Posts Tagged ‘Meribel’
If you are on holiday with very young children, you can discover the resort with a fresh perspective, and realise that Courchevel and Meribel are more than just ‘ski’ resorts.
This is an updated version of a blog we published back in 2015 (there have been a few changes in the resort since then!)
Babies as young as 6 months can enjoy sledging. There are safe, designated ‘luge’ zones at the foot of the slopes (front de neige) in most of the villages. Make sure you use a baby sledge with a wide base for stability because getting a scraped face as the sledge topples over, tends not to go down well! These are generally available from the local ski hire shops, or from Holiday Baby Hire.
Courchevel and Meribel are criss-crossed by forest trails, and with a covering of snow the forest becomes a beautiful and peaceful haven. Young children can enjoy looking for animal tracks, and pine cones while babies can stay cosy in a back pack baby carrier. The Tourist office has maps and can recommend the best routes.
If you need a warm and dry refuge, head to one of the indoor play centres. In Meribel there is the Kenotèque recreation area in the Olympic Centre. Entry is free, and there are books, games, and craft projects to enjoy. In Courchevel 1850 there is the soft play room in the Croisette building, with a big climbing frame and lots of foam shapes to play around with.
Bus and Bubble rides
For some reason a bus ride is always more fun when you are on holiday! All the villages are linked by a free bus service. Ask your rep/host for a timetable, or pick one up at the tourist office.
Children love to go on the bubbles and watch the skiers whizzing down below, even better if they spot friends or family! Many of the bubbles have a café or restaurant at the top, so you can arrange to meet up with the rest of your party for a coffee or lunch. If you are staying in Courchevel, a visit to Le Western Skipark at the top of the Ariondaz bubble is a must. A short walk across the snow (and a ‘magic carpet’ ride) from the top of the bubble you can go into the tepee to meet Moon Pearl and Grey Wolf, for an immersion into American Indian culture. Under 5’s are entitled to a free lift pass.
The Meribel swimming pool, in the Olympic centre, does Aqua Baby sessions, and the Courchevel Aquamotion pool has a baby area with slides, water spouts and squirting flowers!
The tourist office publishes and weekly program of special events – such as ski shows, firework displays and other animations for children, especially during the school holidays.
“Mummy & Daddy, will you take me skiing?”
What to do? …… Your little one has been in ski school, and can now SKI! She/he can link snow plough turns, control their speed, and most importantly STOP. They’re ready to leave the safety of the nursery slope and discover the big wide world of the mountain, but are you? If you’re full of ‘What If’s, rest assured that our contributors have all been through the same nervous feelings. From my own experience there is a fine line between having great fun and having a disaster! Here are our inspired tips which will make venturing out on the slopes with children much less daunting…
Before you head out on the slopes, a quick tip – this is THE most vital skill you will need: PROBLEM: How is it that children can put their feet facing opposite directions? How do I untangle a twisted heap of legs, arms, poles and skis – without getting myself ensnared, and both of us then sliding away down the mountain?
ANSWER: Pick them up under the armpits with their legs dangling, and let them unravel themselves like a piece of twisted string. Easy when you know how!
I have asked some of my friends who have been through the ‘Take Me Skiing’ scenario with their own children to see what they can recommend; their favourite pistes, and top tips.
Izzie Milne, Ski Instructor, Sweet Snowsports Ski and Snowboard School. (Mum to a not-so-little 13 year old)
‘My favourite Meribel routes with the little ones are the trails like Inuits around the Altiport, which have little attractions like bells to chime, penguin slaloms and other fun features. Littilies often don’t see the point of skiing at first so the features keep them interested and make them turn and control their speed. Until they can do so, mums and dads need to be able to ski with the little ones between their legs on the steep bits, think for their children and even get them to follow. From day 1 the skiers code is really important, like teaching them road safety. Use the bubbles to go down – the lower slopes are often busy and worn by the end of the day. No point spoiling the fun. Plenty of food, water and sleep too. The key thing for the Littilies is that it should always be fun. Lumps and bumps, on the side of the piste, hot chocolate and snowmen play as much a part in learning to ski as snowploughs.’
Ginny Christy – Alpine Therapies massage and physiotherapy. (Mum to a 3 & 5 year old)
Les Verdons in Courchevel 1850 was our best run by far – especially because in the new Polar Café at the bottom you can get a very reasonably priced hot chocolate and a cookie, and coffee for the grown ups! Amazing value in a very convenient location, so there was always an incentive at the bottom of the run! We did lots of Verdons laps. With loos at the top and bottom too it was ideal, and just watching all the bubbles and comings and goings at the Croisette was entertainment in itself. Plus a cable car ride was an option (without skiing down yet for us!)
