Club Med ski resorts in France: Stay in the French Alps and experience the best attractions within the region
Ski season often means tussling with the cold, biting the white dust, and perhaps peak content for your inactive social media accounts. But more importantly, it's an ingenious way for your body to work out while on vacation. Which we hardly ever do.
Last December, I found myself breaking out a sweat at the French Alps, housed within the cushy hands of Club Med — namely its properties, Grand Massif and Alpe d'Huez (a four-hour drive from one another). The former has slopes catered to novices warming up their skis for the very first time while the latter is skewed towards folks who have enough experience to run off unsupervised. My first day on the slopes felt extended, but tremendously fulfilling. Given that I started out from a neophyte and concluded the class with my instructor who talked us into conquering a slope wedging out of the beginner category. Safe to say, it was thrilling as it was physically challenging. I knew that the moment I saw the amount of calories clocked in on my Apple Watch.
No amount of prior knowledge would prepare one for the eminence of the French brand when it comes to conquering white powder. And it's a feat to experience it, when the ski-in-ski-out property is shoveling the carpet out for you. Figuratively, given that everything is settled from the moment you lock in your booking with them. From the rental of skis, ski boots and helmets, the ski lockers, the swift strokes of check-in, so much so that one can start gliding down pistes the morning after you arrive in the resort. All that's left up to your attention would be to pack your own skiwear as the resort only has them on retail, and not for rent.
Meals and free-flow house wines are all-inclusive, boasting a generous line-up of food stations at the buffet restaurant. If you're there for a week, the spread switches up just so there's always something new to pile on your plate. There's also another gourmet restaurant catered to serving things à la carte. Those with kids can actually have a vacation without the tods in tow, thanks to the resort's dedicated kids club that start as young as four months. Once you're hands-free, the time is yours to spend, really. Flush down trails varying from beginner to expert the entire day, après-ski whenever, and there's also an ethereal spa overlooking the alps that will soon become ubiquitous, to manage those aches you might feel the day after.
It's astonishing to how Club Med doesn't let on a feeling of confinement — even though I was indeed, stranded above the heights of fancy — with towering views of the snow-capped mountains as decent company. Because essentially, there's plenty to do within their quarters. With shows scheduled every evening, put on by staff members who you see serving you during lunch service, followed by an emblematic party involving an open bar, the resort's energy is entirely infectious. A general manager of a hotel is typically friendly yet reserved and branded by an impermeable disposition but at Club Med, the title is switched up to Chief of Village, to which the heart of the property is seen raising the roof — from hosting, dancing, standing on bar counters, and translating his performance in three languages. Then, the next morning, you see him promptly at breakfast, making rounds at every table.
While the cognoscenti might find the annual ski trip to be the moment they've been holding out all year for — uninterrupted strides down the French powder — it's also wise to make a trip out of your geographical location. To see what's down there. And that's what I did.
A day trip out to Megève
An hour and a half's drive from Club Med Grand Massif
Now touted as a ski village, Megève is charming at first sight. We knew it the moment we set foot on the cobblestoned floor tiles — almost like it stayed medieval just for the fun of it. The pedestrian complex houses designer brands from Maje to Hermès, and it's decently lined with just the right amount of people — eschewing the clutter and chaos that you might find in a city center. Here's where you can get most of your shopping done, especially when it comes to tasting and lugging back the region's finest cheese. For a headstart, we were towed around in a short ride with horses pulling the weight as we marveled at rustic chalets and a line of houses covered in a sheen of white. In the background, the glorious alps showing off in the same frame, of course.
For lunch, head to Le Prieuré. Right next to Hermès no less. But unlike it's bougie neighbour, the restaurant is more home than hostile — letting on an intimate space awashed with wood and more wood. They do a mean pork gratin, as well as giving chicken alfredo a good name. While the spread of sweets are equally delectable, do yourself a favour and make their hot chocolate a priority.
The contraption looked suspicious at first glance. And as I struggled to clasp my boot within, the sensation while walking on snow shoes felt a tad bit limiting. But not for long, as I later found, my new web feet had a strong grip on the slippery snow I was trekking on. It took a bit of getting used to the weight and motion, but the path as guided by Auvergne Rhône-Alpes Tourisme, took me up close and personal with the towering snow-capped alps. It takes one about an hour to tredge the trail until a short break, with the view surmounting any fatigue generated in your gams. The pitstop turned out to be a cosy yurt, where our guides dished out hot chocolate and traditional Savoy cake. The refuel did propel a greater urge to finish well, as we huddled out into te cold with heavy, thumping footsteps left imprinted in the snow.
Visit a castle
45 minutes from Lyon's Saint Exupéry airport/Two hours drive from Club Med Grand Massif
Veering into the Rhône-Alpes region, stands a 13th century castle, Chateau Chapeau Cornu, that miraculously survived the French Revolution. Given that it is a piece of history, touch-ups have evidently been made to the entire estate, while retaining the original blueprint. There's a brandy bar, fine dining restaurant, as well as 13 rooms to check yourself in. There's a mishmash of old English as well as modern nuances tailored in each bedroom, and the cool part is, all of them are designed differently. Be it colour schemes or display structures, for instance you might find a body of armour in your very own hallway. Or you could simply wake up to a head sculpture on above the room's dresser.
The fine dining restaurant, Le Capella prides themselves on sophisticated French fare from fresh, seasonal produce from all over the region. A degustation menu started with a smokey slab of foie gras, adorned with spiced wine poached pear and red onion chutney. While its roots were quintessientally French, the grub dabbled with surprising elements like mixing lobster with citrus white wine sauce and forming a duck jus out of sangria. Along the four-course lunch, there were textures that came into play, explosion of flavours as well as exquisite wines paired with every new plate dished out. I survived a major food coma after, but all was worth it in the name of good food.
Raid The Village's plethora of stores
12 minutes drive from Lyon's Saint Exupéry airport
This isn't Paris. But in a region like Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, an outlet avenue exists. Guised in a modish facade of glasshouses and life-sized teddy bears along the lawn, The Village isn't your typical unremarkable edifice loaded with hungry shoppers. In fact, it might just be redefining the meaning of outlet shopping. There's an artifical lake right in the middle of the entire space, trees and shrubs all around, and even Cirque Du Soleil performances come evenings. Notable brands include Karl Lagerfeld, Polo Ralph Lauren, Samsonite, and Sandro. And when you're all tapped out from the retail damage, there's the iconic Angelina where you can sip on that routinal cup of hot chocolate.
All experiences can be arranged by Auvergne Rhône-Alpes Tourisme via Club Med.
Ski season in Club Med starts in December and ends in April.
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