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Meribel vs Val Thorens: How to Decide Between These French Ski Spots

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Let’s take a look at the differences between Meribel and Val Thorens when it comes to booking your ski trip.

See also our guide on how to pack for a ski trip: your ultimate ski essentials.

Ski chair lifts in a snowy mountain landscape
Ski holidays: whether you choose Meribel or Val Thorens, you’ll have a good time

Meribel vs Val Thorens?

Ski holidays bond families and friends with their mix of active days on the slopes and evenings enjoying après ski. And while there are popular ski resorts in North America and Canada, Europe dazzles when it comes to ski facilities.

But how do you narrow them down?

If you’re reading this article, then you’ve probably decided on either Meribel or Val Thorens. Both are great places in the northern French alps, ideal for intermediate skiers and expert skiers alike, and both provide views of Mont Blanc.

But they are different villages with different facilities.

Let’s talk about how you can decided which of these main resorts is the best place for you. And how to choose between ski holidays in Meribel and those in Val Thorens.


The French ski resort of Meribel
The French ski resort of Meribel

Both Lie at the Heart of the Three Valleys

Both Meribel and Val Thorens are a part of France’s 3 Valleys (Les Trois Vallees) ski area.

This is the largest ski area in the world and consists of 7 world-class ski resorts which are:

  • – Courchevel
  • – Meribel
  • – Brides-Les-Bains
  • – Saint-Martin-de-Belleville
  • – Les Menuires
  • – Val Thorens
  • – Orelle

However, different people have different preferences and here are five factors that can help you differentiate which one is the best for your ski trip.

Accessibility and Ease of Access

One of the main factors that you need to keep in mind when you are heading for ski

holidays is accessibility. Not all ski resorts have easy or excellent connections.

If you are traveling

with a family, you want to keep things simple, easy and convenient.

Meribel, in this case, offers excellent accessibility in comparison to Val Thorens.

Located in the Tarentaise Valley of the French Alps, Meribel is easily accessed by road. Alternatively, you can reach Meribel via Chambery Airport. International visitors can fly to either Geneva Airport or Lyons Airport and arrange a ski transfer from there. You will find a range of buses and taxis which will take you to Meribel, or you can hire a car and drive yourself.

On the other hand, Val Thorens is situated at the top of the Vallee des Belleville in the Savoy region of the French Alps and it takes a little longer to get here: it’s one of the highest ski resorts in France. Again, for international visitors, Lyons and Geneva are the main gateway airports. Similarly, you can also opt for taxis and buses from the airport that take you to Val Thorens.


The French ski resort of Val Thorens
The French ski resort of Val Thorens

Accommodation

Families travelling for ski holidays tend to prefer Meribel ski resort because it has multiple villages connected by lifts and pistes which are Meribel Mottaret, Meribel Village, Meribel Centre, Les Allues and Brides Les Bains. Also, you can find plenty of luxurious chalets and apartments that are both self-catering or fully catered with in-house child care services.

In comparison, Val Thorens sits at a higher elevation with fewer choices. However, it is well-connected via ski lifts and pistes and so some people stay lower down and travel up. Fine for adults, less convenient with kids.

Ski Terrain and Piste Trails

Val Thorens is a great place for those who are looking for more vertical slopes and better elevation. Its higher altitude means that snow is more reliable and it therefore has a longer winter season.

However, this high altitude also makes it that bit colder, making it harder for travel with kids. The quality of ski lifts, grooming and length of pistes are outstanding, especially for intermediate and advanced skiers and boarders with plenty of black runs and red runs. However, if you are interested in off-piste skiing, there are limited choices in Val Thorens.

Meribel has family-friendly beginner piste trails, namely plenty of green runs and blue runs and a family park. These are also excellent for beginners

looking for some gentle slopes to build up their confidence and the ski schools can help with that. Keen skiers can also find plenty of off-piste terrain and black pistes, and again, you’ll find modern lift systems and spectacular views in the Mont Vallon valley.

Apres Ski and Food Options

In terms of food and après ski, Meribel certainly offers more options. Here you can find plenty of restaurants and bars where you can enjoy fine dining and more casual meals. Also, there are plenty of on-mountain restaurants for refreshments along the way.

Some of the popular restaurants in Meribel are Le New Merib’s, La Brizolee, Le Martagon, L’Igloo and Le Cro Magnon.

Val Thorens also has a variety of lively après ski options in and around the village. Popular restaurants include Base Camp, Chamois D’or, Le Maison, Fitz Roy, and John’s American. Sit back, enjoy live music have a good time.

All in, with Michelin stars in both areas, it’s hard to work out which is the best resort when you only look at what’s available to eat.

Ski goggles with champagne and snowy landscape in the background
Both Meribel and Val Thorens offer more winter snow activities than just skiing

Non-Ski Activities and Other Options

Both Meribel and Val Thorens have plenty of ski rentals, instructors and guides.

However, you will find more options for ski rentals and equipment at Val Thorens.

In terms of non-ski activities, in Meribel you can go cross-country skiing, ice skating, horse riding, dog sledding, snowmobiling, snow biking, snow shoeing, paragliding, and arrange to take to the sky in a helicopter ride.

Also, you can opt for various wellness and beauty treatment packages. These activities are more family-friendly and cater to audiences looking for a nice ski holiday together in Meribel.

Val Thorens also offer an array of non-ski activities for visitors like double zip lining, overnight igloo stays, ice diving, tobogganing, fat bike riding, paragliding, go-karting on the ice and ice driving. Val Thorens also has plenty of yoga and wellness centres that offer non-ski activities for those who want to unwind and relax.

So who wins? Meribel vs Val Thorens?

Meribel is strategically and centrally located and therefore you have the advantage of more easily exploring different ski resorts and areas. However, enjoying that central location comes at a price, especially for accommodation. Meribel tends to be the more family friendly resort, which can also make it busier during the school holidays.

Val Thorens is ideal for young couples looking for more than just skiing.

Of course, you could also look at staying at other ski resorts, like the family friendly La Tania, Saint Martin de Belleville, Orelle, Les Menuires or Le Praz.

Find out more on the Trois Vallees tourist office website here.