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Meribel - Having Fun without Skiing!

Updated on September 7, 2011

A Non-Skier's Guide to Meribel, France

I was first introduced to Meribel six years ago by my then boyfriend (and now husband). His family owns an apartment in this beautiful little resort town in the French Alps and he grew up skiing in the winters and hiking in the summers. Now I love to go hiking (although I start to whine if we hit the 4-hour mark), but skiing is really not my thing. It's taken me years to get my husband's family to really understand that this little fear I have of skiing right off the edge of a mountain means I just can't enjoy the sport! But, I've discovered that Meribel has lots of great activities other than skiing. Read on for the non-skier's guide to Meribel!

All Seasons

The following activities can be done during the winter and the summer:

Trail Guide
Trail Guide

Hiking in Meribel

There are lots of great hiking trails around Meribel ranging from easy strolls to serious overnight treks. You can pick up a walking guide (in English) from the tourist office in the center of town, which will show you where to pick up a trail as well as how difficult that trail will be. If you're hiking in the wintertime, the guide will also show you whether a trail is frequently groomed, will require snowshoes or is inaccessible during the winter months.

For safety reasons, you should always wear layers and bring additional clothing with you when you go hiking in the mountains. It can become cold very suddenly. You should also bring food and water and wear sunscreen.

Personal Photo of the Tueda Natural Reserve
Personal Photo of the Tueda Natural Reserve

The Tueda Natural Reserve

The Tueda Nature Reserve in Meribel Mottaret is a great place to start your day, whatever type of hike you're looking to do. The natural reserve is intended to protect the local plant life and wildlife, which means that development (such as ski lifts) are prohibited and you can enjoy a very peaceful commune with nature! You can take a free bus from Meribel up to the Reserve. From the bus stop it's only a short walk to the beautiful Lake Tueda. You could spend your afternoon meandering around this flat but stunning location and even stop for a bite to eat at the small restaurant overlooking the lake. This is a great option if you have kids, a small dog or are just feeling a little bit tired.

And if you're feeling more energetic, you can take one of the many trails around the lake that go up into the mountains. Some are small, twisty trails through the forest and others are large paths leading directly to amazing views!

Image courtesy of David Smith
Image courtesy of David Smith

The Pool & Spa

Meribel's Parc Olympique has an indoor, heated olympic size pool as well as a jacuzzi open to public use for a fee. The jacuzzi is in a room with large windows overlooking the ski slopes, so you can watch all of the skiers and feel very happy with your choice of activity as you relax! A sauna and a steamroom are also available and if you're feeling sore from all of the hiking you've been doing, you can schedule a massage.

Address: Parc Olympique, La Chaudanne, Méribel, 73550, France

Telephone: +33 (0) 479 00 58 21

Image courtesy of business-clipart.com
Image courtesy of business-clipart.com

Shopping in Meribel

There are many cute local shops in the center of Meribel that you can spend your afternoons visiting.

As can be expected, many of these stores tend to focus on sportswear, gear and accessories, but there is also regular clothing on offer. There are several specialty food stores, selling delicious pastries, chocolates, sausages, cheese, liquor and other local delicacies and I highly recommend you try out some new snacks! You can also stop by a few of the home goods stores selling cutesy items, such as heart-shaped ornaments and lampshades with skiers on them. There are a few souvenir shops in town, selling postcards, t-shirts and other trinkets in addition to newsagents, laundromats and grocery stores.

Image courtesy of Lumen Design Studio
Image courtesy of Lumen Design Studio

Restaurants in Meribel

Meribel has lots of great restaurants where you can spend a few leisurely hours over lunch, an afternoon snack, evening cocktail or dinner. The food is generally delicious (this is France, after all!) and English menus are available so you won't have to point and hope for the best.

Photo courtesy of http://www.chez-kiki.fr/
Photo courtesy of http://www.chez-kiki.fr/

Chez Kiki

I think I've had the best steak of my life at Chez Kiki! Many of the meat dishes here are cooked on a grill over an open fire in one of the dining rooms. It's a pretty cool sight to see. Also on offer: salads, foie gras, fondue, etc.

Kiki, who has run this restaurant for over 50 years, still mans the fire and likes to stop by to say hello to his patrons. Be sure to make a reservation!

