1. Where and when you went.
Méribel (Méribel Centre). 18/03/16 -> 25/03/16
Les 3 Vallées skipass.
2. What you did there ski/board/blade.
3. How were the conditions on/off piste.
Not great at all. Very warm temperatures overall, rarely negative even up to 3000m ! When we arrived on Saturday afternoon, it was raining a bit in Meribel (4-5 °C at 1450m).
The lower parts of the ski area were dreadful even in the morning (already mogulled and with "soup" snow). Unfortunately for us, Méribel was the worst resort regarding that. Maybe the pistes orientation? Maybe because it's in the heart of the 3 Vallées so there is more passing? It is also relatively lower than the other resorts (100m for Mottaret and 200-300m for Meribel Centre), which of course didn't help.
Above 2500m high it was good though. Not great but good.
It did snow a little bit in the end of the week above 2500m but that did not make much of a difference on piste.
As a result, the off-piste was very limited since there was not a lot of snow. The Vallon du Lou in Les Ménuires and the lower flanks of Aiguille du Fruit in Courchevel were OK. Also, I actually did a couple of closed black trails in "off-piste conditions" after seeing they had enough snow cover (e.g. Grande Rosière in Méribel, Léo Lacroix in Les Ménuires - was actually surprised they were closed since they were great to ski and they only needed a little work in some parts to be open to the masses, maybe the off-season effect?).
The last 2 days, extreme Foehn wind (up to 100 km/h) caused a lot of lifts closing, particularly the gondolas and cable cars going to the highest summits. Since I did not check well enough the weather forecast, we did not have the opportunity to go up the Mont du Vallon and Cime Caron, which was a shame since they offer some of the best pistes of the area. My own fault really but to be a little fussy and I was talking with a Méribel ski instructor who was agreeing with me, I'd say they anticipate the closing a bit too much (on the Friday and Saturday mornings, it was perfectly safe to have the highest areas open in the morning - the Mont du Vallon one doesn't even involve any connections - and it was easy enough to close them for the afternoon to anticipate the strenghtening of the foehn then).
4. Are you beginner/intermed/advanced.
5. What were the bars/restaurants like.
We were staying close to Le Rond Point (on the heights of Méribel Centre), a bar with live music every evening. Good atmosphere there. Was not open 'till very late since it's located in a kinda residential area but enough to relax and enjoy nice music and beverages after a full day of skiing .
As for the restaurants, there are plenty in the centre with local specialities to enjoy a good meal. We're off the self-catering kind so can't really recommand any places but from what I saw on a few showcase menus, you can get decent prices if you don't go heavy on the wine . Not our thing but if you wanna party later, you'll have no problems finding a couple of night clubs/bars in the centre. I heard many people favourably mentioning Les Saint Pères in Méribel Centre.
6. Anything in particular to recommend about this resort.
In the 3 Vallées ski area, Méribel (and La Tania) is certainly the most familly-oriented resort. Less luxury and jet set than Courchevel. less fiestas than Les Ménuires & Val Thorens. It's also the prettiest resort in terms of architecture with its chalets and its more natural atmosphere.
7. Any hidden gems you found near nearby.
Nothing hidden at all but the Chanrossa-Roc Merlet-Roc Mugnier area in Courchevel was great to ski with a great snow quality (local conditions?). Ditto the Orelle part in Val Thorens.
Now, if you like slow-shoeing or cross-country skiing, the Tuéda lake area (just above Méribel-Mottaret) is a beautiful and peaceful wild area in the middle of the 3 Vallées (an entrance to the Vanoise National Park).
Actually, now that I remember it, in the Chanrossa area, in the cliffs left beside the Chanrossa chairlift, there was a chamois (mountain goats) herd that likes to spend some time. One of the staff guy from the Marmottes chairlift (just opposite of the Chanrossa one) had even installed some binoculars on a man-made tripod directly pointing at them such that we could see them better). Quite unusual in the middle of the day in the middle of one of the biggest ski area of the world!
8. Was the population when you were there mostly Irish/Brits or mainland Europeans.
We were there outside France holiday periods so there were many many foreigners (English-speaking, "German"-speaking, Russians and Polish mainly).
9. Any other relevant comments, and whether you would go again.
Free (outdoor) car parks in our area, which is not always the case in the 3 Vallées (Les Ménuires & Val Thorens have some places with charged carparks).
Free bus in Méribel (Meribus) was great. Our chalet was 200m higher (in elevation) than the bottom of the pistes in Méribel Centre. So if we were to miss out on the last gondola, there were several free bus routes to get back to our place or to go back down in the city centre.
As I said last year, I generally like changing resorts but again I'd definitely recommend Méribel and be delighted to go again. To be more precise, I had deliberately chosen Méribel over the other 3 Vallées resorts (even if it was a bit more expensive (a little less than 100€ more than Les Ménuires for example for the week for 2)) because it's in the heart of the ski area. My/our main interest for our winter holidays is skiing, so it's by far the number 1 priority when it comes to choices. Therefore, I wanted to cut down to the minimum the various connections between resorts. Méribel is perfect for that. No stress to come back to the right skiing area in the afternoon and the possibility to easily and peacefully visit every single places from Courchevel Moriond on the far-North-East to Orelle on the extreme South-West .
As for the 3 Vallées skiing area (well it doesn't really need any publicity, does it ?), I had already gone 11 years ago and went for a week-end in Val Thorens 2 years ago. So third time this year and still found it great. Huge and varied with fantastic panoramic views from the highest points (the Mont Blanc & Grandes Jorasses massifs from the Saulire, the view on the Grande Casse (highest point of the Vanoise National Park) is great from there ; the Ecrins belt and Aiguilles d'Arves peaks from the Val Thorens crests). They never stop improving the lifts, making them faster and more comfortable, removing the old and useless doublon ones (which make some areas of this gigantic ski resort look pretty wild). They work the pistes pretty well. Considering how crap were the forecast (I mean crap for the snow, 16°C under a shiny blue sky at 1500m high isn't really crap conditions right ?!) the pistes were overall in pretty good shape. So yeah, the pass is expensive but it's worth it!