The Irresponsible Guide to the Three Valleys
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The Irresponsible Guide to the Three Valleys

The Three Valleys is the world's largest and arguably best-linked ski area, famed for playing host to everyone from Courchevel's Russian Oligarchs and Meribel's rockstars to Val Thorens' vibrant, orange-infused, Dutch week.

The Three Valleys offers a huge variety of terrain, resort atmosphere, accommodation, bars and restaurants. Some go for the celebrity spotting and boutique shopping, others for varied skiing and great off-piste, and not forgetting the famous and raucous après ski.

Now finding the right restaurant for a mountain lunch can be challenging across the Three Valleys. With Courchevel's bank busters to those run by friendly French patrons, who feel the need to finish off your slightly boozy lunch with their homemade genepy, to choose from. Whether you are a hardcore skier, a park rat or a fan of leisurely lunch, at some point you will be enjoying the array of cuisine and venues on offer.

I've had a few mixed experiences including drinking too much toffee vodka with the manager of the Skilodge in La Tania and realising I only had 90 minutes until the last lift into Val Thorens, where I was staying, to romantic lunches on Meribel Village's quaint terrace.

Of course I don't recommend drinking and skiing because that would be dangerous and irresponsible, but if you do enjoy a cheese-filled lunch with a glass of wine and sampling the local digestives, I do have a few favourites. Some I know by name, others by location (does anyone actually know the name of the restaurant with the big knife and folk sign in VT?).

If Savoie mountain food is your thing there are some great places to fill up on cheese and meat. Darbelo's hidden in the labyrinth streets on La Praz and offers perfectly cooked steaks and the infamous, and sometime dangerous, Mutzig beer on draft. At the top of the Menuires chair in Les Menuires there is a wonderful little family run restaurant, the name escapes me but the cheese based food, bright blue genepy and welcoming service make it worth a visit. The Adray Telebar in Meribel, set just below the Ronde Point de Pistes, offers a superb Savoyard specialties set in a traditional, rustic, mountain atmosphere, and it has a terrace with superb views, and it's an easy ski back into Meribel post-lunch.

If you are looking for a lively atmopshere, planning to write off your afternoon and you are staying nearby there are some great venues to spend white-out days or sunny afternoons. If you are in Courchevel the Skilodge is a great venue for both occasions. On sunny days the terrace has great views, and the bus runs to the other Courchevel resorts well into après ski o'clock, great for toffee vodka, big portions and live music. If Meribel is your venue then the Ronnie (Ronde Point) has to be top of the list, with a variety of food from relaxed table service to a hot dog and burger stand, again the Ronnie has great views, a truly huge terrace, and the cream of après ski live bands.

If someone else is paying then take a trip to the Chalet de Pierres, where Courchevel's skiing meets Parisienne gastronomy. This über luxury restaurant has a wine menu that requires a small mortgage, lavish decor and of course praise in the Michelin Guide for it's fine cuisine. If your credit cards can stretch to the bill you will find yourself rubbing shoulders with sports stars, entrepreneurs and their trophy wives. The wine won't give you a headache, but your bank manager might!

If a romantic lunch, drinking Rose and eating crostinis, great salads or stone-baked pizza sounds up your street head the Lodge du Village in Meribel Village. If stunning panoramic views are more to your partner's desire a glass of Apremont at the top the La Saulire always goes down a treat. The food is pretty good in either restaurant and if needed you can get the lift back down to either Meribel or Courchevel, if you over-indulge.

Not that I'm suggesting that skiers like a drink, but there is something about vin chaud and genepy on a cold Winters day or a post skiing glass of Rose in spring on the many sun terraces around that you just can't replicate at home.

Don't drink and ski, you could be a danger to yourself or others, and you may spill some.