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inH2O:

Words by Francois Flamengo Photos by DO IT NOW

g n i d r a o b w o Sn l e b i r é M in

FRANCE

WELCOME TO N IN MOUTIERS READ, IO AT ST N AI TR E TH PRETTY THE SIGN AT IN THE WORLD. IT WAS EA AR I SK T ES GG BI DI ARGUABLY THE ESSIVE LANDMARK, AN PR IM A CH SU AT , RE OF AWESOME TO BE HE AHEAD, THE SECOND EK WE E TH R FO NS IO HAD GREAT EXPECTAT PE. IING HOLIDAY IN EURO SK EK WE ERE TH R OU

N MERIBEL INFORMATIO ,

Euro Currency 1400 metres Altitude December to April Winter season July to August Summer season 2 hour transfer Lyon Airport 2 hour transfer Grenoble Airport Moutiers (18km) Nearest train station Méribel

26 • DO IT NOW April | May 2012


ret Méribel-Motta

Lounging with a view

In the previous issue I spoke about snowboarding in Lech and what you can expect from the fantastic après-ski scene related with the sport. In this article, I'll tell you about our magical few days in Méribel, near the town of Moutiers in the French Alps, and why you should seriously consider adding this amazing destination to your DINList. Méribel refers to three neighbouring villages in the Les Allues commune of the Savoie département of France, called Méribel Centre, Méribel-Mottaret and Méribel Village. The villages are located within the Vanoise National Park and are a part of the famed Trois Vallées interlinked ski system, an area that shares 335 marked runs (over 600 kilometres of terrain), 198 lifts and more than 130km of cross country tracks, making it the largest ski area in the world. The Trois Vallées was expanded about 10 years ago to incorporate a fourth valley, but the area has kept the name Trois Vallées. Ski resorts in this area include Méribel, Courchevel, La Tania, Les Menuires-Saint Martin, Val Thorens and

One of the many chair

lifts

Orelle. Méribel has hosted many world-class events, including the 1992 Winter Olympic Games, ice hockey and women's alpine skiing events. These activities have helped to develop the popularity of this ski destination and it is easy to recognise the sense of adventure that is available here. John, a very friendly fellow from the UK who works in the area, picked us up from the Moutiers train station in a very UK'ish Land Rover 110. This is not the usual mode of transport for transfers, but due to heavy snow fall in Les Allues, the village where we would be staying for the next five days, our taxi was stuck in the snow. As we drove through the falling snow to the village, we were greeted with a picture-perfect view that looked like something you would find on a I-wish-you-were-here postcard; the mountains were covered in a deep layer of pristine snow and the trees reminded me of white, glittering Christmas trees, with little evidence of any green. Everything was covered in a lot of glorious snow! 

www.doitnow.co.za | Adventure • 27


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As we entered Les Allues John gave us a quick rundown of the place. "Right, so this is the main road, that there is the local shop for anything you need and down this little road is the local pub. Don’t worry about any language barriers, almost everyone speaks English as most of the people working here are from England. And this here is your house." The Landy turned into a steep and narrow road and parked in front of a multi-level chalet made out of wood, with a trickle of smoke escaping from the chimney and the roof covered in … you guessed it, a thick layer of snow. Lee and Christina, our hosts, introduced themselves and quickly made us feel at home with a delicious cup of hot, fragrant coffee. While enjoying our coffee, Lee gave us a quick overview of the house, a Piste map each, explained where we can store our kit for easy access every morning and discussed the menu for the week. Once everyone was happy and acquainted with the rules of the house, Lee offered us a ride to Méribel's main ski area, so we could familiarise ourselves with the village and get a closer look at the slopes. The main village of Méribel is about a 10-minute drive from Les Allues. It's incredibly pretty and totally different to Lech, as it has a more commercial feel because of the many different shops you can buy kit from. All the big labels are available and if you can't find what you're looking for in any of the shops, then it simply doesn’t exist. We decided to study the local Piste map in one of the pubs close to the main gondolas, whilst sampling and thoroughly enjoying some of the local brew available on tap. Demipêche, a lager served with peach syrup, was an instant hit with the ladies. With so many route options available we decided to take Lee’s advice and start with the runs that were interconnected with the starting point labelled Saulire. There were plenty of Blue and Green slopes on offer, which covered a distance of around five kilometres from start to finish. But more about the slopes later. When we arrived 'home', we immediately realised that our hosts took their culinary duties very seriously and proceeded to serve a Moroccan Lamb Shank dish that was truly superb, turning us all into greedy gluttons. Absolutely stuffed, I could barely pick up my glass of wine, next to the fireplace, because I had no fingers left from the meal ;-). This was the start of a sublime gastronomical affair, and the daily, very generous three-course suppers were an occasion not to be missed. The next morning we were up early and extremely eager to put our new-found skills, acquired on the slopes of Lech, to the test on the slopes we'd targeted for the day. A van transported us to the main village, where we quickly sorted out our ski passes and jumped into a gondola destined for Saulire. As we climbed up the mountain we were treated to a magnificent aerial view of the area and many different routes running down the mountain in various directions. The gondola stopped and we made our way down the stairway and strapped on our boards. The plan was simple; start on the Green run marked on the map as Blanchot, aim for the bottom, remember what we learnt in Lech and survive the

