Most beginners will want to learn up at Meribel, the easiest nursery slopes to get to, although not really ideal with a walk at the start from your accommodation to the lift as well as at the end of your 20 minute gondola ride up, so you could choose a rather more convenient resort.
It is in fact quite likely that you’ll take lessons at the nursery slopes at Meribel’s Altiport, a shuttle bus ride from the top of the gondola. On the upside you could rent your equipment down in Brides-les-Bains to save time and avoid the queues in Meribel.
The Three Valleys is of course the world’s largest ski area with a huge amount of terrain for intermediate skiers to enjoy. Although taking 20 minutes or so in a gondola to arrive at the bottom of the ski slopes may be off-putting for some, the Meribel Valley has a great high speed lift network with more gondolas than any other resort on the planet, so once you’re there you are well placed to make the most of the whole circuit, and you can be smug in the knowledge that you’re saving money compared to those who are staying on the mountain.
At the end of the day, if snow conditions are good, you may be able to make an incredible amount of vertical descent, off piste down towards Brides-les-Bains (make sure you tackle this with someone who knows where they’re going to avoid being stuck with a long walk).
For more information on the skiing in the Meribel valley see our Meribel review, or for the neighbouring valleys the reviews for La Tania and Courchevel on the left hand site of the map, or St Martin de Belleville, Les Menuires or Val Thorens on the right side.
The big draw for advanced skiers staying in rides-les-Bains is of course the vast array of opportunity the Three Valleys have to offer, but if you are self-driving those opportunities are further magnified by using the village as a base to access other major ski areas in the region with the skiing of La Plagne and Les Arcs less than an hour away on the other side of Moutiers and La Rosier.
Tignes or Val d’Isere are feasible too if you make an early start. Better still all of these are included in the inter-changable six day lift ticket. But staying on the local slopes at the top of the gondola you’ll find good on and off piste on some of the Meribel valley’s highest slopes at Mont du Vallon, with still steeper trails over on Saulire and over the back in to Courchevel.
For full details of all the challenges available, see the Advanced skiing sections for Courchevel, Meribel, La Tania, Les Menuires, St Martin de Belleville and Val Thorens.
Snowboard / Freestyle Skiing
Snowboarding, as with most things snow related in Brides-les-Bains, means taking the gondola up to Meribel and getting on the snow there. The Three Valleys offer hundreds of kilometres of freeriding terrain (including some entertaining routes back down to Brides-les-Bains, or at least some of the way – depending on conditions).
There are also plenty of terrain parks to explore across the region (see our Courhevel, La Tania, Les Menuires, St Martin de Belleville and Val Thorens entries as well as Meribel) . The closest and usually the best is Meribel’s own Moonpark (http://www.moonpark.net) which has a big choice of kickers, boxes, rails and jumps.
There’s also a boardercross course and a smaller terrain park for beginner park rats. The gondola lift network makes getting around easy.
Brides Les Bains is close to the Vanoise National Park which has some lovely cross country trails within it, and you are also close to the Olympic Nordic facilities at Courchevel (see Courchevel and La Tania entries for more information), however most cross-country skiers will take the gondola up to Meribel where there are loops up by the Altiport and at Lake Tueda by Mottaret.
Altogether there are 25km of tracks, including one that links the resort to La Tania and Courchevel, with routes for all ability levels and for classic and skating styles.
Average Snow And Weather Conditions
Located at only 600m, Brides les Bains is lower than almost any other town or village considered a ski resort in Europe, so resort level snow is not usual and indeed, not needed.
The snow cover of concern is higher up the mountain in the Three Valleys, which have slopes stretching up to former summer-ski areas on glacier slopes at Val Thorens, but that is a bit of a trek, more than 2,500 vertical metres up, from Brides-les-Bains.
Lower slopes in the ski area do have snowmaking cover and guaranteed cover through the main season. One advantage of visiting when there is good snow cover at lower altitudes below Meribel (most likely, though not certain, from mid-January to mid-March) is that you can ski down below the village and get on the gondola back to Brides les Bains further down the mountain. In other words more skiing and a shorter ride.