From the top I could ski into three different valleys, an immense swath of France’s Alpine glory at my feet. If there was enough snow at Méribel to make a piste to the bottom, it would be one magical journey lasting a good 30 minutes. Eh, ce ne fait rien. That season, 2016-2017, was absolute crap for snow. But, I was up on skis, in France, the sun shining, and hungover as hell. It was New Year’s Day, of course, and I’d yet to see a Bloody Mary, but I’d be damned if I couldn’t strap on sticks for THIS.
Skiing in Les Trois Vallées in France is something I wish upon everyone who loves to ski. In some ways, it feels so familiar, yet it’s an antidote for everything dissatisfying about skiing in the U.S. today. The lift lines—half of them for gondolas—weren’t bad, the on-hill fashion was bright and cheerful instead of grungy, and the lift ticket was €36-42 a day for all this terrain.
And the French believe in skiing at my kind of pace. You get up reasonably at 9 am to walk over to the lift, ski a few turns, then pause for a café midmorning. Then, a few turns over to another base, find a baguette with jamon et fromage for lunch, and at 3 pm, stop at a mid-mountain shack for a chocolat chaud topped with a mountain of chantilly. C’est bon, ça!
The altiports at Méribel and Courchevel make for a fun sideshow to watch for aviation enthusiasts and pilots living vicariously (you must have a special endorsement to land there). When it’s time for après-ski, you slide into the deck at Le Rond Point and have a beer, still bundled up, in the fast-sinking sun. And make a plan of attack for the next day on the hills.