Since the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the healing properties of the water in the Brides les Bains area have been promoted, and this charming old spa town below Méribel in France's Three Valleys has certainly made the most of the rejuvenating waters. Now one of France's top spa locations, if you're looking to relax and get healthy, there's no better place to do it. The huge thermal resort at Thermes d'Orsi employs specialists and professionals including doctors, masseurs, dieticians and psychologists who can work out special weight loss and fitness programs, often involving a dip in the 36º Celsius thermal pool at Salins, a hydro massage and a visit to the mud bath.
The relaxed, cosy resort has a real ‘small town' feel compared to some of the resorts further up the mountain. It also offers better value accommodation than the higher altitude resorts and is quieter in the evenings, although as the main services and shopping centre for the Méribel Valley it's no sleepy little town. Once the Olympic Village for the 1992 Savoie Winter Olympics, it's linked by high speed gondola to Méribel, and is perfect those on a budget who want easy access to the Trois Vallées ski area.
The beauty of Brides is that it's already down on the main valley road so access to other areas is much quicker, and you can normally reach them through roadside gondola stations down in the valley, rather than having to drive up to the resorts. Located right next to the La Vanoise Nature Park, at an altitude of 600m, Brides-les-Bains has all the charm of an authentic Savoy mountain village. Some of the best days off can be spent walking in the peace and quiet of an area where the countryside hasn't been spoiled and remains simple and accessible. Skiing in the Three Valleys means guaranteed snow and every type of run possible. And depending on the conditions, you can ski down to Brides at varying heights over some 2000m, from the ridges to the river, passing through forests and orchards on the way.
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Brides les Bains for Different Ski Abilities
If you're a snow novice staying in Brides les Bains, you have your pick of the Three Valleys resorts, but Méribel would probably be the best, as it's closest. It has two new ‘zen' zones for beginners alongside the Doron and Sitelle draglifts. The draglift at Méribel Altiport is free and ideal for your first day or two of skiing and snowboarding practice if you haven't booked lessons. When you've been cracking at it for a while, try Meribel Village by the blue lapin run - this piste is usually very quiet. A very slow chair brings you back to the Altiport.
Both Méribel and Courchevel have amazing skiing for the intermediate skiers and boarders. The biggest chunk of their slopes is reserved for blue and red ones, so you have a huge playground ahead of you. Maybe start out at Méribel, with some soft velvet runs on both the Tougnète and Saulire sides, then later in your trip head over to Courchevel, setting off from the top of Roc Merlet out of 1850 and gliding all the way down to 1650 via the Pyramide and Indians pistes.
If you are a skilled skier and here for a while, pick and choose the best of the black and red - and there really is a lot to choose from. Try the fast narrow chutes and thick powder fields leading down from the Vizelle peak and the Suisses Chairlift at Courchevel, and the steep and sometimes mouguled black run La Face at Méribel, which was created for the 1992 Olympic Ladies' downhill. There are sheer descents from the top of all the top lifts in Val Thorens, and Cime de Caron is always a favourite. Long vertical descents can also be found from the top of the Col chair, and around the Boismint sector, and the fourth valley, Orelle, is a gem. With a Vallée de Belleville lift pass, St Martin at 1450m can be reached from the top of the Bouquetin Funitel 2850m by taking just one lift, the Beca out of Les Menuires. Although not too taxing, it's a great long run down and the Grand Lac piste is a super rollercoaster of a piste.
Brides les Bains Ski Schools
There are many great ski schools in the Three Valleys area, with literally thousands of instructors. You may save some money in staying at Brides Les Bains, so if you're in need of a lesson, head up to your chosen Three Valleys Resort and get learning! Méribel will probably be the easiest for beginners because it is closest, just jump on the high speed gondola from the centre of the village.
Après Ski and Off the Mountain Activities
Brides Les Bains is an excellent base for exploring the Three Valleys for those who aren't looking for the hectic nightlife or higher prices common the main Three Valley resorts. There is a casino, a couple of discos, several bars and some good restaurants in the town, plus a specialist spa which offers many treatments that are most welcome after a full days skiing. For après ski Discos, bars and a traditionally French café culture are at the heart of the resort's generally relaxed and friendly social life. It's also home to the only casino in the Trois Vallées.
off the mountain
If you love a bit of luxury, beauty and pampering, Brides les Bains is the place for you. Make sure you take a day off to switch off your mind and let the rejuvenating surroundings work their magic. Even if you're not usually a big spa person, you'd be crazy not to try out this one. Le Grand Spa is a palace designed for relaxation. The 1500m squared site is designed to give you a new lease on life in a glamorous atmosphere. Chinese, Thai and Ayurvedic massages, ginger facial scrubs and seaweed wraps are just some of the forty different types of treatments for you to work your way through. Although the area has a year-round population of just 600, there is still a wide range of entertainment besides luxuriating in the spa. The only casino in the three valleys is at Brides les Bains, along with great shops, cinemas, discos, pubs, restaurants.
How to get to Brides Les Bains
Getting here by plain is quick and economical, with Lyon St Exupéry (177km), Chambéry (97km), Geneva (137km), and Grenoble (121km) airports nearby.
Moutiers station is just a few kilometres from the village.
Take the A430 Motorway and highway (N90 2X2 lanes) to within just 6 kms of Brides-les-Bains
From Moûtiers, head for Vallée de Bozel / Brides-les-Bains: it's just 6 kilometres away on an easy road with no hairpin bends.