We are constantly on the look out for new and undiscovered places to recommend to families, so when we were invited to Meribel to stay in a brand new mountain retreat we could hardly contain ourselves. Whether you are travelling just with your family or are looking for somewhere to stay with a large group of friends you won’t be able to help falling in love with this hidden gem in the Meribel valley.
After a short one and a half hour flight to Geneva and a two hour drive through the scenic mountains we arrived at our alpine destination. The Meribel valley in the French Alps is home to a score of villages and hamlets collectively known as Meribel. One such village is Le Villard which is situated above Les Allues and sits on a sunny balcony at 1200 meters. Considered to have the finest views in the valley, this beautiful historic village is a firm favourite with locals who live and work in the valley. Here, at the edge of Le Villard, we arrived at the last chalet in the village, the Meribel Mountain Retreat and our home for the next 3 nights.
As we approached the end of the village and pulled up outside the chalet I knew we were somewhere very special indeed. The Meribel Mountain Retreat is a beautiful and spacious chalet set amongst secluded orchards with breath-taking views across the villages and settlements of the Bozel valley and the magnificent Grande Bec mountain. As I breathed in the cold mountain air and took in the spectacular view I could feel all my pre-Christmas stress melting away.
We were greeted on arrival by our two chalet hosts Sebastian and Lucy who took our cases and showed us into the chalet. The gorgeous retreat accommodates up to 20 guests in its two individual chalets. The main chalet sleeps 12 guests in its 2 master rooms and 4 twin or double guest rooms and next door just a few steps away you will find the “Maison des amis”, a picture-postcard cottage with gorgeous views which can sleep up to 4 or 6 people, perfect for a family or dare I even say the teenagers.
In the main chalet, each of the 6 bedrooms has been individually styled and beautifully furnished and each has access to a bath or shower room. Upstairs there is a large open plan kitchen and dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows that offer the most outstanding views across the valley. There is a huge oak dining table spanning the length of the window which is perfect for large group meals. I soon found that sitting at this table gazing out at the view with a mug of hot chocolate or a coffee was my favourite place in the whole chalet to spend my time, the view is simply breath-taking. There is also a cozy fire place with comfy seating and a 42-inch flatscreen TV. Just above the kitchen there is a mezzanine level with a wii and games, which is clearly the favourite area for the kids (and dads). Downstairs has a similarly large yet cosy lounge area with panoramic windows on 3 sides, a large fireplace, lots of comfortable furniture to relax on, a drinks bar and an eclectically stocked book library. The perfect place to relax after a day on the slopes. The lounge also leads out on to a large decked area with a BBQ and sun loungers which I imagine would be simply divine to spend time on in the warmer months of the year.
A small flight of steps off the sundeck leads to the little cottage which provides equally stylish extra accommodation. Spread over two floors of open-plan living, the ground floor offers a spacious lounge area with a cozy fireplace plus a well-equipped kitchen. Upstairs is an open plan bedroom with one double and two twin beds and an open bathroom.
Of course, no mountain retreat would be complete without its own sauna and jacuzzi and in this regard the Meribel Mountain retreat does not disappoint. What better way relax your muscles after a good work out on the slopes.
The staff at the chalet are on hand to make sure your time there is perfect. Every morning they prepared us a delicious cooked breakfast and drove us to the slopes and every day they were there to collect us when we were finished. Evening meals are not included, but you can simply give them your shopping list and they will stock the fridge while you are out for the day in preparation for your return in the evening. A private chef can be organized to come in and cook all your evening meals if you require and having experienced this I can say that the food was absolutely fantastic. Pretty much anything you desire can be organized on request.
Whilst the atmosphere at the retreat is one of relaxation, peace and privacy it is in fact only a 4 minute drive from the Olympic Express telecabine which takes you to the heart of the world’s largest ski area, the 3 valleys.
