Wellness combined with an active lifestyle. That’s how I can describe Brides-Les-Bains, a town in the middle of the French Alps. I was invited to explore the area so you can make the decision whether this town is the best option for you.
While Méribel is more high end and can be quite expensive, Brides-Les-Bains is more affordable
Brides-Les-Bains is the first town you will find when you visit the Three Valleys ski domain and consists of several towns; Courchevel, Val Thorens, Méribel, Les Menuires, Saint-Martin-de Belleville, La Tania, Orelle and Brides-Les-Bains. While Méribel is more high end and can be quite expensive, Brides-Les-Bains is more affordable and also very suitable for families and couples. The town’s name was named after the many thermal baths in the area, hence the name “Les Bains”. Back in the day, the town was mainly used by people that wanted to get their bodies back into shape but the Olympic Games back in 1992, gave Brides-Les-Bains a big boost and people from all over the world started to show interest in both wellness and skiing.
How to get there
Always a good way to start an article because if you can’t find it..;-) Brides-Les-Bains is about a 2 hour drive from Genève airport, which is only a 1 hour flight from Amsterdam. I prefer flying to a skiing destination because it saves you so much time! (I remember the days when I sat in the car for 13 hours, feeling pretty exhausted and having no energy left to go skiing the next morning). Flights cost around 180 euro’s return and if you book early, you might get a better deal!
Staying in Brides-Les-Bains is for those who are clever enough to spend less money but still enjoy the same slopes and activities as the people that like to stay closer to the mountain top. The “Olympe” cable car will take you right on top of the mountain and makes 2 stops which takes around 20 minutes in total. If you want to stay in Brides-Les-Bains, you have many options but one of the nicest hotels in town is the Mercure Grand Hotel Les Thermes. Why? Well, it has a spa for one (including a sauna and steam room!) and offers spa treatments such as facials and massages. There is a large restaurant that offers typical French food with a healthy twist, and the rooms are spacious and clean. Oh, and the bed sleeps magnificent! (I know because I slept like a baby) A double room will cost around 150 euro’s but if you book well in advance you..well, you catch my drift.
Ok, there will be skiing involved, (I promise you), but hear me out. Brides-Les-Bains actually has a lot more to offer than meets the eye. I tried a couple of different activities and I really loved them all. Whether it’s winter, or summertime, the area is a healthy destination 365 days a year. Let’s take a look:
» Skiing & Snowboarding. During the winter you can discover about 600 km of slopes. Insane! It’s suitable for beginners or pro’s and you can even take the chairlift to ski in Val Thorens.
» Après Ski. La Folie Douce is the place to be if you’re looking for a great party on the pistes. With a panoramic view of the mountains, you can have a lavish lunch here (expect high end prices), and enjoy a show of dance, singing and fireworks. People end up dancing on the tables and champagne is flowing in the VIP. Don’t forget that you still need to make it down in one piece! 😉
» Biathlon. You know the winter Olympics, where they cross-country ski in between the trees and then take out a big gun and manage to shoot at a tiny bullseye? Well, I did just that, minus the 20km cross country skiing. Laying down on the snow, I hit all the targets, but standing up was soooo difficult. Imagine doing that after an intensive ski course. I really gained respect for this sport, that was originally used as a military exercise!
» Snowshoeing. Yep, this is an activity that might seem a bit dull at first, but it’s basically hiking through the snow and enjoying some of the best views in the valley! I personally love that kind of stuff because we walked through the trees and discovered an igloo, animal tracks and a restaurant where they served freshly made gluhwein!
»Paragliding, for the daredevils, this is a wonderful activity. For me? Not so much.
» Helicopter Rides. There is a tiny airport at Méribel that is mainly used for hobbyist that own their own (small) planes but you can also book helicopter rides, with magnificent views over the valley.
During the summer you can go hiking or mountain biking and most travelers come here to combine their active lifestyle with a chance to completely relax in the thermal baths.
This topic needs a separate section because Brides-Les-Bains is really known for its spa life. Most decent hotels will have one and if they don’t you MUST visit the thermal baths just around the corner. It’s used all year round and the town is especially welcoming to those trying to lose a few pounds. Thermal baths are known for helping people with their weight loss because of the warm and cold water which helps circulate the blood. Weight loss treatments are actually covered by the French health insurance and doctors send overweight people to the spa’s in Brides-Les-Bains to get them back into a healthy shape. Most hotels within the area also offer low fat meals such as the Mercure Grand Hotel Les Thermes.