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A Brief History of Meribel

Every cloud . . . . as they say. The silver lining in this instance was the founding of Meribel. Who could have guessed that it would turn out to be a Scotsman who would start the ball rolling. Towards the end of the 1930's due to British skiers abandoning the Austrian resorts in their droves because of the increasing political closeness of Germany and Austria, he set about trying to find a ski resort in France.



With the help of French skier Emile Allais he found the ideal location above the village of Les Allues which was a pristine and undeveloped valley. Location selected, the hard work began. In 1938 he founded a company called “Societe Fonciere de la Vallee des Allues” and he began, in earnest, to buy land from the local farmers, who were more than happy to sell. Meribel was created with private capital and by British and French pioneers. This was unlike the other resorts in the Three Valleys which were being built with public money.

Peter Lindsay used specialised architects, Paul-Jacques Grillo, a recipient of the Grand Prix de Rome prize (1937), and his partner Christian Durupt, so that all buildings would be in harmony with the Savoyard style, using wood and stone for the walls, with slanted slate roofs. Paul-Jacques Grillo was a student at the National School Of Fine Arts. He chose to live in the mountains where he worked in Samoens. He later moved to the United States, where he published renowned works on architecture and design.

The first chalets were built at an altitude of 1450 metres and the new resort was named Meribel – the local name for an alpine pasture situated near Meribel Village. The first lift was a 31 seat sled pulled by a fixed cable – a teletraineau. Built in 1938 it carried skiers to a height of 1900 metres but it only operated for one Winter. When war broke out in 1939 all resort development stopped and during the war the region was occupied by German forces and Meribel was a centre for the Resistance. Work started again in 1945 when Peter Lindsay, who was now a Colonel, returned to the area.

Peter Lindsay's vision of a high altitude residential area integrated in the natural environement lead to a strict building code being introduced. The first building was a chalet style hotel called Le Doron. By the middle of the 1950's there were around 40 chalets, 17 hotels and four ski lifts including the first Burgin Saulire gondola. Brigitte Bardot, the Duchess of Bedford and a brother of Francois Mitterand were owners of chalets in the early days. There was one nightclub called the Shangri-la which is still open today as O'Sullivans.

The resort continued to grow significantly during the 1960's as there was a boom in skiing. The age of jet travel started to shrink the world and provide the opportunity for holiday makers to travel to place hitherto out of reach for all but the wealthy. The number of pistes increased and the lifts began to stretch out and the Three Valleys ski area was created. The resort spread out and upwards from the Chaudanne at 1400 metres to the Altiport at 1700 metres. In 1972 the separate village of Meribel-Mottaret was created by the Savoy council and following the new principle of separating cars from skiers all the accommodation was built alongside the slopes.