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Méribel, France; Great Intermediate Skiing!

Méribel continues to be one of the most popular European ski destinations and with recent improvements to the resort it just keeps getting better. Méribel provides access to the 144 kilometers (90 miles) of trails that snake down the mountainsides into the Méribel Valley. Add on the terrain of the entire Three Valleys (Trois Vallées) area and you have 600 kilometers (1,104 miles) of trails reached by 198 lifts.

Méribel has recently introduced the “hands-free” lift pass which has been accepted by nearly all lift operators in the Three Valleys ski area. The system automatically detects and validates the ticket at the lift departure point. The new pass lets skiers keep their gloves on and stay a little warmer as well as speed entry into the lift gate. A new half-day (hands-free) pass is available for those who prefer early morning skiing. Another tool added by the resort is the GPRS system that allows skiers with mobile phones to access real-time weather reports, snow conditions, and trail openings and closures.

Méribel is known as an “intermediate’s paradise” but beginners will find 15 percent of the resort’s trails dedicated to them, as well as excellent ski schools including the renowned L’Ecole Du Ski Francais. Seventy-one percent of the trails are designated for intermediates. Strong intermediates also enjoy the challenge of the Three Valleys’ off-trail skiing. The remaining 14 percent of the trails belong to the experts as well as all of the off-trail terrain throughout the larger area.

Snowboarders also flock to Méribel because of its reputation for being one of the best resorts for off-trail ’boarding. Terrain includes miles of open slopes and bowls. The Méribel-Mottaret Plattières Snowboard Park is a favorite for freestylers and offers new features including trail signs and information panels, a welcome chalet, security guidelines, detailed mapping, flags and inflatable structures and gates. The Arpasson Snowboard Park, also known as “Moonpark,” provides a competition-level half-pipe 145 meters (471 feet) long with a vertical drop of 45 meters (146 feet) and a 125-meter (81-foot) half-pipe for novices. It also boasts a boardercross with tables and obstacles.

There’s an abundance of other winter sports activities to enjoy here. Cross-country trails run from Méribel to Courchevel and LaTania and a 13-kilometer (eight-mile) track winds in and around Méribel amidst scenic forests. Ice climbing is popular and best done with assistance from the Bureau de Guides. A special treat is a run down the bobsled track built for the 1992 Winter Olympic Games. In addition, visitors can skate at the Olympic skating rink, or try dog sledding, sleigh riding, and snow hiking in the area.

Méribel’s restaurants and bars fill the après-ski hours. Menus vary from delicious local specialties to Italian and Spanish cuisine, among others. A new restaurant, the Darbollées, opened in the Belvedere district near the Adray chair lift and offers skiers high quality meals. Bars and discos keep the party atmosphere going and often have theme nights. There are quieter spots, though, in wine and piano bars, often found in hotels. Many visitors also enjoy a bit of sightseeing and take mini-bus tours of medieval villages, vineyards, and historic churches in the area. Shoppers find goods ranging from local hand crafts to ski gear.

So, Méribel just keeps getting better and continues to welcome skiers and boarders flocking to its slopes with a combination of local tradition and high-tech innovation.

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