I GREW UP SKIING the rugged Eastern seaboard of the US, where icy conditions and boring cafeteria-style food choices were the status quo. We would ski all day, stop for a quick pre-packaged sandwich at lunch, and then make the long walk back out to the parking lot when the lifts closed. Now don’t get me wrong, these are some of my fondest memories of growing up; I just didn’t know there was any other way.
That was until I stepped into the Club Med Val Thorens experience.
Truth be told, I was a bit reluctant when originally invited to the property, as my perception of Club Med was limited to old generic commercials and magazine ads. At the last minute, curiosity and French cuisine won over and I couldn’t be happier with my decision to go.
The winding roads and breathtaking views on the ride from Lyons Airport set the visual standard for my first trip into the French Alps. One walk through the Club Med lobby, and my fear of cookie-cutter all-inclusives quickly faded away. Club Med crowd-sourced the property’s décor ideas from its 1.2 million Facebook fans, and those fans chose things like the four-story rock climbing wall and eclectic common-area furniture.
While the property design and bedside views were noteworthy on their own, it was the services and attention to detail that stole the show.
Here’s five things that created the perfect ski experience for me:
1. The Ski-in, ski-out location means so much less time walking around in clunky ski boots.
Any downhill enthusiast knows the uncomfortable reality of walking around in ski boots. Any chance you get to minimize that ankle-throbbing activity, you take it. Club Med’s ski center is just an elevator ride away from your room. Complete with lockers for your gear and slopeside access, 99% of your ski boot time is spent carving instead of cursing.
2. The après ski greeting will forever put to shame your other, probably lamer post-ski rituals.
Unclip your skis, rip off your gloves, and grab a drink. In true French fashion, there’s a team of smiling faces to greet you with refreshing wine and luxurious cheeses from the moment you step in from the cold.
3. The CARITA Spa & Hammam is amazing.
Three words: Post. Ski. Massage. You can go a little bit harder on the mountain knowing this is waiting for you when you return. Add a visit to the on-site hammam (steam room), and you’re immediately sunk into an avalanche of relaxation.
4. The French do know their cuisine.
You don’t always associate all-inclusive resorts with sophisticated food choices, but don’t tell that to the French. Start with the Epicurious — a sit-down spot with a menu designed by twice-Michelin-starred Edouard Loubet. Then there’s Yurt — a more informal buffet affair for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that features fresh croissants, foie gras, and a full-on oyster-shucking station.
Of course, you don’t always have to eat on-resort. An incredible off-property option in Val Thorens is Restaurant Jean Sulpice, run by the youngest French chef ever to receive a Michelin star.
5. The all-inclusive skiing is top quality, convenient, and great value for what you pay.
With all the indoor activities and edible arrangements, it’s easy to lose sight of the main attraction. Les Trois Vallées (The Three Valleys) in the French Alps is the world’s largest and highest interlinked ski area. At an elevation of 7,545 feet, it has 372 miles of internationally acclaimed ski slopes. Val Thorens sits within this region and was named “World’s Best Ski Resort,” “Most Innovative Ski Resort in Europe,” and “France’s Best Ski Resort” in the November 2013 World Ski Awards.
From Val Thorens, you can easily access other Trois Vallées resorts, including Méribel (host of the women’s alpine skiing events during the 1992 Winter Olympics) and Courchevel (renowned for its line-free lifts). This means there’s absolutely no chance you’ll get bored on the mountain, and you’ll be able to find something for absolutely every skill level.
So you get all that, and then included in the all-inclusive rate are your lift passes, as well as group lessons from ESF ski instructors to help you navigate it all. From there, it’s up to you to decide which patch of fresh powder you want to play in.
The only negative that comes from a trip like this? Club Med has now completely raised the bar for my future ski experiences.