Brides-les-Bains Ski Resort Guide
The spa town of Brides-les-Bains is found just off the winding mountain road which takes you up to the resort of Meribel. Providing access to the huge Three Valleys ski area at a more affordable price than its better known neighbours of Meribel, Courchevel & Val Thorens – Brides-les-Bains is well worth considering for your next ski holiday.
For over 150 years Brides-les-Bains has enjoyed a coveted status as a spa town where the French have enjoyed relaxation in its thermal springs. The two spa hotels here still offer a variety of treatments promoting healthy living and weight loss. Located at an elevation of just 600m though the town was historically never associated with skiing.
This changed in 1992 with the Albertville Winter Olympics which used Brides-les-Bains for competitor accommodation. The Olympic gondola was built for the purpose of taking competitors directly up to Meribel, and has been doing the same thing for holidaymakers ever since. With a 20 minute journey time it is one of the longest gondola rides in the world and has reinvigorated Brides-les-Bains as a centre for ski holidays.
For almost thirty year now Brides-les-Bains has been able to offer a great combination of access to the Three Valleys and its 600km of pistes with a much lower cost than resorts higher up the mountain. There are approximately 4,000 beds available in a range of hotels and apartments – with costs up to 50% cheaper than Meribel for a similar standard.
Brides-les-Bains itself is a quiet town with a relaxed atmosphere. The medieval church and river running through the centre provide a small town charm which will appeal to families. There isn’t much apres-ski to speak of – rather a few quiet restaurants and bars for skiers to relax at the end of a long day. There is however the only casino in the area which draws guests from neighbouring resorts to part with their cash until the early hours.
Skiers and snowboarders looking for a budget holiday in the Three Valleys area would be well advised to consider Brides-les-Bains over better known local resorts. Of course you have to accept that there is no ski-in/out accommodation, and that there will always be the gondola ride at the beginning and end of every day. As long as you don’t consider this as too much of an inconvenience then excellent skiing at a fraction of the normal price awaits you.
Skiing in Brides-les-Bains
As previously mentioned, Brides-les-Bains is not a traditional French ski resort situated amongst the slopes. Holidaymakers staying here will need to be prepared for the 20 minute Olympic gondola ride connecting them to the higher stations at the beginning and end of every day. Having said that though, once you arrive in Meribel you are perfectly situated to explore the huge Three Valleys ski area for the rest of the day.
With over 600km of varied pistes in this interconnected area there is no shortage of prime skiing and snowboarding locations to discover. The excellent Three Valleys lift system will transport you efficiently between the various different slopes surrounding the Meribel, La Tania, Courchevel, Val Thorens, Les Menuires & St Martin de Belleville resorts.
The majority of pisted slopes in the area are graded as blue or red and will be best suited to intermediates or those looking to improve their technique before tackling steeper summits. There are plenty of black runs higher up though, and there are a plethora of off-piste sections to be found as well. In fact, two of the toughest unpisted black runs in the Alps can be found if you are seeking a real challenge. The Grand Couloir sits above Courchevel, and the Couloir Tournier can be found above Meribel resort.
Staying in Brides-les-Bains can make things a little difficult for beginner skiers as they have to travel with their equipment before starting lessons for the day in Meribel. Queues for the main lifts will form at busy times of day and on peak holidays weeks – and there are very few options to avoid them unfortunately.
However, this excellent ski area is easy to access and traverse all day long from Brides-les-Bains. There is more than enough terrain to keep every level of skier & snowboarder occupied for well over a week, and Brides-les-Bains offers a cost-effective and pleasant town to explore it all from.