Sitting in the chair lift felt surreal. The scenery was like something from a movie set. I have skied a few times but I have never experienced anything like the conditions in Val d’Isere. The area is so vast, there are so many different mountains and when you think you can’t possibly see anything more beautiful, another majestic peak appears.
Val d’Isere is located in one of the world’s best ski areas, Espace Killy. With an altitude of 3480 meters, over 300km of runs and 96 different lifts, the conditions are perfect. You are almost guaranteed snow from late November to April and 50% of the slopes are suitable for beginners and intermediates. I was lucky to be brought on a four day Club Med ski trip to Val d’Isere, thanks to Sunway Holidays, who are the agents in Ireland for Club Med. It was 12 years since I had skied so I was a little apprehensive before I left. Many told me it was like riding a bike. In the gondola going to the top of the mountain, I prayed this was true! There was 8 in my group and I hoped I wasn’t going to be the one holding them back….
I need not have worried, our Club Med ski instructor made me feel completely at ease and within minutes I was skiing like a native. Ok maybe that’s an exaggeration, but you get the idea! What I loved about Val d’Isere was that there were so many green runs (easy runs for those who don’t know the lingo) at the top of the mountain. Regardless of your ability, beginner or advanced, you can experience the thrill of skiing from the top to the bottom. It is exhilarating.
For many years Everest Base Camp was at the top of my adventure bucket list, I always hoped I would get there one day. Riding a chair lift over 3000 meters, with Mont Blanc in the distance, I actually felt like I was there. I know I might sound like I am going overboard about the scenery, but honestly there were times when I felt genuinely overwhelmed. I think its safe to say I have the ski bug. Skiing will have to be a vital part of my annual holiday plans from now on.
On our third day we skied from Val d’Isere into the nearby resort of Tignes. I downloaded the ski app (ski tracks) which measures altitude, speed and distance. I felt a tremendous sense of pride and achievement knowing I skied 14 km from 3000 meters, and even reached a max speed of 45 km per hour. Not bad for a beginner!
From a personal perspective I normally find it hard to ‘switch off’. I’m not one for yoga or meditation. In fact even when I am lying on a sun lounger, I’m constantly checking my phone, and always thinking about what I have to do and when I will get to do it. When I skied down the mountain, all I thought about was skiing, controlling my speed and the beautiful surroundings. My time on the mountain was my own and for that brief moment, nothing else mattered. I wondered was this what meditation or mindfulness was all about, something that never worked for me in the past.
I stayed in Club Med Val d’Isere where unlike most ski holidays, ski lessons are included in the price of your holiday. Lessons are twice per day, 2 and a half hours per session. The resort is all-inclusive so not only are lessons and lift passes included, but meals and drinks are too. Lift passes and tuition are an expensive part of any skiing holiday so to have these included is a massive bonus. Club Med is a ski in – ski out resort (in fact almost all Club Med ski resorts have this facility) so you can ski directly from the hotel to the slopes, something I had never experienced before.
I can’t stress enough how great this is. No need to carry heavy boots and skis, to be able to pop on your ski gear and be on the mountain in minutes is fantastic. The lockers, which are situated next to the ski slopes are heated. When you put your ski boots on each morning they are warm. Club Med organise a great send off too, with drinks and snacks outside. When you come back from your lessons, the après ski kicks off, with a DJ playing tunes and friendly staff waiting to greet you with more drinks and hot snacks.
The all-inclusive arrangement with Club Med is excellent. They pride themselves on their extraordinary buffets, with various cooking stations and a variety of choices. This was my second time in a Club Med resort. Although I found the variety in the buffet better in the Algarve, the standard was still far superior to anything I have seen in other all-inclusive resorts.
Every day there are numerous choices of fish, meat and vegetarian options, as well as a separate room with fresh pasta sauces, pizzas and even burgers. For those who don’t like buffets, there are cooking stations, where chefs plate your dish in front of you. This avoids crowded plates, piled high with food – a pet hate of mine. Wine is served by the bottle at your table and the staff are always on hand for top ups if needed. The staff overall are very attentive. The manager greets guests at all meal times, a rarity nowadays. Deserts are delicious too and so is the selection of home made ice creams. Thankfully most of the excess calories are burned off on the mountain…
I really like the bar in Club Med Val d’Isere, it is modern with a great atmosphere. There is a wide choice of cocktails available, included in the price of your holiday. Drinks were served in nice glasses too, no tiny wine glasses or small cocktail glasses – another pet hate of mine!
There is entertainment every night, from musicals to magic shows, followed by a DJ until the small hours. Guests love to get involved in the entertainment at Club Med, and the dance floor was packed every night with rows and rows of people following the entertainers dance moves. This is typical of what you can expect at all Club Med resorts, a friendly fun atmosphere throughout.
I should point out that Club Med have a staggering 70 resorts worldwide. Although the name suggests the Mediterranean, they have resorts in the US, China, the Maldives as well as cruises and adult only resorts. A massive bonus for families is that children under 4 stay free at all Club Med Ski resorts, and under 6 years stay free at Club Med Sun resorts.
Club Med have 23 ski resorts in France, Italy and Switzerland. Club Med Val d’Isere, although suitable for families with teenagers, doesn’t offer lessons to children under 12. For that reason it tends to attract more couples and groups rather than families. However if you are planning a skiing holiday with young kids, some of the other Club Med resorts are perfect for families and include lessons to children from age 4. The combination of the excellent tuition, great food and the ski in ski out facility, makes them hard to beat. I have seen parents try to carry their kids skis and boots as well as their own, getting on ski buses, dropping hats, gloves – it doesn’t get the day off to the right start!
If you fancy taking a day off skiing, you can use your lift pass to take the gondola to the top of the mountain, to enjoy a coffee on the slopes and take in the views. The town of Val d’Isere is worth exploring too, there are plenty of good shops and lots of great après ski bars. Although the best après ski bar is located on the mountain. Part of a chain of French après ski bars, La Folie Douce has to seen to be believed. We went one afternoon and discovered hundreds of people drinking beer and dancing on tables to the latest tunes. It felt like a nightclub at 2am but it was only 4pm – it was crazy but great at the same time! Thankfully it is situated right beside the gondola station so if you have one to many, you don’t have to ski down the mountain. Although I was told that you do your best skiing after a drink or two – needless to say I didn’t find out if that was true…
Of course if you don’t want to venture too far, you can always chill out at Club Med and enjoy the on site facilities. Club Med’s stone and wooden facades fit in perfectly with Val d’Isere’s traditional chalets, and there is a great outdoor terrace with views of the mountain. If you are feeling energetic there are daily fitness classes as well as a large indoor swimming pool, sauna and spa.
I have some some amazing holiday experiences over the years. Skiing down the mountain in Val d’Isere is up there with the best of them. All Club Med Ski holidays include flights, transfers, all meals, drinks, lessons and lift passes so if planning a ski trip make sure you take this into account when comparing prices.
For information on prices and Club Med resorts visit ClubMedSunway.ie
Like Club Med resorts? Read my post on Club Med da Balaia in the Algarve.