 seater detachable model. This will see us being whisked to the top in just 6 minutes. This improvement is not just about getting to the top quicker to get in more ski time, as anyone who is a regular user of the chair will know the slow journey could be a very, very cold experience indeed. Using the free ski bus from Les Allues alighting at Meribel Village and using the altiport to access the Loze chair is a fast, queue free, scenic way to get to the Courchevel Valley so this is a great improvement.
The view from the Loze chair will be going past a bit faster this season.

On the other side of the Meribel Valley the Roc de Fer piste which will be used for the World Cup in March has been re-shaped and will be open prior to the World Cup to give everyone an idea of how it feels to ski a World Cup run. Also on the same side but a little further around a shortcut which we had long used to get safely into Mottaret has become an official piste with the help of a little re-shaping. It has been previously marked with a "Easy Way Down" sign which was true in that the slope is not severe and it is much quieter than the alternative however it did involve a far bit of strenuous ski pole use. Lets hope the re-shaping has solved this problem.

Over in Courchevel the purse has been opened with a considerable amount of money spent resulting in a few new lifts to look forward to. These include the Aiguille du Fruit chair which replaces 2 chairlifts, the increased speed will make the journey back from 1650 faster. We haven't seen a piste map yet but early indications from where the pylons were being built last season indicate that the chair will end somewhere between the two old lifts which may mean the loss of a sneaky way onto Suisse piste. We will have to wait and see how it all works in December.

It will be the "end of an era" sort of moment in Le Praz with the smallest bubble lift in the area - the Fôret bubble - being replaced by a faster 6 seater chair lift.  The Foret was very cute looking but cramped, slow and always difficult to get fat skis inside the ski rack.
Skiing down to where the new Aiguille de Fruit chairlift will depart from

Over in the Val Thorens Valley the Plan de l’Eau chairlift has been upgraded which is a bit of sad news in a way as the area it served was always quiet and offered a great range of pistes. Now it has a faster chair it may become more popular but maybe we shouldn't be so selfish. The new chair will take skiers a little higher so it's not all bad news! The popular Portette chair has also been upgraded which will remove some of the queues which formed there in busy periods.
Now all we have to do is wait until the snow falls and the lifts open in December.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Countdown to winter

As usual as soon as the temperature rises in the Southern hemisphere we start thinking about winter in the Alps. In some parts of Australia the clocks have changed and days are getting longer while in Europe the days are getting shorter and eyes start to look upwards for signs of that magic white stuff.

One of the expenses of a ski holiday is buying a lift pass to whisk you up to the peaks to enable you to swoop down again. Lift passes will never be cheap and if you think about the infrastructure required and the challenges of building lifts it really is no surprise. Here in Australia we have the not very coveted title of one of the most expensive lift passes in the world, lots of money for a handful of lifts. You could never call the lift pass prices in the Three Valleys cheap but do your research and you will find them good value for money. You can buy your lift pass on line to allow you to get straight onto the lifts and up to the top as soon as you arrive in the resort. So, before you go shopping on line what do you need to think about?

Firstly how many days will you be skiing? There are lift pass options varying from half day to full season and almost everything in between. Once you know how many days have a think about where you will be skiing. For beginners there are Mini Pass options and the option of only skiing the Meribel Valley. For the more relaxed or "social" skier one valley - especially when so varied as Meribel will probably be enough for a one week stay. Got more than a week under your ski belt and you will be wanting to venture all over this amazing area so you will need a Three Valleys Lift Pass. A bit undecided - don't worry we have that covered as you can "upgrade" a Meribel Valley Pass to the Three Valleys as soon as you find your ski legs.

It doesn't end there - lucky enough to be coming out for more than a week there are longer duration options available and the very flexible Liberte Pass which registers where you have skied and charges you accordingly - perfect for those enjoying a long ski holiday who don't feel the need to hit the slopes every day.

But wait, there is more. If you buy your lift pass with a friend (or two) using only one transaction there are price reductions on offer.

Phew! It's a lot to take in so make a cup of tea and take a look at these two links:

Meribel Tourism web site

Lift Company web site - yet to open for online sales but lots of useful information to keep you going

In between surfing keep your eye on the Alpine weather, winter is not far away now.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Mountain Bike World Cup Finals

Meribel is getting ready to welcome thousands of Mountain Bike enthusiasts as the Mountain Bike World Cup Finals roll into town. The programme runs from 21st to 24 August 2014, and comprises:
- Cross-country 
- Cross-country Eliminator 
- Descente 
The competition is currently very tight with several competitors having all to ride for in the Finals, Meribel is in for a very exciting event.

