Melanie Harper from our Bangor branch headed for the snowy slopes of the Val Thornes Sensations Resort with Club Med and Advantage Travel Partnership.
Although we tend to associate Club Med with … well, the Med, the company has global reach and, amongst its destinations choices, boasts a fab skiing portfolio. Sixty-five years ago it pioneered the ‘all inclusive’ holiday and today it still champions the concept with its Signature, ‘where all-inclusive means all-inclusive’ –music to the ears of anyone who means to tackle the slopes.
Costs on a skiing holiday can rise at an alarming pace, so it pays to plan, and budget, ahead. That’s particularly the case if like me, you are a total beginner and may not necessarily know to look out for a holiday package which includes such things as lift passes and tuition.
Advantage Travel Partnership steered me to a short trip to Val Thornes located in the Tarentaise Valley, Savoie, in the French Alps, staying at Club Med’s own resort.
At an altitude of 2300 metres, this is the highest ski resort in Europe, set right in the heart of ‘Les Trois Vallées’, the largest ski area in the world and a region which offers something for skiers at every level, from those just sampling the sport to the most accomplished.
Although this is a French Alps resort, I flew Dublin to Geneva in Switzerland with Aer Lingus and then had a 3-hour transfer. That may seem like an Ordeal By Coach, but the gorgeous scenery makes the transfer a positive pleasure. Depending on the time of the year and where you choose to travel for skiing (Club Med has 21 ski resorts in the Alps in France, Italy and Switzerland) there are some options to travel direct from Belfast – talk to us for more info.
Once arrived, I checked into gorgeous, light and airy contemporary-style accommodation. Val Thorens Sensations has 384 rooms, each featuring top-end design and the Club Med Room I was booked into was excellent. For a return visit I would be tempted to upgrade - possibly to one of the lovely and really roomy Junior Suites with furnished balcony looking onto the mountains.
At the hotel our bags were taken to our rooms and it was straight to business as we went down to the ski room to get skis, sticks, boots and helmets. Your room number has the same number as your ski equipment storage locker and your room key card works for both.
Most people are eager to hit the slopes (my bottom certainly hit the snow a few times) and it’s nice to know that included in the overall price of the holiday are 6 days’ lift pass, 5 days’ of all-day ski and snowboard tuition, non-skiing activities such as Nordic walking and sledding and Wellbeing facilities such as pools, gym and sauna. The all-in extras are applicable to those 12 years and over, but Club Med which famously invested the Kiddies’ Club concept also copes admirably with little ones. The clubs for 4-17-year-olds come as part of the package, with additional, well-supervised facilities available at a modest cost for tinies from 4 months old.
Skiing is far from easy, but you don’t have to be an expert to really enjoy the sport. Anyone who has a moderate degree of fitness and a willingness to learn can have a go and will feel exhilarated and thrilled by the experience. Even if you aren’t sporty, everyone must surely be emotionally moved by the sheer beauty of the snow-covered vistas and slopes. Our ski instructors were enormously patient and good-humoured and managed to equip us with confidence as well as basic skills: I loved my first taste of the piste and will certainly be back to enjoy more.
One thing is for sure: the chill in the air, together with all that outdoor activity, really sharpens the appetite! It’s wonderful to grab a creamy hot chocolate or Gluhwein on the slopes or in the village, but when you have been out and about all day, the quality of the food offering in your hotel is particularly important.
The all-inclusive Club Med package focused on the informal main dining room which is called Yurts, serving Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner in buffet style. The selection each night was different and the variety satisfied everyone from plain eaters right through to foodies. We also took the opportunity to dine in the resort’s new speciality restaurant, Epicurious s, with a menu designed by twice Michelin-starred Edouard Loubet.
Apart from main meals, you can also snaffle a warming snack when you get back from skiing – just the thing to warm you up again. Even better, I recommend a session in the hotel’s Turkish Bath or sauna – fantastic!
Make a point of enjoying all the pleasures of après-ski in a great resort setting with fabulous panoramic views. There’s raucus fun for those who want to let their hair down, but there’s something for every taste here, with nightly themes to keep the entertainment fresh and fun … or just relax with a glass of something warming in the bar and enjoy the celebrated sociability of the resort.
I’ve always dithered about going skiing, wondering if I would really like the experience … unsure about the kit and clothing I’d need ….and wary about the likely expense. After this trip, I’m ready to become a total Ski Bunny! Talk to me at the Bangor branch of Oasis Travel if you’d like to hear more.