The 3 valleys is made up of eight interlinking ski resorts and numerous villages and towns with 650km of perfectly groomed pistes and an abundance of off-piste skiing from low and mid-altitude forest to high alpine glaciers. Here, 183 ski-lifts transport 260,000 skiers per hour across the signature-resorts of Courchevel, Val Thorens and, at its heart, Meribel.
On our first day we went to get fitted for skis and boots at the SKiMiUM SkiHigher store in Les Allues where the knowledgeable assistant Richard helped us find the perfect fit for our boots ensuring we were nice and comfortable for our time on the slopes.
Having only skied for the very first time last season we thought it would be sensible to have a refresher lesson, we set off to meet our ski instructor who spent the morning going everything we had learnt on our last trip to make sure we were confident to go back out and ski on our own. The instructor was fantastic and before we knew it everything we had learnt on our first ski trip came back and we were whizzing down the green runs feeling that rush of adrenaline come flooding back. For anyone new to skiing there are plenty of ski schools in the 3 valleys catering for both adults and children.
In the three days we spent on the slopes we covered all three areas in the valleys and I was amazed by the stunning views, each new place we skied in was more beautiful than the last.
The après ski scene in the 3 valleys was brilliant. From the low key vibe of places such as Café del Mot in Mottaret, which provides hungry skiers a daily BBQ buffet while listening to chilled out live music for just 10 euros, to the outrageous Folie Douce located 2000 meters up the mountain in Courchevel, where you will find live DJs and cabaret dancers encouraging skiers to get up and dance on the tables and bottles of Moet being sent from the DJ booth to the VIP lounge via a mini gondola. They have a great restaurant with a stunning view of the mountains and kids will love watching the show, but I would advise getting there early as it can start getting a little raucous towards the end of the day. Whatever your après scene is you will find something to enjoy in the 3 valleys.
When it comes to eating out in Les Allues there are plenty of options and one place which locals seemed to be particularly excited about was the renovation of The Tsaretta, a well-established favourite amongst locals and season workers. The new owner Justin is restoring the popular bar to its former glory and reintroducing a high-end restaurant on the second floor where locals and tourists can enjoy great quality food and wine in a friendly welcoming atmosphere. We got a sneak peek at the new restaurant ahead of it’s grand opening next week and it looked wonderful. There is a children’s playground right next door, which is perfect for keeping the kids entertained.
For a truly memorable experience I would highly recommend a meal in one of the many Refuges where you can go and eat local food prepared by the refuge in a traditional mountain setting. We went for a meal at Refuge De La Traye, which we had heard was the best. Located 1650 meters up the mountain in the heart of Les Allues, the plateau of the Traye remains an unspoilt area. The refuge, surrounded by alpine nature, has been run by the same family since the 1920s and enjoys beautiful views of Mont Blanc, Mont Jovet and other surrounding peaks! In the Summer months you can hike up to the refuge from Les Allues which would take about an hour and would be a beautiful hike, in the Winter they will come and collect you by snowmobile or 4×4, depending on how much snow there is, and you can sledge down at the end of the night, which the kids will absolutely love. As there was not quite enough snow when we went the owner Pascale drove down and collected us by 4×4 and when we arrived at the refuge we were greeted by a warm fire and a glass of local wine. We enjoyed a fabulous charcuterie plate including Pascale’s very own ham, followed by a delicious cheese fondue and after stuffing our faces with this we were only just able to squeeze in the scrumptious homemade apple tart. At the end of the meal we were offered viper shots which, for those of you who are not familiar, is a large bottle of 80% proof alcohol with a viper snake inside!! Apart from coming face to face with a dead viper I have to say this was one of my most enjoyable experiences of the whole trip and one I would highly recommend.
After 3 glorious days our time had come to an end at our Meribel mountain retreat, but I can say this for sure, whether you are here as a family or with a large group of friends, I couldn’t think of a more perfect base for your time in Meribel. We will certainly be coming back next season, if the secret of the last chalet in the village isn’t out the bag!
You can find out more about the Meribel Mountain Retreat at www.meribelmountainretreat.com