If you want to ride the massive Trois Vallées on a budget, you should really take a closer look at the small town of Brides-les-Bains (pronounced Breed lay Bahn). This once-sleepy village lies at the foot of Méribel valley (actual name Vallée des Allues), just a short gondola ride away from the ski area itself and the further connections over to Val Thorens, Les Menuires and Courchevel. Brides offers 3 Vallées riding on your doorstep, at a fraction of the price of the bigger resorts higher up the hill. Scroll past the booking and money-saving deals info for the ultimate Brides-les-Bains guide by iRide.
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The Olympe gondola from Brides-les-Bains to Méribel and Trois Vallées
Use the time in the gondola ride wisely from Brides-les-Bains
The video above shows a time-coded version of the ride up to Méribel through Le Raffort and Les Allues. In total, the ride takes about 25 minutes – but, if you’re smart, you can use the time wisely to have breakfast. This way you’ll still be up early enough to get powder turns after a fresh dump – while having a relaxing start to your day.
Brides-les-Bains guide and the Méribel gondola
Brides is probably more famous for its spa facilities than as a winter destination and tourists flock here over the summer months to indulge in its world-famous healing waters. In winter though, the town transforms into a bona fide ski resort. Sure, the 25-minute gondola ride in the morning is a bit of a hassle but if you want to do 3 Vallées on a budget, you can’t beat this town for value. Prices are around half of those you’d expect to pay higher up the hill.
Brides-les-Bains guide and its Olympic heritage
The link from Brides to Méribel was built in 1992 for the Albertville Olympics when Méribel Centre played host to the Womens’ Downhill and ice hockey events. Brides was selected as a host village for the overspill of athletes attending the Games – hence the development of the link gondola.
Can you ski or snowboard back to Brides-les-Bains?
Although there are no official runs back to the village, in exceptional seasons, it is possible to pick your way back down – though you need to go with someone who knows the area as there are treacherous drops into a ravine which you’ll want to avoid (obviously).
Méribel Le Raffort gondola station
Brides-les-Bains is located at 580m so tends not to see the heavy snowfall of Méribel higher up. Nonetheless, there are occasions when you can ride back down. However, in more normal times, you’ll ride as far as Le Raffort on the Villages red run off the Olympe above Méribel Centre then take the gondola the rest of the way back down. The Villages piste is a cracking route through the trees – a natural boardercross-type run with hits everywhere.
Brides-les-Bains guide to nightlife – recommended bars and restaurants
In recent years, there’s been an explosion in terms of the bars, restaurants and accommodation in Brides as people have slowly started to see the town as a real alternative to the pricier options higher up the hill. Of particular note is the Bis”trop” Savoyard at the entrance to Brides-les-Bains on the Moûtiers side (you’ll drive past on your transfer bus). This is a great pub/restaurant run by David (Dada) serving quality local dishes til late with live entertainment most nights. Definitely worth a visit (tell him where you learned of the bar – you might even get a free drink if he’s feeling generous)!
Other places of note are the small Les Voûtes du Parc and, of course, the Casino which is open late if you fancy a longer night. There’s also a bus service up to Méribel if you fancy a bigger night out – or you can take a taxi (expensive). The best option is to hitch-hike. The French are a lot more generous at stopping than us Brits.
Brides-les-Bains offers handy access to other areas – including La Plagne
Another little-known advantage of taking a vacation in Brides-les-Bains is its proximity to Champagny-en-Vanoise – a satellite station of the massive La Plagne/Paradiski area. Champagny is around 20 minutes away by bus or car, just a little further up the valley past the village of Bozel. From here, you can link into the massive Paradiski area and even access Les Arcs (though you will need to ride quickly and watch your time to venture this far and be sure of getting back). A day’s lift pass used to be included in the price of a 6-day Trois Vallées pass but, at time of writing, you’ll need to buy the La Plagne day pass.
Brides-les-Bains guide and access to Pralognan-la-Vanoise
Another far less famous resort, Pralognan-la-Vanoise, lies a little further up the valley – again, accessible by bus or taxi (or hitching). This resort has largely escaped expansion and remains an extremely traditional station with some great off-piste opportunities.
