Work A Ski Season in Méribel
Discover information on working a ski season in Méribel and browse winter jobs.France Méribel
Méribel is the party central of Les Trois Vallées both literally and figuratively. It is located in the middle valley of The Three Valleys interlinked ski area, which is the largest interlinked ski area in the world with around 600km of on-piste runs.
Méribel also happens to be where the majority of British seasonal workers and tourists in The Three Valleys find themselves. You will find a raucous après-ski scene to mix with the traditional Savoyard French architecture, a resort geared towards intermediates and the beauty of the surrounding mountains.
The season opens in early December and closes in late April.
Location and Getting There
Méribel is in the middle valley at The Three Valleys. In the valley furthest west are the resorts of Saint Martin de Belleville, Les Menuires, Val Thorens and Orelle, while the valley furthest east contains Brides Les Bains, La Tania and Courchevel.
The TGV (high-speed) train goes to the town of Moûtiers from any major city in France and, from Moûtiers, it is possible to take the bus to Méribel. This is probably the simplest and cheapest way to get to to Méribel (around 9€ one way for a seasonal worker and 17km). www.mobisavoie.fr is the bus company that runs these connections.
However, it is also possible to take the bus from the airports at:
- Lyon (176km – two hours)
- Chambéry (93km – one and a quarter hours)
- Grenoble (123km – one and a half hours)
- Geneva (133km – two hours)
See www.altibus.com and www.bensbus.co.uk
Town and Resort Vibe
Méribel is an extremely modern resort with excellent infrastructure to handle the hordes of overseas tourists that visit each year. A season at Méribel is by no means heading to a backwater resort.
English is widely spoken around the village including at a number of ski and snowboard schools specifically set up for English-speakers. This does mean, however, that you are less likely to get a ‘real’ French alpine experience as you will likely spend the season hanging out with other international seasonnaires. However, the village still has a certain French charm, partly as a result of the height limitation on the buildings in the village. This combines with beautiful views over the mountains of Mont Blanc, The Grande Casse and The Ecrin and bluebird days are particularly spectacular at Méribel.
Méribel is probably the second most ritzy resort of The Three Valleys after Courchevel. This means that the prices are very high and most of your meagre salary will likely go on living costs.
On the other hand, Méribel is well-known for its après-ski scene and is known as the British haven for partying in The Three Valleys. As a seasonal worker, you are likely to be out quite a lot at night with your colleagues.
There are a number of small villages at Méribel. Méribel and Mottaret are the biggest two. Méribel is where most of the activity is while Mottaret is for those looking for a quieter season. The villages are quite spread out and a shuttle is available to take you around the village.
Terrain at Méribel
Méribel is a cruisers’ resort. In abundance, you will find intermediate blues and reds for carving up the entire day. There are around 150km of on-piste trails, with 41 lifts and 68 runs in total. This includes a few really nice long runs at Méribel to work on your technique as you sail through some nice terrain.
While there is a little bit of beginner terrain, green terrain is not Méribel’s strong point and it can get crowded.
Similarly, expert terrain is not Méribel’s strong point and most of the terrain is not particularly steep or challenging on-piste. Expert seasonal workers will need to enjoy moguls, of which there are 400 vertical meters to tackle at Méribel at the Bumps Stadium (between Lagopède (red) run and Bartavelle (black) run), or head off-piste where there is a bit of challenging terrain.
Make sure you are aware of avalanche conditions (a guide is even better) as the terrain won’t be avalanche primed off-piste apart from in the dedicated free ride areas. The dedicated areas include:
- The Moon Ride located under the Tougnète gondola
- Couloir Tournier is at the Saulire Express gondola and is a popular black couloir to tackle
- Avalanch’ Camp is a special area where you can learn about avalanche awareness and undertake training. The area is located at Le Plan des Mains. Regular events are hosted by Ski Patrollers.
Outside the dedicated zone where you need to take particular avalanche precautions:
- The Rockgarden has some nice off-piste riding. To get there, follow the ridge left from Platières II and there is a short hike to the top. From the top, drop in and choose your line. Cut right on the path before you hit the Reserve de Tueda
- The Elevator shaft is another nice section of off-piste terrain. Take the Pas du Lac lift and go to the left from the top. You go under a building until you reach a metal ladder. Climb this using the rope support to the top of the gully. The Elevator is avalanche prone so avoid the area after sun or a large dump of snow.
- The Death Couloirs leading into Courchevel are nice and steep and another challenging off-piste area.
The Three Valleys terrain
Of course, working at Méribel means access to the rest of the Three Valleys interlinked area. There are around 600km of on-piste trails over the valleys which is an extraordinary amount of terrain to discover and explore. Méribel is well-placed to explore that terrain given its position in the middle valley.
Mountain stats at Méribel
- 150km of on-piste runs •
- 41 ski lifts
- 67 runs
- 51% coverage for artificial snow
- 13 mountain restaurants
The Three Valleys Stats
- 600km of on-piste trails
- 321 runs
- 1,512 hectares of on-piste terrain
- 169 ski lifts
- 2,100 snow canons
- 35,000 hectares (or 10,500 hectares) of skiable terrain
The Moon Park is the most well-known of the Méribel parks. You will find courses for beginners, intermediates and experts as well as an intermediate boardercross. There are around ten hectares (25 acres) of freestyle terrain with wooden features of tables, rails and boxes.
