PLANNING A SKI TRIP can be a pain. There are more logistics required than your average vacation, since you have to worry about gear, lift tickets, and making sure kids stay safe out on the slopes. It can be a huge hassle.
Fun fact: You can save yourself much of that hassle (and a fair bit of money) by skipping the trip out to Aspen or Vail, and instead heading to a Club Med property in the Alps. Yep, it may seem counter-intuitive, but opting for a Club Med all-inclusive in the French, Swiss, or Italian Alps may actually save you time and money vs. a trip to a Rocky Mountain resort. Here’s why.
1. One word: Convenience.
From flights to transportation to accommodation to scoring equipment and lift passes, there can be a lot of steps between packing your bags and hitting the slopes. Club Med streamlines that process by taking all of the planning off your shoulders. You’ve paid for the whole package up front, so everything from the plane ride, to transport to your accommodations, to check in, to lift tickets and gear is organized for you. All you have to worry about is making it to one of the included group lessons, and then coming back for your already-arranged-and-paid-for après-ski at the resort.
It’s the much less stressful option when compared to a DIY ski trip, which will necessitate all of the same steps but require much more of both your attention and your stress.
2. It’s a way better option for families.
Traveling with kids is significantly more complicated than traveling solo or as a couple, which makes the relatively stress-free aspects of all-inclusives even more of a godsend. When you’re traveling DIY, you’re on your own in terms of taking care of your kids, but this isn’t the case at Club Med. They have training programs at all levels — from kiddie hills for the little guys, to more advanced lessons for kids 12 and older — as well as non-ski, child-oriented recreational activities like theater shows and parties.
3. Skipping a day of skiing is no big deal.
What are you really going to do in the Rockies in winter if you want to take a day off from skiing? Go into town and shop? Hang out and drink? DIY ski trips focus mainly on the ski experience, not on all of the other great aspects of being up in the mountains. Club Med provides a more diverse set of activities (albeit sometimes at an additional cost) — you can go mountain biking (yes, in the snow), ziplining, snowmobiling, paragliding, even take a trip out to an Alpine castle. The all-inclusive experience is an experience that keeps your options open.
4. Après-ski is infinitely better at all-inclusives.
Anyone who’s spent a full day on the slopes knows skiing can be exhilarating, but also exhausting. It can leave you sore, tired, and extremely hungry. The perfect finish to a day of skiing would obviously be to get back, pour a stiff cocktail, unwind in a sauna to get some heat back into your bones, and then go eat at a world-class restaurant. That’s an option at all-inclusives, where it’s standard practice to employ world-renowned, Michelin-starred chefs, and to stock world-class wine cellars (of course, the fanciest food and beverage options typically entail an extra cost).
This isn’t to say DIY ski vacationers can’t have these experiences — it’s just to say that a) they’re not included in the overall cost, and b) you’ll have to do all the logistics work yourself.
5. The quality of the mountains is something you probably haven’t experienced.
The number of Americans strapping on skis is shooting through the roof. This means more crowded slopes — at the mountain I most regularly go to in New York, you’ve got to get up at 8am at the latest if you want any chance of having an hour or two on the slopes before they’re absolutely tracked out and overrun.
This is even the case in the Rockies, where the largest interconnected American ski resort has 30 lifts. Les Trois Vallées, one of the largest resorts in the French Alps, has 170 lifts and nearly 400 miles of diverse trails, which means two big things: less crowded slopes, and, given the Alps’ higher annual snowfall, a lot more fresh powder. Great as the Rockies may be, they just can’t compare in terms of overall ski experience.
6. You can bring along non-skiers and they’ll still have fun.
Part of the problem with DIY skiing is it’s really a skiers-only activity. Sure, non-skiers can hang around the lodge, drink hot chocolate, and read, but if they aren’t big fans of skiing and still want some sort of outdoorsy activity, there isn’t much else on the slate for them. All-inclusives fix this problem. Aside from options like spas, saunas, Turkish baths, fitness centers, and all of the other standard pampering, there are a ton of non-ski adventure activities available for an extra fee: tobogganing, dog sledding, paragliding, and snowmobiling, for starters.
In a perfect world, everyone would be a skier, but it’s not quite a perfect world, so the alternative is to go on trips that both skiers and non-skiers can enjoy. And the all-inclusive route is better at accommodating both groups.
7. On an all-inclusive to the Alps, you get culture at no extra charge.
I’m not knocking any of the cities or towns in the Rockies, but they don’t hold a candle to the culture of a place like France. This isn’t a knock because no one holds a candle to French culture. No one, no matter how much they love Denver, is going to pick Denver as a day trip or layover destination if they could pick Paris instead — and you totally can. Say you’re heading to Val Thorens and want to stop in Paris on the way? Club Med can arrange that for you through their City Stops program.
On top of that, there’s the food. In the Alps, you have direct access to some of the finest culinary traditions in the world, so the food is going to be amazing no matter where you go. Not to mention the wine. Factor in that you’re getting all this culture included in your package, and the comparison becomes almost embarrassing.
8. You will save money.
Probably the most surprising fact about a Club Med ski trip is that the value of the services you get are incredible for what you pay.
Take, for example, a side-by-side comparison of a DIY trip to Aspen vs. an all-inclusive stay at Club Med Val D’Isère in the French Savoy Alps. The total cost of a DIY trip, including flights, transfers to the mountain, accommodations, meals, alcoholic drinks, lift tickets, ski lessons, and tips, is going to end up costing you over $3,000 less per couple at Club Med. This, along with the difference in slope and snow quality, along with all of the other side options that come with all-inclusives, and with all of the stress you’ve removed from the equation by going the all-inclusive route, makes the difference in value an absolute no-brainer.