A confident skier and a beginner does not make a good coupling for a ski holiday in the Alps. One wants to scale the mountain highs and zip down with the wind. The other topples over awkwardly on the skis with every second snow plough.
Yet at Club Med this combo of holidaymaker works. The skiing (and snowboarding) experience that Club Med offers is sensational. It caters for all ski abilities from beginner, through to intermediate and seasoned.
How does it work?
Skiers are grouped into lessons of a maximum of 12 people based on ability. The groups retain the same instructor for the week who moves onto more difficult slopes as you improve. The groups travel across the domain, so there is no risk of boredom. Those that improve faster than the rest of the group can join a more competent group and those that need extra coaching will be able to get it.
None of us in the beginners group had previous ski experience, yet by day five we were able to descend a blue slope unscathed and with some competence. Seasoned skiers are taken off-piste safely with their guide and back to safety if things go wrong.
Skiers have the option to go it alone, but that would be missing the point of a Club Med holiday and of course the pleasant camaraderie of group skiing.
What about the kit?
The convenience factor is especially appealing. Their packages include all the ski hire, ski passes, tuition and transfers between the different ski slopes as well as lunch at nearby restaurants.
The company has several resorts in France and we chose to holiday at their Chamonix Mont Blanc in the Rhone-Alpes region in south-eastern France. After checking-in we were provided with a wrist band that gives access to the all-inclusive package and sent us to the bar for drink our or two.
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The rooms are pleasant enough, if somewhat basic. The walls were dressed in a friendly shade of blue with a white trim to denote melting snow, but they are small. There is a shelving unit and a space (not cupboard) to hang clothes and a pair of curtains that don’t quite fit the windows. Oh and a tiny en-suite shower cubicle. The loo is separate.
I longed for a warming bath after long days on the ski slopes but in the absence of this luxury, the hamam, sauna and outdoor swimming pool did the trick, which is all included in the package. I managed to squeeze in an Ayurvedic massage to relieve the après-ski muscle stress in the Cinque Monds spa, which incidentally is a service that is not included in the package.
Food and drink
Dining is a major social aspect. Tables are for eight people so socialising is easy. A buffet breakfast, lunch, dinner with wine (just one style of country white and one basic red) and even cakes and biscuits at tea time were both ample and delicious. But eating in the same dining hall can get a little monotonous. Another restaurant, the Refuge offers an a la carte menu of Savoyard cuisine. With seating for just 50, getting a booking proved difficult. Those that did have the pleasure recommended the fondue, raclette (semi hard cow’s cheese) and pierrade (various meats cooked on hot stone).
Though this is highly polished ski-focussed resort, not everyone wants to ski and for those the company arranges walking groups to explore the region and the awesome alpine views.
What is Chamonix town like?
The town of Chamonix is just a minute walk away from the hotel, and is, I hate to use a cliché, as pretty as a picture. Gorgeous architecture houses a lovely range of shops and restaurants along dainty streets that fan out from a couple of pretty squares. All this is hemmed by a mountainous backdrop that is particularly stunning when the sun rises or sets and throwing off an orange hue on the mountain peaks.
The Montenvers rack railway is at the edge of town and it goes to just one destination – Mer de Glace (ice sea). This is one of the biggest glaciers in Europe. We took, perhaps foolhardily, the 350 steps to descend to the ice tunnel which looked spectacular from the station viewing points. Inside though, there was a light show that emanates from the walls and every now and again, an ice sculpture. I couldn’t fathom the point of the tunnel, but we visited it, because it was there.
Need to know
The resort has altitudes between 3 295 m and 1 050 m
46 ski-lifts ; 67 snow cannons ; Snowpark. (Grands Montets)
182 km of ski runs: 12 black ; 21 red ; 31 blue ; 16 green.
Club Med packages include return flights, transfers, accommodation, taxes and tips, all meals and snacks and an open bar drinks, afternoon tea, snacks. Also included are the ski pass, group lessons and ski hire and free access to various fitness and spa facilities. Free stay for children under 4 years.
Closest airport to Chamonix is Geneva.