28 • DO IT NOW April | May 2012

A Burton snowbo

ard

Some s

nowboa

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ady to g

first run. The plan was a simple and good one, or so we thought. Giggling like nervous school children we set off, ready to conquer the white powder and mountain, but a silly navigational error soon had the group split up and following some 'unplanned' runs solo. This early lesson helped me to become more accustomed to the less glamorous side of snowboarding, aptly named 'snowfalling' by my wife. But once we had figured out how the run worked it was awesome, with many variations to challenge different skill levels. I ended up doing about 10 runs, and by the end of the day I could feel my body asking me if I was on a suicidal path of complete destruction. We finally called it a day and stopped at the lively Rond Point bar, where we exchanged our stories of the day and nursed our injuries with a few cold antidotes - for the pain of course ;-) The next few days turned out to be some of the finest snowboarding of our entire trip - it was alpine action at its best! I loved combining the Saulire run with the Golf Course run as it included many wide slopes with enough space to commit to bigger turns and feel the edge of the board cutting through the snow, spraying snow into the air like a snowboard professional – a perfect Kodak moment. The Truite run, from Mottaret to the main Méribel Village, was a perfect beginner slope. It was also a great fun run after a cup of coffee in the little village before heading back to the main gondolas leading up into the mountains. But what I liked most about this slope is that with everyone trying to see how fast they could go, it was nice and wide to avoid unexpected collisions. For the more experienced riders, the off-piste options (skiing that takes place on snow that has not been compacted into tracks) were simply insane. Everywhere you looked were freshly-carved tracks from the seasoned snowboarders, as they worked their way down the mountain through a massive amount of powder. I have to admit that I was really envious of the skill demonstrated, especially by the riders standing on the highest points at either Plattiers 3, Roc De Tougneor or Mount Du Vallon. You could see the intensity and excitement burning in their eyes each morning after a fresh layer of powder covered over the mountain. And when they got going it was like watching a painter creating an abstract masterpiece, as they effortlessly engraved their own lines and paths down the steep mountain. This is the stuff that chokes you up with such longing, so that all you are capable of is a tight-throated whisper – wait for me ;-)

AFTER A WEEK IN THIS ALPINE HAVEN, I FOUND THAT MERIBEL IS PERFECT IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR A FRIENDLY VIBE, DIFFERENT SLOPES AND A BIT OF ENGLISH CULTURE IN THE HEART OF A LOT OF UNFINISHED BUSINESS FRANCE. I HAVE , HERE AND CAN T WAIT TO HIT THE SLOPES OF THE MANY OTHER ROUTES ON OFFER, WITH MY SNOWBOARD, IN THE VERY NEAR FUTURE. •

,

On top of the wo

o


DO IT NOW Magazine article 27-06-12  

dindigital_Meribel_27-06-12

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