Ever wondered how the resort of Meribel began? What was here before all the chalets, ski lifts and skiers and snowboarders? Read the little history of Meribel to find out more.....
Meribel was originally founded by Scottish Colonel Peter Lindsay in the 1930's. Lindsay was looking for a new location for winter sports away from the ski resorts in Austria and Germany. Due to the growing strength of the Nazi regime many British skiers had abandoned the Austrian resorts and there was a need for a new ski resort. France was the ideal location.
Lindsay first visited the village of Les Allues in 1936. He fell in love with the village and surrounding mountains which were underdeveloped, and decided it was the perfect location for a new ski resort. He established a property company in order to develop finances strong enough to build the resort which was funded with private capital from British and French pioneers. In 1938 he founded a company called “Societe Fonciere de la Vallee des Allues” and began to buy land from the local farmers.
A year later, he began the construction of the first chalets and hotels in a small hamlet above Les Allues at an Altiude of 1450m. The new village was named Meribel after a local pasture near to Meribel Village. The name “Meribel” is believed to derive from the Latin “Mirare” meaning “to look at” and “bel” meaning beautiful.
Lindsay used specialised architects, Paul Grillo and his partner Christian Durupt, so that all buildings would be in harmony with the traditional Savoyard style. For this to be realised, all chalets had to be built of local slate, wood and stone, with double pitched slate roofs. This style of building is still adhered to in the Meribel valley today.
In 1938, the first lift was placed above the village of Les Allues. The lift was a sled pulled by a fixed cable which could carry 31 passengers– a teletraineau. It carried skiers to a height of 1900 metres but it only operated for one Winter.
When war broke out in 1939 all development stopped and the region was occupied by German forces. During the war Meribel was a centre for the Resistance. Development resumed in 1945 when Peter Lindsay, who was now a Colonel, returned to the area to resume building his dream of a new ski resort.
By the middle of the 1950's there were around 40 chalets, 17 hotels and four ski lifts including the first Burgin Saulire gondola which was built in 1950. Brigitte Bardot, the Duchess of Bedford and a brother of Francois Mitterand owned thechalets in the early days. There was one nightclub called the Shangri-la which is still open today as O'Sullivans, which is very close to our Chalet La Petite Chapelle!
The resort continued to grow during the 1960's during which time there was boom in skiing holidays. The number of lifts increased and links to the Three Valleys ski area were added. The resort spread outwards and upwards from the Chaudanne at 1400 metres to the Altiport at 1700 metres.
In 1972 the higher 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 and the notion of ski in ski out became more and more popular.
In 1992 Méribel was home to the 1992 Winter Olympics (Albertville). Meribel hosted the ice hockey and the women's alpine skiing events. The Olympics meant lots of new additions to Meribel such as new hotel buildings and the creation of Le Parc Olympic sports centre. The Olympics also brought the construction of the Olympe gondola which now joins Meribel to Brides-les-Bains and Les Allues.
All new buildings built in Meribel 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 many other French resorts. This is why Meribel is so pretty to this day. Lindsay's family continue to hold a financial stake in the resort, and his grandchildren still ski in the resort to this day. Lindsay's ashes and those of his wife are scattered on the Burgin mountain.