Playing host to these finals follow a series of prestigious competitions organised in Meribel in the last 4 years including the French Championships and Trial World Cup. Over 1,000 riders will be participating which along with support teams and spectators will see Chaudanne and the town centre alive with plenty of supporting events to enjoy.

A combination of preparing for the World Cup and a long term plan to improve activities and facilities during the summer months in Meribel has resulted in new mountain bike trails being developed including 4 new Enduro trails. Feedback has been positive and next week should see even more people testing themselves and their bikes on the new trails.

Last year’s Coupe de France Down Hill winner Faustin Figaret sums up the Downhill run in Meribel as:

 "both very quick and very slow sections, technical areas and parts you need to commit to. It’s a course that demands spot-on physical preparation and technical knowledge. What’s nice is that you can get down all of it without having to pedal if you wanted to"  

That sounds fast and certainly an exciting spectator sport!

If you are lucky enough to be in Meribel next week, or you simply want to read more about the event take a look at the official programme which includes maps, background information and best spectator spots.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Summer in Meribel

Midwinter in the southern hemisphere and parts of the south east of Australia certainly knew about it this week with wild weather hitting Melbourne and Sydney. Great news for the ski resorts although current visibility at Blue Cow is slightly limited.

Conditions at Blue Cow this morning

While the Australian ski resorts enjoy snowfalls of over a metre just in time for the school holidays, the summer season in Meribel officially starts on the weekend. From the 28th June to 29th August the Tougnete and Pas du Lac lifts will be open to whisk holidaymakers to the summits to enjoy walking, cycling or simply the amazing views. In addition to the Meripass as detailed in our last post lift tickets are available on daily, weekly or even sector basis.

You don’t have to take lifts at all if you don’t want to, there are plenty of paths for walking and trails for mountain biking that can be accessed from different points throughout the valley. From our Village of Les Allues you can access easy walks up to Meribel Village or Meribel Centre, and across the valley interesting loop trails can be taken which go through small Villages giving a real insight into life in rural France. Feeling a little more energetic? The climb to Col de la Lune from Les Allues is well worth it for the views into the Belleville Valley. The area around the Altiport and the Golf course is picture perfect at this time of year, hard to believe that beautiful green grass was covered in snow just a few months ago.

If you feel like being a bit more adventurous perhaps exploring the glaciers and more dramatic peaks of the area, group or individual tours are available for beginners and advanced hikers. The destination depends on level of walkers and the weather but can include: the Vanoise glaciers, Grande Glière, Grand Paradis, Dôme des Ecrins, Mont-Blanc, Aiguille de la Vanoise, Le Petit Arcelin. Costs start from 95€ per person. For more information contact the Mountain Guides' office:

Walking and Mountain Bike riding maps are available form the Tourist Office, like the winter piste map they cover all three valleys giving a huge choice of routes to follow. There are also commercially available maps for the area which show an even wider range of tracks you can follow, there really is no excuse for a lazy summer holiday in Meribel.

Part of the walking map around Les Allues - plenty to keep you going for an active summer holiday
So while the southern hemisphere shivers the outlook for this week in Meribel is sunshine and 20 degrees – perfect for getting out and exploring. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Meripass - what is it and how to get one

Almost June and summer really is just around the corner. In our last post we mentioned the Meripass and promised more details so here it is. A bit like a Lift Pass but with many over activities included, the Meripass is a great buy for anyone lucky enough to be spending a summer holiday in Meribel. 

What doe Meripass cover?

Unlimited access for 7 days (from sunday to saturday):
  • 3 Valleys lifts
  • Swimming pool at Meribel Olympic Park.
  • Ice-rink at Meribel Olympic Park (*).
  • Tennis courts at the Golf.
  • Bouncy castles at La Chaudanne.
  • Practice ground at Meribel Golf Club.**
(*) Ice-rink: no skate hire included.
(**) Golf: 1 bucket / day/ pax.

Plus discounts on a range of other activities in Meribel for example 15% off tourist flights with the Aeroclub or if you prefer a more relaxing time 20% off massage at the Spa. For a full list of the discounts available see this page of the Meribel web site
How much does it cost?
As with Lift Pass prices in the winter you can secure a discount by buying 3 or more of the Meripass providing you purchase on the same transaction.
Children 5 - under 13 years old
Méripass "Tribu" (3 people)
Adult add.
Méripass "Family" (2 adults + 2 children 5 - under 18 years old)
Child add.
Guests of Chalet Vache Bleue receive a substantial discount on the already great price which brings the cost for the Meripass down to €29 per person. It really doesn't get much better than this for 7 days access to the summer lifts. In our next post we will give details of which lifts will be open and which amazing alpine areas they give you access to.