Story and photos by Mike Coil

MERIBEL, France – Big Sky resident and Ophir student, Reece Bell, 11, is now Britain’s National U-12 Champion.

In early April, Bell, who was born in the U.K., competed in three races in Meribel, France. She won two, including a giant slalom on the lower portion of the women’s Olympic downhill course. In the third race, a kombi, she placed second, only .02 seconds behind the first place finisher.

Bell, a Big Sky Ski Education Foundation racer who won 11 out of 14 races this past season in the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association’s Northern Division, enjoyed her first international race, although competition was intense with British and French racers competing for the top title.

“I was breathing heavy in the start gate,” Bell said. “The GS was the iciest, scariest and steepest course I’ve ever done.”

In addition to winning her age group in the GS, she placed in the Top 10 overall, beating girls up to three years older.

Bell, who holds both British and U.S. passports, would like to follow in her father Martin Bell’s ski boots and compete on the World Cup circuit. However, she will not have to choose a country for several more years.

Founded by a Brit, Colonel Peter Lindsay, Meribel is one part of the Three Valleys, the largest ski area in the world. The other two sections are Val Thorens and Courchevel. With more than 625,000 skiable acres, the five largest ski areas in North America could fit in the Three Valleys several times over. Not surprisingly, skiers flock from around the world to visit this resort. There is never a lift line or a lack of terrain to explore.

Reece Bell’s sponsors include Shelly Bermont Jewelry, Lone Peak Physical Therapy, Grizzly Outfitters, Harvey Hertz, Atomic U.K., POC U.K., Slick Willy’s Banana Wax and Angel, Coil and Bartlett.