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History of Meribel
Meribel was the vision of a Scottish Colonel called Peter Lindsay. Towards the end of the 1930's due to British skiers abonding the Austrian resorts 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 an undeveloped valley.
In 1938 he founded a company called “Societe Fonciere de la Vallee des Allues” and he began to buy land from the local farmers.
Meribel was created with private capital and by British and French pioneers (unlike the other resorts in the Three Valleys which were built with public money).
The first chalets...
The first chalets were built at an altitude of 1450 metres and the new resort was named Meribel – the local name for a pasture situated near Meribel Village.
The name “Meribel” is believed to derive from the Latin “Mirare” meaning “to look at” and “bel” meaning beautiful.
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 environnement lead to a strict building code being introduced. All chalets were to be constructed from the local materials of slate, wood and stone, with double pitched roofs. 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 during the 1960's as there was a boom in skiing. 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.
A few years later the first snow cannons were installed and in 1992 Olympic games Meribel hosted the women's Alpine ski events and the ice hockey tournament.
The Olympic games resulted in modernisation, new hotel buildings and the creation of Le Parc Olympic sports centre and also the construction of the Olympe gondola which joins Meribel to Brides-les-Bains and Les Allues.
The villages below the resort became more popular and in 1998 Meribel Village was linked to the ski area through the Golf chairlift.
All new buildings must still comply with the codes laid down over 70 years ago and the resorts adherence to it's founders architectural principles saved it from concrete high rise buildings of some other resort.