In the 1950s, the founders of Club Med declared: “The purpose of life is to be happy. The place to be thrilled is here. And the time to be happy is now. If you have been on a Club Med ski tripyou know that this slogan is as true today as it was 73 years ago when the first “Mediterranean” Club opened its doors in MajorcaSpain.
Skiing holidays, especially those in a foreign country, can be complicated. Arranging flights, transfers, equipment hire, lessons and advice can be overwhelming after deciding which country and ski area you want to visit. Of course, you can book with a travel agency or a site like Ski.com, but planning a trip is still time consuming and can be daunting. Club Med, on the other hand, makes things as simple as possible. Best known for its all-inclusive beach vacations, Club Med (you might not know) also has plenty of resorts tucked away in some of the best ski areas in the world.
I’ve been traveling for years and have perfected seat-of-pants travel because I love flexible schedules and the adventure of the unknown. When I received an invitation to the grand reopening of Club Med Tignes followed by a few days Club Med Val Thorens (both in the French Alps), I was intrigued. Club Med, after all, is the leader in all-inclusive vacations, with everything from flights and airport pickup to ski lessons and nightly entertainment.
The first thing I learned was that there are nearly 70 Club Med properties around the world, with over 20 ski-in ski-out resorts in the European Alps, Japan, China and North America . A new Club Med opened in Quebec in 2021, and the plan is to launch or relaunch approximately five premium properties globally each year. A station is expected to open in Snowbasin, UT, in 2025.
“The success of our resorts in the Alps, Japan and China has reinforced our know-how and confidence when it comes to operating a successful mountain resort model,” says Carolyne Doyon, President and CEO of Club Med North America and the Caribbean. “We look forward to introducing more North Americans to our all-inclusive ski concept with the 2025 opening of Club Med Utah, which will mark the only all-inclusive ski resort in the United States and our first in the country in 20 years.”
I have stayed in the famous Val Thorens and Tignes, and visited Club Med in Serre Chevalier, all a few hours drive away in the Southern French Alps. Here is what I learned.
1. The skiing experience is first class
You can bring your own ski equipment or have it provided by Club Med. In general, I recommend skiing with proven gear, especially boots, but Club Med’s rental fleet is solid with new skis and boots on the bike every season.
You can expect gear from top brands including Atomic, Rossignol, LaCroix and Volant. Each station has a ski shop, so you can easily swap boots for a better fit or swap skis. If there is powder, you can opt for wider boards or choose carvers for the hardpack.
Club Med prepares your equipment for you in your personal ski locker a few steps from the slopes. I was able to fly to Geneva, meet my driver and start skiing at 1:30 p.m. that same day.
2. You have access to some of the best guides and instructors in the world
You have never skied? No problem. Guides and instructors are the pillars of a Club Med ski experience and will make you register in a group adapted to your level. In France, the monitors are all ESF members – the largest group of ski instructors on the planet. If you’ve never skied before, you’ll probably be well on your way to going from beginner to intermediate (or intermediate to advanced) after a week of high-level instruction at Club Med.
Skiing with people of the same skill level adds to the excitement. If you’re traveling in a group, you can arrange to ski together, but it’s always more fun to ski with people of the same level and then meet up in the evening to swap stories. I had never skied in Val Thorens or Tignes and I can honestly say that the days on snow were among the best of my life. Best of all, my guide knew all the unmarked, powder-filled gullies.
3. You won’t go hungry
The Club Med breakfast buffet is better than many 5 star hotels I have visited. In addition, there is tea or coffee (and genepi, a herbal aperitif) and pastries in the ski locker room for those who may have been in the club late and want to hang on to those last minutes of sleep. When you return to the changing rooms en route for lunch, chances are you’ll be offered more genepi, cold cuts, cheese and fresh bread before returning to the buffet.
After the second ski session of the day, great afternoon at the bar. Dinner is another gigantic buffet, beer is on tap and waiters make sure your wine glass is never empty.
4. Party till dawn
Club Med prides itself on its entertainment. Each Club Med has a variation on daily activities with posted schedules. At Val Thorens Resort, I skied all day, then did a dozen routes on the indoor climbing wall that borders the huge lobby atrium.
When I was returning from dinner to my room, I came across salsa lessons every night and joined in to perfect my technique. Then, of course, I had all kinds of people to hang out with at the nightclub—new friends I’d met skiing and all the people I’d climbed and danced with earlier in the day.
