Meribel and Meribel Mottaret are both set for lift upgrades this summer, following last summer's first stage improvements of the Saulire gondola. With Meribel only rivalled by Val d'Isere for the number of Brits in resort each winter, new, faster lifts are always good news.
Work started on the Saulire gondola last summer, with the first stage of the lifts completed and running throughout the season, the second phase of the new lift system is due for completion by December 2012 and will whisk skiers from the main lift hub in Meribel, le Chaudanne, to the top of the Saulire in just 12 minutes — previously the lift took 22 minutes.
In order to improve the lifts for this season the lift company completed the second half of the gondola, Saulire Express 2, last summer — which meant skiers looking to head back to the top of the mountain from the mid-station were treated to a high-speed lift first. Once the Saulire Express 1, based in le Chaudanne is complete, the links to ski over to the Courchevel Valley — with arguably some of the best skiing — or Mottaret, will seem lightning-quick to Meribel regulars. The new lift will have cost €20 million by the time of completion, but will boast a capacity of 2,400 skiers per hour and 2,800 per hour during peak season.
In addition to the new high-speed gondola, the Platiers lifts from Meribel Mottaret up toward Les Menuires and Val Thorens is set for a huge upgrade this summer. The existing 28 year old Platiers 1 & 2 will be replaced by a single high-speed gondola and the first 10 seater gondola in the Three Valleys. The lift will cut the previous travel time of 22 minutes down to 9 minutes and will again boast a capacity of 2,800 skiers per hour.
The new Platiers lift will boast a new base station in Meribel Mottaret, across from the current lift, and will cost a whopping €17.2 million. Though Platiers 1 & 2 is being replaced, the current Platiers 3, apart from some new gondola cabins, will remain as is.
Another lift set for an upgrade this summer is the Ourson rope tow at the foot of Mottaret's slopes. The beginners lift will be upgraded to a more modern magic-carpet lift, for the moderate cost of €70,000. Another development for beginner skiers in Mottaret is the re-shaping of the Matre piste — one of the main runs back into the resort — which will see its steepest section given a more gentle gradient. The work on 60m section of slopes is expecting to cost around €2 million.
With the three new lifts and the changes to piste, Meribel will have invested upwards of €40 million on the slope's infrastructure by December this year — and that doesn't include the new-ish Platiers 3 lift. This is a real sign from the resort and that the money is being reinvested to remain among the worlds best. With large sums being invested in the neighbouring resort of Val Thorens — new lifts, hotels, apartments and Wi-Fi on the slopes, the Three Valleys is still the place to be on your skis.
Written by Stephen Adam