My top tip (as a physiotherapist!) is to not over do it with little ones, but try and tailor the skiing (and parents’ expectations) to their pace, and make sure you keep their energy levels topped up with regular snacks!
Sarah Woodbridge – Alpine Infusion luxury chalets in Meribel, and Courchevel (Mum to 3 boys of 7,9 and 11)
When the children were younger I always liked taking the boys on wide, gentle pistes around 1850. One of our favourite spots was the Pralong area in Courchevel 1850. There are toilets and a snack kiosk, and picnic tables at the bottom of the Pralong Chair lift . The Courchneige on the green Bellecote piste is a favourite hot choc stop and quite child-friendly. It’s easy to access from the drag lift which is quite long but not too steep (make sure you send your children up in front of you so that you can keep your eyes on them at all times!) and the piste is quite wide but with enough slope to keep them going. Avoid flatter runs as you’ll end up having to pull them along!
John Hendry – Director Parallel Lines Ski School, Meribel (Dad to a 12 and 10 year old)
“The Meribel Valley has really improved its terrain for children in recent years. After the nursery slopes, when children can snowplough and control their speed enough to follow someone, the Altiport area in Meribel is superb. There is the Piste de Animaux which winds its way through the forest with models of local wildlife at the edge of the piste, the Inuit village with swings, igloos and events organised for children, and many padded shapes to ski through. The Altiport 8 seater chairlift is very well designed to make getting on and off with children as easy as possible.
Another great area for children has been created in Mottaret where the Yeti Park has themed kids slalom, hidden Yeti cave and tunnels that talk, all based around the new Combes Chairlift.
Once kids can bomb around and cope with Blue runs, a fun area to ski is from the top of the Plattieres telecabine where the Sittelle Piste has easy bumps and jumps and a really good, winding skier cross course that’s not too difficult.”
Tom Pinches – Director of The Boot Lab boot fitting in Meribel and Courchevel Moriond (1650) (Dad to boys aged 7 & 4)
We found that the best way to our children started on longer ski outings was to put them between our legs with the poles horizontally under their arms so you can easily pick them up if its steep or busy, or if they get tired. The Courchevel 1650 area is ideal for intermediates and I find its wide, quiet slopes great for younger children. My two particularly enjoy the Indiens piste. It has a bit of a steep start but is well worth carrying them down this short bit for the rest! There’s a lovely winding gully through the trees which feels like a real adventure, then half way down you’ll come across two wigwams on the left. It’s very a welcoming and fun Native American themed area for children – there’s facepainting, bow & arrow shooting with ‘Grey Wolf’, you can toast marshmallows and have a cup of tea around the fire and nose around at the bones and lizards in jars and dress up with authentic headdresses. It’s is on the way back down into 1650 so is a good treat for them without there being any more lifts to tackle afterwards.
Anna Cosgrove – Holiday Baby Hire (Mum to 3 children between 9-4 yrs)
Plan Fontaine in La Tania is one of our favourites for a family ski. We take the La Tania bubble and the start of the piste is just below the Bouc Blanc restaurant (so it’s perfect for an energising hot choc before you start!) This long green piste winds its way through the woods all the way back to the village. It’s not steep and there are lots of twists and turns to keep them interested – it feels like a journey rather than a simple up-and-down. More confident kids love finding little jumps at the side of the piste, and as they gain more confidence they cut the corners and can race along quite safely as it feels quite enclosed. As the children have got older they always want to ski to the Family Park at Verdons. It’s very cool to watch people doing the big jumps and they can feel a part of it all when following the ski cross track which is quite gentle. At the bottom they love to watch the Big Air Bag.
Richard Sinclair – MD of family ski experts SNO (Dad to boys aged 8 & 10)
In Meribel’s Family Cool area, the Moon Wild slope (aka the Animals run) takes you between the trees where kids can look out for local wildlife and learn about the tracks and sounds they make. The youngsters always love skiing up to the information points and spotting the animal models. Blue Le Pic run is another family favourite, with a dragon theme and hammocks to rest on. I think the Zen slopes in the area are cracking for anyone who wants to get their ski legs back or needs a confidence boost – offering smooth, spacious skiing without interruption from any speedsters.
My tip would be to take a rucksack with spare gloves and socks, hand warmers, sun cream, drinks, snacks and a camera!
Please let us know if you have any other recommendations, we love to share top tips with our customers.
