Looking to escape the sun for the snow? JACQUI YOUNG and her family of first time skiers head to France for a holiday on the slopes.
We chose Club Med Peisey-Vallandry for our first French ski holiday, not only because Club Med’s all inclusive holidays make things so easy, but also because it’s relatively quick to get there from either Lyon or Zurich airport by resort transfer. It opens slightly later in the season than neighbouring properties, too, which suited our timing.
It received a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence for five consecutive years, and is beautifully located at a height of 1,600 metres in the Vanoise National Park in Savoy. It caters for skiing, snowboarding, walking and hiking, all of which can be done literally from the front door. The vast Paradiski ski area covers 425 kilometres of pistes at altitudes of between 1,200 and 3,000 metres.
We arrived late at night and after a short briefing, a quick snack and the collection of our keys and ski passes, we headed to our room, eager to catch up on some sleep in preparation for the following morning. Everything is planned effortlessly at Club Med, and after a wonderful buffet breakfast we headed in our posh new ski attire to the ski room to get measured for boots, skis and helmets. We certainly looked the part – “all the gear and no idea”, as some would say. For planning purposes, it’s perhaps better to arrive at the weekend so you can begin your ski “journey” from the Monday morning by joining the group ski lessons.
Alternatively, private lessons can also be arranged upon request via ESF Ski School, which runs the whole ski setup, from hiring equipment to planning your time on the slopes. We opted for the latter and were soon greeted by our ski instructor, Gary, who we later learnt was a championship skier. Having private lessons means the whole family can be together rather than the adults going in one group and the kids in another. I suppose the choice you make will depend on how long and hard your journey has been and whether or not you’re keen for some peace and quiet!
The learning curve
Off we headed, down the tunnel from the ski room to the entrance, where we were greeted with a fantastic atmosphere of upbeat music and warm drinks to get us in the mood and on our way. First step was to get acquainted with the ski lift, which is practically at the door of the hotel. This was new to us, but we managed to get through the turnstiles and shuffle along like penguins before the lift scooped us up and we were flying high. We then spent most of the first morning on the nursery slopes, being pulled up the hill by an automatic pulley rope and attempting to ski back down in various professional ski poses.
After a quick bite for lunch back at the hotel, we again headed up the mountain. Having now got the gist of what we were doing, we miraculously managed to navigate all the way down the slopes to arrive back at the hotel in one piece – with only a chipped tooth and some dented pride to worry about! That evening, the hotel put on a great show, which was performed by the GOs and GEs (the terms used for Club Med’s organisers and employees) and had us all dancing away. Afterwards, there was a disco and a band playing in the main lobby area.
On our second day, we got a little braver and ventured with our instructor to some higher ski lifts. We also spent some time playing around on the “drag lift” on our way up the mountain. Once again, we managed to ski all the way back to base with only a few ups and downs (but probably more downs, it’s fair to say).
The scenery here is stunning, and we couldn’t quite believe the contrast from the hotel level, which seemed to be already in its spring incarnation, to the deep snow-capped mountains higher up, with Mont Blanc looming in the distance. Photographers are stationed on the mountain slopes to take pictures that are available to purchase from the hotel – a great service. We also managed to take a trip on the Vanoise Express, which is at the bottom of the ski lift outside the hotel.
Entertainment for little ones at the resort is typical of the Club Med brand, and as usual, impeccably organised by the young and energetic team. This kids’ club was the most amazing we’ve seen, and it completely allows parents to chill out and relax whenever they want to. There is something for everyone: Petit Club Med caters for ages two to three years, Mini Club Med for ages four to 10, and Club Med Passworld for ages 11 to 17. The talented GOs organise the daily schedule, which can include group ski lessons, creative activities and shows for the different age groups. They can even take them for lunch and dinner. With entertainment every evening alternating between a show performed by the GOs and ones performed by the wonderful kids, there is always something going on.
Food is plentiful, and the beautiful array of dishes available almost constantly through the day means you never go hungry. Once the leisurely breakfast ends, the busy staff immediately begin clearing and setting up for lunch! Even when the lovely La Vanoise restaurant does close for a short time between meals, there’s normally morning or afternoon tea being served in the main bar area. Drinks are free-flow, based on your package.
For something different, and by advance booking only, the Pierra Menta restaurant serves regional specialities. We tried this one evening and enjoyed tender meat dishes served with vegetables and an amazing cheese fondue. For when you’re not skiing, Carita Spa has a full spa menu to relax body and mind; and on the same level you’ll find a heated swimming pool, a sauna and a hammam, as well as a fully equipped gym with daily fitness classes. It really does make you never want to leave!
For more information about Club Med Peisey-Vallandry or to book a holiday, visit clubmed.com.sg/PVAC.
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