Pete Thompson

20 Feb 24

Mèribel: A Paragliding Paradise for Beginners and Experts

Pete Thompson

20 Feb 24

Hurtling down a steep off-piste slope at full tilt I suddenly feel my skis launch high into a clear blue sky.

Paragliding in Mèribel

I’d been instructed to take on a sharp descent at full throttle, without any poles for control on a glorious Saturday morning in Meribel.  Before I know it, my skis are airborne as I gasp with the adrenaline pumping high in the Three Valleys.  Yet there was no need to brace myself for a painful landing on the final day of an amazing trip to the iconic resort in the French Alps.

I’m having the time of my life circling like a bird of prey in my first paragliding flight.  Flamboyant Frenchman Christophe had instructed me to stand upright as we darted down from La Saulire and we were soon up, up and away on a tandem trip to take in jaw-dropping views.  Christophe pointed out the spectacular sight of Mont Blanc as we looped around, while thousands capitalised on perfect skiing conditions way down below.  It felt like we were floating in a cloud-less sky before Christophe decided it was time to get the pulse racing a little faster.

“So, what do you think about a 360?” he asked, and moments later we were rapidly going full circle at a rate of knots.

I then took the opportunity to steer as we soared over a protected nature reserve, swish hotels and luxurious chalets. Almost lost for words due to the stunning vistas of the beautiful valleys from such a great height, it suddenly dawned on me that it would not be long before I would need to prepare for landing. Sure enough we are soon swooping in and my skis touch down on deep snow – which I then fall into ungraciously without a care in the world.

I’d been living the high life throughout my first trip to Meribel in nine years, wondering why it had taken me so long to return. The huge quantity of the white stuff that had fallen from prior to the start of the season ensured I was in for a treat in the largest ski area in the world.

Waking up early on the first morning in the ideally located and homely Alpen Ruitor Hotel, I was a stone’s throw from the foot of the slopes and wasted no time in making my way to the top. Spoilt for choice with 600 kilometres of trails to explore in such a vast area, we lapped up a range of mainly red and blue runs without having to contend with packed pistes. I gazed in awe of the sight of clouds hanging over the valley in the distance below jagged mountain peaks, while navigating an array of terrain.

Mèribel: A Paragliding Paradise for Beginners and Experts

© Sylvain Aymoz


We hit the heights of Mont Vallon, nipped down to classy Courchevel and through the forests in the peaceful Altiport area during a dreamy escape to a paradise for winter sports lovers. Pierre de Monvallier, founder of the Oxygene Ski School, proved to be the best guide I’ve had with his laid-back approach and almost 40 years of experience as a ski instructor. He offered gentle pointers rather than overloading me with information and his sharp sense of humour made for a memorable Friday – including a stop off for a refreshing vin chaud.

Mèribel: A Paragliding Paradise for Beginners and Experts

Oxygène ©


Beefbar right next to the slopes at the five-star Hotel Le Coucou was an idyllic setting for a long, leisurely lunch on a terrace in the sun with live music and a breathtaking backdrop of the mountains. After feasting on a variety of tasty meats, mini burgers and much more, it was a relief to only have a short ski across a piste for some après at the lively Le Rond Point.

Mèribel: A Paragliding Paradise for Beginners and Experts

Le Rond Point


A couple of talented artists performed classic tunes as temperatures plummeted a day after we took in an extravaganza at the legendary La Folie Douce. I wasn’t sure what was coming next as a rapper took centre stage and break dancers performed manoeuvres that had to be seen to be believed. It seemed there was a never-ending delivery of succulent food to our table and looked like a couple of paragliders were about to join as they flashed past for a quick look at a vibrant show at high altitude. I was unable to resist the delicious fondue at Le 80 restaurant, where the conversation and wine flowed as we savoured the cozy ambience with a mesmerising roaring fire.

The ski in, ski out Hotel le Mottaret (below) had a lovely atmosphere for a one-night stay at the end of my break, with a buzz in the bar area as thrill-seekers enjoyed a tipple after another exhilarating day on the slopes.

I’d finished my trip on the highest of notes and it took a while to come back down to earth.

Hotel Le Mottaret: Double rooms from £273

Alpen Ruitor : Double rooms from £360

For more information please visit Mèribel Tourism

If you are looking for the perfect destination for your next trip, our Resort Guide has everything you need to know.