In Tignes, I joined the yoga and fitness sessions and treated myself to a massage at the Spa. Each evening there are several songs and dances on the central stage followed by enthusiastic dancing until well after midnight. I never found myself staring at my cell phone or watching Netflix in my bedroom. There’s just too much fun to be had.
If Club Med is an ideal place for meetings with friends, it is also ideal for multigenerational family trips. There are elaborate activities for children, including ski lessons, of course. It is also an ideal place if you are traveling alone. There are plenty of like-minded sports people out there to ski and have fun. At the end of your visit, you will be making plans at the same time and place for the following year.
Here’s a closer look at some of the best Club Med properties for skiing.
1. Club Med Tignes
Club Med opened the first Club Med Tignes in 1958 and, in 2020, closed its doors to completely rebuild the resort in a new, more spacious location, including a 5-star Exclusive Collection area. The rooms are spacious, with balconies and magnificent views of the Alps. There is a huge indoor pool, gym, spa and Turkish bath.
The new building is dedicated to clean energy. Solar panels provide much of the hotel’s lighting, and the resort is serious about recycling and sourcing local produce. The main meeting place is the Equinoxe bar where you will find great drinks, wonderful views and camaraderie.
Tignes is the highest ski area in Europe, with a long ski season. You can ski between Tignes and Val d’Isère. There are over 185 miles of groomed trails and the “off piste” is extraordinary.
2. Club Med Val Thorens
Club Med Val Thorens has an intimate feel thanks to the multi-story central circular staircase that overlooks the lobby. Opposite the stairs is a multi-story climbing wall where an instructor gives you a brief safety briefing and lesson before leaving you to climb on your own.
Perched at 2,300 meters with more than 370 miles of skiing, the resort of Val Thorens, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. In addition to a giant buffet that prides itself on offering healthy options, there’s also a traditional fine-dining restaurant called Epicurious. You will have to visit during your stay. It’s non-negotiable. We don’t make the rules; we just apply them.
3. Club Med Serre Chevalier
In terms of a low-key traditional ski village, Serre Chevalier is unbeatable. The resort connects Briançon and Les Monêtier Le Bains, home to one of the best developed thermal springs in the world, The Great Baths of Monêtier. Serre Chevalier is also the largest ski area in the south of France and one of the largest in Europe, claiming one of the longest ski seasons.
The Club Med Serre Chevalier is a charming stone and wood pavilion with a large swimming pool and large outdoor terraces. The ski-in ski-out resort is at the foot of some of the best slopes in Serre Chevalier. The area has plenty of old fashioned charm and a fantastic range of terrain for skiers of all abilities. There are even public parom (meat) picnic/barbecue areas On Tracks. Located in the Ecrins National Park, much of the surrounding area around this Club Med resort is protected from development.
At a Club Med ski resort, you are sure to meet people from all over the world who share a love of skiing. Although there are plenty of families and groups, there are an equal number of guests traveling alone who like to meet other alpine enthusiasts.
Club Med is an excellent way to discover new places, especially for a first trip to a region. It eases entry barriers for those unaccustomed to international travel or who simply don’t have the energy, resources or interest to be their own booking agents and tour guides. There are nearly 600 ski resorts in France and Italy alone, so it’s hard to decide where to go.
One thing Club Med does for you is figure out where the best ski villages are, then get to them (and ski them) as easily as possible. There is even a “snow guarantee” clause (with supplement) in the Club Med contract which allows you to cancel or be compensated in the event of a lack of snow, both before your trip and during your stay.
Club Med really wants you to not only enjoy your vacation, but to be a loyal customer. Prices vary from property to property, but either way there are great deals to be had. Book early and you can save almost 50%. For spring skiing, you can save big on your vacation. Plus, you’ll have a stress-free and hassle-free vacation that allows you to disconnect and relax upon arrival.
“We pride ourselves on providing experiences that create lasting, transformative and treasured memories, and our wish is to continue to show travelers how easy it can be to travel the world, whether on the beaches of sand of Mexico or the mountains of the French Alps”, declares the president of Club Med, Henri Giscard d’Estaing, son of the former French president.
Club Med’s objective is to expand its portfolio with three to five resort openings (or reopenings) per year. In addition to a recently reopened Club Med Tignes, the brand also launched Club Med Val d’Isère (France) and Club Med Kiroro Peak (Japan) this winter.