In March I booked a First Class Suite on Singapore Airlines to visit a friend in Singapore for his birthday. Throughout my childhood I was always taught that despite getting a better offer, I should honour my original commitment – but that all went out the window when Club Med proposed a week long snow ‘Instameet’ in the French Alps. I swiftly informed Rob that I’d be celebrating his birthday with him later than expected, moved the flights, and packed a suitcase for some world class Spring skiing at Club Med Val Thorens and Peisey-Vallandry.
Before long I was at Changi Airport shaking hands with a troop of influencers from around Asia, en route to Geneva via Paris Charles De Gaulle. Our extended layover at CDG was relatively painless, making use of the Air France facilities and enjoying a tour of a recently refurbished Air France 777.
Until last month, I’d never been to a Club Med resort, so I had no idea what to expect. For a first timer, it’s certainly an interesting experience, one that begins the moment you pull into the drive way at the resort, with 20 odd staff members waving eagerly and cheering, as you disembark the bus. From that point on, it’s about as seamless an experience you could ever imagine.
I find the all inclusive concept hugely appealing, and I can imagine family men find it even more so. Don’t get me wrong, all holidays are amazing, but the constant strain on the wallet doesn’t go unnoticed. The idea of paying for something up front, and not needing to worry about it for the entirety of your trip, is alluring to say the least. I’m certain many folks who visit Club Med don’t spend a single cent outside of their package deal. I on the other hand, am not one of those people, choosing to investigate restaurants, bars and shops outside the resort, but I also suspect this relies partly on the destination.
We got a great taste of the Club Med ski experience at two very different resorts. Our first stop was Club Med Peisey-Vallandry, located about 2 hours drive from Geneva Airport. The traditional chalet style resort boasts huge accommodations with balconies, ski in ski out access, pool and jacuzzi, and one of the most stunning views of the French Alps anyone could hope for. The town itself is small and extremely quiet, and there’s not a lot of reasons to leave the resort itself (granted it was the last fortnight of the season).
To me Peisey-Vallandry appeared to be a very family orientated resort, and the preferred resort for those learning to ski or snowboard. I decided after snowboarding for my whole life that I’d learn to ski with our group, some who’d never seen the snow before. The snow wasn’t amazing, but the weather and the lack of crowds made up for it ten fold. Our instructor William was excellent, and the accessibility of surrounding resorts into Les Arcs ensured we had more than enough terrain to enjoy.
Club Med Val Thorens Sensations, situated about 70km from Peisey-Vallandry is a different product in almost every way. The resort is essentially brand new boasting specialty dining, wine and cheese tasting, countless activities, and an ultra modern aesthetic which I don’t think will appeal to everyone. The rooms are clean and contemporary, but lack the wow factor of those at Peisey-Vallandry, with views in the lower level rooms blocked by surrounding buildings in the village, and no balconies.
The town itself is a bustling little city compared to sleepy Peisey-Vallandry with a host of restaurants, bars, nightclubs and stores to visit – easily the biggest drawcard for Val Thorens, especially if you’re someone who likes to explore.
After some poor weather and inability (and impatience) to deal with the extreme crowds I ditched my skis for a snowboard. On the final day of our trip, following a solid 20 hours of snowfall, I was rewarded with the best sessions of my life, floating through the driest thigh deep powder I’d ever seen from the highest chair lifted point in Europe.
Celebrating a sensational day on the slopes in Val Thorens is as simple as catching the Plein Sud chairlift back to the top and unstrapping at La Folie Douce where the concept of Apres Ski gets completely reimagined. Hundreds of punters drinking in the snow or sun, dancing on tables in their boots, before strapping back in and confidently descending into the village before nightfall.
Where the Club Med experience really exceeded my expectations was the food and beverage offering. Buffets are notoriously sub standard but I’m pleased to report that both resorts provided and abundance of impressive food throughout our stay covering every cuisine you could imagine, including speciality dining options and snacks throughout the day. It is truly never ending, and it’ll catch you out if you’re not careful! Australian customers will also appreciate the never ending alcohol options, including cocktails, spirits, beers and wine.
Jack (Boss Hunting) and I spent afternoons at Peisey-Vallandry filled with long games of chess and a never ending supply of Kronenbourg 1664 and Aperol Spritz’. Both resorts offered additional alcohol options, including a fine wine menu at Val Thorens. These aren’t included in the all-inclusive rate, but it’s certainly something you’ll want to consider after drinking the same wine at dinner 5 nights in a row.
Finally, I thought it was worth touching on the entertainment side of the Club Med experience, with each and every night having its own theme, and series of stage shows and performances put on by the ‘G.O.’s. (Gentil Organisateur – Club Med’s staff). The spirit for which Club Med has become known for, is fascinating to say the very least, and when embraced can be a real laugh. Again however, it’s not to everyone’s tastes.
I really couldn’t separate the two resorts on preference, both had their pros and cons in terms of accommodations, location and skiing, and both delivered equally as well in the dining and alcohol department. I think Val Thorens Sensations would be the pick for advanced skiers keen to sample the local nightlife, whilst Peisey-Vallandry would suit beginner and intermediate couples and families who want the full Club Med resort experience. What I will say, is that my first Club Med experience was seriously enjoyable, almost entirely stress free, and a fantastic way to access some of the best ski slopes in the world.