Address: Chez Kiki, Morel, Meribel, 73550, France

Telephone: +33 (0) 479 08 66 68

Photo courtesy of http://www.chez-kiki.fr/
Photo courtesy of http://www.chez-kiki.fr/
Image courtesy of Gilles D'Hoker
Image courtesy of Gilles D'Hoker

La Taverne du Crocodile

I recommend visiting "the Crocodile" in Meribel Mottaret for its warm and friendly atmosphere and delicious braserade. This is a local specialty. A small grill will be brought to your table, along with plates of meat (steak and chicken) and vegetables (mushrooms, onions and peppers), a trio of sauces and a large bowl of french fries. Add some local red wine and you'll have a great meal! The owner, Brigitte is very friendly and speaks English quite well. If you chat with her and say goodbye at the end of your meal, she'll likely offer you a parting glass of génépi, a local liquor made from alpine plants. Génépi is definitely an acquired taste, but is worth trying at least once.

Interesting side note: there are numerous crocodile figurines throughout the restaurant that Brigitte's friends and patrons have given her from around the world. They are made of wood, plastic, pottery; some are large, others are small. There are a few stuffed animals and even a few real crocodile heads!

Address: Immeuble Creux de l'Ours Mottaret 73550

Telephone: +33 (0)4 79 00 45 85

Wintertime

If you've already spent a few days hiking, have visited the spa and the shops and are looking for something new to do other than skiing, you could try a day of dog sledding.

Dog Sledding

I was a bit nervous to go dog sledding (I really hate the possibility of losing control), but ended up having a lot of fun! We were in Meribel on my birthday and my husband skipped skiing for the day to take me dog sledding. The dogs are beautiful, sweet and eager to run! We were given clear instructions on how to handle the sled and the dogs and then we headed out for almost an hour through the woods, up and down hills. Going down is definitely the most fun and it really isn't difficult to maintain control.

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Me, enjoying the sunshine and mountain air!
Me, enjoying the sunshine and mountain air!

Summertime

Summertime is the non-skier's ideal time to visit Meribel. With no snow, nobody can expect you to go skiing! There are still lots of activities and while the resort is far from empty, you can easily avoid other tourists if you want to. What's more, the weather is usually gorgeous during the summertime: you can expect bright blue skies and lots of sunshine.

That's a picture of me enjoying the sunshine and mountain air in Meribel.

The Croix de Verdons Via Ferrata in Meribel

The via ferrata is another activity that initially made me nervous. In fact I was feeling a little bit queasy right up until I started climbing! But it's really not so scary (as long as you're not afraid of heights) and the views are amazing. You'll need to rent a harness, ropes and a helmet in order to do this activity, which are available at La Varappe (phone : +33 (0)4 79 08 65 65), a sports store in Meribel.

From Meribel you take the Saulire gondola up the mountain. You get off at the second and last stop on the lift and follow the notices for the via ferrata, which will be to your left. You follow a fairly standard hiking trail at the beginning of the experience, before arriving at the bottom of Le Curé where you start your ascent. This is the most difficult part of this via ferrata as you climb up and then climb down the other side of what is essentially a sheer cliff. As long as you go slowly and don't lose your cool, I promise you can handle it and you will be so proud of yourself at the end! After Le Curé you can either continue on to climb additional summits or you can head back down to Meribel. To complete the entire via ferrata will take 2-3 hours, not including the ride up or walk back.

This via ferrata is classified as difficult, which is the second easiest level.

Note: you don't need a guide, but you should speak to someone at the Tourist Office before you go. Always bring food and water and wear sunscreen.

Video of the World's Most Difficult Via Ferrata

No, this isn't the Via Ferrata near Meribel, but it's a pretty cool video. This is supposedly the world's hardest via ferrata and is located in Austria.

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Is that it?

I've only written here about the activities that I've done myself, but there are many other things that you can do in Meribel. For example, during the summer you could play a round of golf on what I've been told is a gorgeous golf course, or head down into the valley a bit and spend your afternoon whitewater rafting. There's also mountain biking, horseback riding, paragliding, fishing, tennis, rock climbing, you could even go paint balling! And there are often sporting events and concerts going on.

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Have you been to Meribel before? Tell us about your experiences!

Planning to visit sometime soon? What are you dying to try out?

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    • Powder White profile image

      Powder White 4 years ago

      Great article as someone is talking about not skiing in meribel for once!

    • traveller27 profile image

      traveller27 6 years ago

      As a non-skiier, I appreciate this. Very nice!

    • profile image

      WorldVisionary 6 years ago

      You have a lovely lens here -- I've left you a little Angel dust!

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Breezy overview of a lovely spot to visit. Thank you for posting so many of your own images, which always makes it feel more real and possible, somehow.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Breezy overview of a lovely spot to visit. Thank you for posting so many of your own images, which always makes it feel more real and possible, somehow.

    • Paul Ward profile image

      Paul 6 years ago from Liverpool, England

      Interesting and well-written variation on the usual skiing waffle - an unnatural pursuit :)