Trip Report: 3 Vallées France and Barcelona

The 2019 Europe trip began in the French Alps at the largest ski domaine in the world – 3 Vallées. Pick your superlative – laughably huge, astonishingly enormous – the ski area is roughly 15 times the size of Vail with 64,000 skiable acres and 200 lifts. In addition to its giant size and limitless trails, our six-day all-area ski pass cost only $340, a very attractive price.  The on-mountain dining options were plentiful, as was the regional Savoie wine.

We arrived on time and found ourselves in the beautiful Hôtel Mérilys in the village of Méribel. Our on-mountain location was ideal as we were only 100 yards from the slopes, making for a ski in/ski out experience.  On the first day, most people tried to get used to how big 3 Vallées is.  When one is in one of the valleys, the distance between one end and the other could easily be three miles!  The weather the first day was a bit too warm and we needed some fresh snow – and the snow gods were with us the rest of the week. Conditions we excellent and we even had one bluebird day.  We also experienced a blizzard day on Monday, in which many of us had to ski in whiteout conditions to make it back to the hotel.  A foot of snow fell on Thursday beginning in the afternoon, making for beautiful scenery at breakfast the next morning.  Kudos to Jerry Klaetsch, who spent one entire day skiing from Orelle to Courchevel Montriond..the longest distance from one end of the domaine to the other.

We all enjoyed the nightly dinners and the lobby bar, but we were a bit too loud for some of the local guests who choose to eat in the lobby the rest of the week.

On Wednesday most of us enjoyed a side trip to Annecy, which was about 90 minutes away and sits on a large lake in the mountain region. The town is known as the Venice of France as has several canals running through it. After a few hours of shopping, touring, and dining, we returned to the ski resort in time for another delicious dinner.

After a week of skiing, we loaded up the bus and headed to Geneva for a half day trip prior to the flight to Spain. We had a spectacular lunch at the ornate Café Restaurant du Parc des Bastions in a park just a few blocks from Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) and then spent the next three hours walking through the town.  This may have been Sanctuary’s first visit to the city, though the club has been to its airport many times.

That evening we flew to Barcelona, Spain, arriving quite late on Saturday night/ Sunday morning. We had arranged for a city tour the next morning and were surprised to find it was a bus tour and not a walking tour.  Although it was a welcome surprise, it would have been nice to share this info in advance with all our travelers. The sunny weather was perfect both days, and the hotel was only a few blocks from the Mediterranean Sea. Everyone enjoyed the city, the food (especially paella and tapas) and the nightlife. The cultural attractions were a highlight as well: the awe-inspiring Sagrada Familia cathedral designed by Antoni Gaudí, the Picasso Museum, the Joan Miro Museum, Park Guell and numerous other cathedrals and museums.  On Sunday the 17th many of us enjoyed a St Patrick’s Day drink at the Irish bars in the city center.  A small group took a train to the seaside city of Sitges for sun and seashore fun.  After a brief two day visit it was time to return to Chicago, though a few members had arranged to spend a few extra days in Barcelona.

It’s almost certain that Sanctuary Ski Club will return to both locations in the future to enjoy the French Alps and the world class city of Barcelona.
Ralph Wiechert and Bryant Harner

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