The DC Area 43 Snowpark is in the Platières area. It is 1200m long, has 3 machines, 10 shapers, 24 snow canons, 2 lifts (Plan des Mains and Chatelet), a mini-skate ramp, 3 street lines, 220m of rails and an airbag for beginners.
Inuit Village is set up for beginners with jibs, banked turns and slaloms at the Altiport chairlift.
Moon Wild is located in the forest, by the Altiport, and has been converted into a learning area for children. If you are working as an instructor, you may spend some time in these beginner areas.
Snow and Crowds
Méribel does not have the best of the snow at The Three Valleys. The resort relies on snowmaking each season to top up the base for 50 per cent of the resort.
Off-piste in particular can get sketchy if it hasn’t snowed for a while.
On the other hand, Méribel is quite sheltered compared to the other Three Valleys resorts which means that when the weather closes in it is not as bad at Méribel.
Unfortunately, the crowds build up at Méribel. On your days off, you are best to avoid the base lift areas such as Chaudanne and the Mottaret runs in the afternoon. The lift infrastructure is, however, very efficient and somewhat minimises the effect of the large crowds.
Finding a Job
There are several options for finding a job at Méribel.
1. The Maison du Tourisme (Tourist Office)
Each autumn from (about) mid-October until the end of November there is a desk in the “Maison du Tourisme” which deals with seasonal jobs and seasonnaires. You are able to arrive in Méribel, browse the jobs available and then apply in person.
All of these job offers can also be found on the www.pole-emploi.fr website which is a French Government run jobs site. Search for jobs in Méribel and don’t forget to look at other jobs in the Three Valleys if you can’t find a decent job in Méribel.
However it should be noted that for the majority of these jobs you will need to have, at least, a good basic grasp of French. You will be dealing with French clientele and many employers will not consider you unless you speak conversational French.
If you do not speak French, you will have an easier time finding a job with a tour operator where it is not obligatory to speak French for most of the roles.
Each year the Savoie region publishes a really useful guide (in French) which is called the “guide des saisonniers”. If you go to the Meribel site under ‘Document Pratiques‘, you will find (in French) a ‘Guide Saisonnier’ to look through for the region.
2. Tour operators
Tour operators offer full-package ski holidays to tourists. A large number of these tour operators are British, catering to British families and tourists. See Jobs Available at Ski Resorts for a description of ski resort jobs. Jobs could include chalet host, ski guide, transfers, childcare and a number of other roles.
A lot of tour companies operate in Méribel. Major ones include:
- Espirit Tours
- Flexi Ski
- Mark Warner
- Crystal Holidays
- Scott Dunn
You can apply for these jobs in Britain if you are already there. Jobs start to get posted in summer around July.
There are a number of English-speaking snowsports schools at Méribel with whom to apply for a job. These schools cater to all the tourists from overseas, particularly British tourists. They are a good place to apply if you already have an instructing certificate as you can often get tips in addition to your wage. These companies include:
If you are from outside the EU, you will need to get a French working visa. See Work a Snow Season in France for information on visas.
If you want to be a ski or snowboard instructor in France, you will need to get your French Ski Instruction qualification. See Work a Snow Season in France for information on transferring your foreign certificate if you already have your certificate.
Finding Accommodation for the Season
The Tourist Office holds a list of seasonal rentals detailing apartments and chalets that are available to rent for the season. If you go to the ‘Documents Pratiques‘ you will see a section on ‘saisonniers’. There are several guides here, including one for ‘location’ (rentals). It is best to check this regularly from around spring time as this is when the list is updated with the accommodation for the following season.
www.merinet.com/seasonal has additional seasonal listings as might www.livetheseason.com.
Many tour operator jobs will come with staff accommodation to take the hassle out of looking for a place. These can be of variable quality and you are likely to be sharing in close quarters with the other staff.
The OPAC de la Savoie (Agencies of Moûtiers for Tarentaise and Montmélian for Beaufortain) is real estate listing service for the region and may have options available.
For a two bedroom place, you can find apartments from 7000 euros for the season. These places often advertise the rooms as sleeping two or even three to a room, so you can cut down costs a little bit that way. Prices go up from there for better places closer to the centre of town.
Mottaret is a cheaper options out of Méribel centre (6.2km further up the road), while Les Allues (7km) and Brides Les Bains (15km) are other generally cheaper options on the way into Méribel. Of course, they are less lively than Méribel centre.
You do not need a car as it is possible to get around everywhere by walking or skiing and it is preferable to do so. To get a taxi, for example, from Courchevel to Mottaret is about 80 Euros.
Méribel is Brit heavy with plenty of Brit-owned bars. This makes for a fairly crazy nightlife and après-ski scene. La Folie Douce is probably the most famous of the Méribel bars. It is located mid-station at Saulire and heaves with dancing on tables, flowing beer and loud music. It closes at 5pm at which point people often go on to Rond Point.
Rond Point is also a hangout for a lot of seasonal workers as it offers good deals. It has live music and some excellent times during the season. For live music, Le Pub is a hugely popular Brit hangout which also shows the major sporting events during the winter season. Jack’s Bar is another place where you find plenty of seasonnaires and has great cocktails and stand-up comedy in addition to live music. For late-night partying, O’Sullivan’s Club has DJs and club music until around 4am. There are also a number of quieter bars to escape the chaos, many of which also serve food.