The Champagny gondola to access La Plagne – close to Brides-les-Bains
Brides-les-Bains advantages over bigger stations – a friendly village where people get to know you by name
A few years ago, I spent a full season in Brides-les-Bains so have very, very fond memories of this small, quaint village. Unlike some of the bigger ski areas, there’s a real sense of community in this little hamlet. Strangers on the street say hi, the staff in the supermarket get to know you and speak to you, the staff in the hotels and pubs take a real interest in how you’re doing. You simply don’t get that in the bigger stations – though it’s maybe little wonder when you consider Brides was first and foremost a traditional village, that just happened to get connected to a ski area – almost as an afterthought.
Brides-les-Bains – Trois Vallees skiing and snowboarding on a budget
If you’re looking for a ski/snowboard holiday on a budget, with friendly people and a real sense of community and camaraderie, you really should consider a trip to Brides-les-Bains. Skiing on a budget it may be – but that doesn’t mean too much in the way of compromise. You soon get used to the gondola ride up and down and it can end up quite enjoyable and relaxing.
Hotel Amelie aprés bar
Plus, on your way back into town, there’s always the bar at Hotel Amelie – your first port of call after a hard day’s riding – and a popular, lively pit-stop with most skiers and snowboarders before heading back to their accommodation. Personally, I made some great friends in this bar during my season – definitely recommended for your first apres stop.
Is Brides-les-Bains a good choice for a ski holiday?
My advice? Try Brides-les-Bains, give it a go. You may well just end up pleasantly surprised by all that it has to offer – and you’ll definitely notice the savings.
What is the resort of Brides-les-Bains like – types of accommodation
Accommodation in Brides consists mainly of hotels and apartments. The Hotel Amelie is popular and located just below the main gondola station. There are numerous other hotels including Hotel Golf. Alternatively, there is apartment accommodation in Residence le Grand Chalet and Residence Cybele. Season-long accommodation is also available in both.
Further savings to be had by staying in Brides les Bains
There is a Spar supermarket in the centre of town stocked with most things you’ll need however if you’re driving (or if you’re staying for any length of time or for a season), your best bet is to take a bus or taxi into Moûtiers. There is a Super U just outside Moûtiers centre or the large Carrefour supermarket across from the train/bus station. Both offer considerable savings (hint – the locals shop here for a reason).
How to get to Brides-les-Bains
Access to Brides is very easy by bus, car or train. Both Chambéry and Geneva airports are close and have train links direct to Moûtiers, the last main town just a little way along the valley. If arriving by train, there are buses direct from Moûtiers or there’s also a taxi rank just outside the station. Alternatively, there are also bus transfers direct from both airports – or you could take a taxi (expensive).
Transfer route videos to Brides-les-Bains from Geneva and Chambéry airports
Driving directions to Brides-les-Bains from Geneva and Chambéry airports
Driving from Geneva airport
Driving from Chambéry airport
Location of Brides-les-Bains: A Brides les Bains guide
Further info about Brides-les-Bains
For more information on Méribel – plus some great money-saving deals on hire and lessons – download the SnowGuru Méribel app for Android – http://tiny.cc/vbwmhz
For tourist info from Brides-les-Bains, see https://www.brides-les-bains.com
Other SnowGuru apps / Les autres applis:
Alpe d’Huez: http://tiny.cc/zlvmhz
La Clusaz: http://tiny.cc/gsvmhz
La Mongie: http://tiny.cc/auvmhz
La Plagne: http://tiny.cc/dvvmhz
La Rosière: http://tiny.cc/tvvmhz
La Tania: http://tiny.cc/ewvmhz
Les Arcs: http://tiny.cc/uwvmhz
Les Deux Alpes: http://tiny.cc/mxvmhz
Les Gets: http://tiny.cc/x6vmhz
Les Menuires: http://tiny.cc/n7vmhz
Serre Chevalier: http://tiny.cc/sfwmhz
Val d’Isère: http://tiny.cc/2gwmhz
Val Thorens: http://tiny.cc/dkwmhz