Getting your children all dressed up in salopettes, boots, sunglasses, suncream, gloves and hats is a mission, we wholeheartedly agree! So once they’re togged up, how do you make the most of being out and about with your littlies? Here’s our guide to how to entertain your babies and young children in the Three Valleys:
Sledging There are numerous areas set up for safe bumboarding and sledging in the different resorts making up the Three Valleys. Investigate the foot of the slopes (the ‘front de neige’) on your first day to scope out the potential areas, then ask your chalet host or rep whether they have any sledges or bumboards you can borrow. Failing that, most of the hire shops have ‘toboggans’ for a small price, or click here to add one to your order with Holiday Baby Hire. Our baby sledge is also a great alternative to a buggy if it’s really snowy around town – the French mums often use them! We can also provide some lovely snow toys for digging and castle building! Don’t miss: Courchevel’s 1850-1550m sledge run, then get the bubble back up to do it all over again! (Can be fast, wear ski stuff and a helmet!) Meribel has two areas at the Altiport and beside Rhodos gondola.
Bubble lifts Children love to go up high and watch the goings-on underneath them on the bubble lifts, especially if you can time your ride to watch your family whizz by on skis! Under 4s get on for free although it’s worth getting a free pass for them from the ticket office (take their passport) if they look old enough to ski. If you’re concerned about the effect of altitude then check with your doctor/health visitor before your trip and perhaps leave this activity until later in the week once they’re more acclimatised to the pressure difference, but bear in mind that lots of babies are born in the nearby hospital down the valley and go home to resort at just a few days old. If your baby is struggling to settle and take a nap whilst on holiday, you’ll probably find the gentle movement and background noise is a great place to induce a snooze and you can happily do several loops if you need to. Tip: Avoid 9.00-9.30 and 2.00-2.30 as this is when lessons start and you’ll get stuck in the queue! Also make a note of the last lift home before you get on. Don’t miss: Ariondaz bubble in Courchevel Moriond ends at the Bel Air restaurant which has a quieter area upstairs where children can be a bit more relaxed. The Bouc Blanc at the top of La Tania’s bubble is a lovely place to meet up with skiers for lunch.
Swimming Meribel’s Olympic Centre has a swimming pool, climbing wall and ice-rink so it’s a good venue should you be wanting to escape the cold or snow. The swimming pool is free to under 5s and there’s a baby pool, as well as a flume for bigger children. There are floats and noodles (we call them ‘frites’ here!) on the poolside. On Sundays there’s a fun session between 10-12 with games and floats. Tip: Take your towels in as the air can be a little fresh when you get out! We’re excitedly awaiting the enormous new swimming pool in Courchevel 1550 in December 2015 which promises all sorts of fancy things, including indoor surfing…
Ice-skating Both Courchevel and Meribel have ice-rinks and young children can join in the fun too, with the special trolleys/chairs that they can hold on to whilst wobbling around the ice. It tends to be quieter early on in the afternoon whilst bigger people are out skiing. Tip: Proper ski gloves or mittens are essential for warmth and protection, and it’s as well to take a helmet – better safe than sorry!
Indoor play area Courchevel’s La Croisette is home to a ‘soft play’ area which is ideal for little ones to expend some energy indoors; you can easily spend a good hour on the climbing/slide area, doing the puzzles and dancing in the disco! And best of all, it’s free. Visit the ponies outside afterwards, and there’s also a crepe and churros hut if you need a snack. (Drinks in the surrounding bars are rather pricey!) Tip: Unfortunately it lacks a changing area and toilets, so make sure you go before you get all your clothes and shoes off – it’s outside in the square area, down a few steps. Meribel’s Olympic centre has a ‘Kenoteque’ area for little ones with books, toys etc. which is a nice area to hang out en famille. If you’re killing a bit of time in Courchevel 1650 (Moriond) then you could pop into the Tourist Office/Post Office which has a space for children with colouring, a few building blocks and a wooden car to play in. It’s not worth a specific trip but it’s warm, dry and has free wifi! It also has a good display of ‘old fashioned’ skiing with wooden sledges, as well as toilets with a changing table!
Using the buses The free shuttle buses in Courchevel and Meribel are a great way to explore the different levels. During busy weeks, it’s really tricky to get on with a pushchair, so use a backpack carrier for little ones. Get a map from your host/rep or the Tourist Office.
Walks All the Tourist Offices will have a pedestrian/walking guide so that you can explore the woods and tracks on foot. These tranquil routes are great places for spotting animal tracks, collecting pine cones and enjoying the mountains at a leisurely pace, safely away from whizzing skiers and traffic. Plus the snow stays fresher than on the slushy pavements!
Special events Don’t forget to pick up a copy of the week’s events guide from your rep/host or the Tourist Office. There are often fireworks, torchlit descents and other ‘animations’ for children, especially during the school holidays.
Watch this space… Coming soon, tips on which restaurants and bars are family-friendly.