Is a Club Med Ski Vacation Right for You?
In the 1950s, the founders of Club Med stated: “The aim in life is to be happy. The place to be happy is here. And the time to be happy is now.” If you’ve been on a Club Med ski trip, you know that slogan is just as true today as it was some 73 ago when the first Club “Méditerranée” opened in Mallorca, Spain.
Ski holidays, especially those in a foreign country, can be complicated. Arranging flights, transfers, rental gear, lessons, and guiding can be overwhelming—and that’s after figuring out which country and ski area you want to visit. Sure, you can book with a tour company or site like Ski.com, but planning a trip is still time consuming and potentially intimidating. Club Med, on the other hand, makes it about as easy as it can get. Best known for all-inclusive beach vacations, Club Med (you may not have known) also has numerous resorts tucked away in some of the world’s top ski areas.
I’ve been traveling for years and have perfected seat-of-the-pants trips, as I love a flexible schedule and the adventure of the unknown. When I received an invitation to the grand re-opening of the Club Med Tignes followed by a few days at 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 planned from flights and airport pickup to ski lessons and nightly entertainment.
The first thing I learned is there are nearly 70 Club Med properties worldwide, with more than 20 ski-in, ski-out resorts across 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 about five high-end properties around the globe each year. A resort is planned to open in Snowbasin, UT, in 2024.
I stayed at the world-famous Val Thorens and Tignes, and toured Club Med in Serre Chevalier—all within a few hours’ drive in the southern Alps of France. Here’s what I learned.
1. The Ski Experience Is First Class
You can bring your own ski gear or have Club Med supply everything. In general, I recommend skiing with tried-and-true equipment, especially boots, but the Club Med rental fleet is solid with new skis and boots cycled in every season.
You can expect equipment from the best brands, including Atomic, Rossignol, LaCroix, and Volant. Each resort has a ski shop, so you can easily exchange boots for a better fit or swap out skis. If there’s powder, you can go with wider boards, or pick carvers for hardpack.
Club Med will have your equipment ready for you in your personal ski locker that’s just feet from the slopes. I was able to fly into Geneva, meet my driver, and start skiing by 1:30p.m. that same day.
2. You Have Access to Some of the World’s Best Guides and Instructors
Never skied before? No problem. Guides and instructors are pillars of a Club Med ski experience, and will get you signed up with a group tailored to your level. In France, the instructors are all ESF members—the biggest ski instructor group on the planet. If you’ve never skied, you’ll likely be well on your way from beginner to intermediate (or intermediate to advanced) after a week of top-tier Club Med instruction.
Skiing with people of the same skill level adds to the stoke. If you’re traveling with a group, you can arrange to ski together, but it’s always more fun to ski with people of a similar level, then get together in the evening to swap stories. I’d never skied Val Thorens or Tignes and I can honestly say the on-snow days were some of the best skiing of my life. Even better, my guide knew all the untracked, powder-filled gullies.
3. You Won’t Go Hungry
The Club Med breakfast buffet is better than many 5-star hotels I’ve visited. Plus, there’s tea or coffee (and génépi, an herbal aperitif) and pastries in the ski locker room for those who may have been clubbing late and want to snag those last few minutes of sleep. When you return to the locker room en route to lunch, chances are you’ll be offered more Génépi, charcuterie, cheese, and fresh bread before you head back to the buffet.
Following the 2nd ski session of the day, there’s a grand après-spread at the bar. Dinner is another ginormous buffet, beer is on tap, and the waitstaff makes sure your wine glass is never empty.
4. Party Until Dawn
Club Med prides itself on entertainment. Each Club Med has a variation on daily activities with posted schedules. At the Val Thorens Resort, I skied all day, then did a dozen routes on the indoor climbing wall that makes up the side of the huge lobby atrium.
When I was making my way from dinner back to my room, I stumbled into nightly salsa lessons and joined in to brush up on my technique. Then, of course, I had all sorts of people to hang out with at the night club—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. Every night, there are multiple song and dance acts 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 room. There’s just too much fun to be had.
While Club Med is a great place for buddy get-togethers, it’s also ideal for multi-generational family trips. There are elaborate activities for kids, including ski lessons, of course. It’s also a great spot if you’re traveling alone. There are plenty of like-minded athletic types who are there to ski and have fun. By the end of your visit, you’ll be making same-time, same-place plans for the following year.
Here’s a deeper look into some of the top Club Med properties for skiing.
1. Club Med Tignes
Club Med opened the original Club Med Tignes in 1958 and, in 2020, closed its doors to completely rebuild the resort in a new location with more space, including a 5-star Exclusive Collection area. The rooms are spacious, with balconies and gorgeous alpine views. There’s a huge indoor swimming pool, gym, spa, and Turkish bath.
The new building is devoted to clean energy. Solar panels provide much of the hotel’s lighting and the resort is serious about recycling and sourcing local products. The main hangout is the Equinoxe Bar where you’ll find great drinks, magnificent views, and camaraderie.
Tignes is the highest ski area in Europe, with a long ski season. You can ski between Tignes and Val d’Isere. 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 central multi-story circular staircase that overlooks the lobby. Across from the staircase is a multi-story climbing wall where an instructor gives you a quick safety talk and lesson before letting you climb to your heart’s content.
Perched at 2,300 meters with more than 370 miles of skiing, the resort of Val Thorens, celebrates its 50th birthday this year. In addition to a giant smorgasbord that prides itself on offering healthy options, there’s also a gourmet, traditional restaurant called Epicurious. You’ll have to visit during your stay. It’s nonnegotiable. We don’t make the rules; we simply enforce them.
3. Club Med Serre Chevalier
In terms of a low-key, traditional ski village, Serre Chevalier is unbeatable. The resort connects Briancon and Les Monêtier Le Bains, home to one of the world’s best developed thermal hot springs, Les Grands Bains du Monêtier. Serre Chevalier is also the biggest ski area in Southern France and one of Europe’s largest, claiming one of the longest ski seasons.
Club Med Serre Chevalier is a lovely stone and wood lodge complete with a big pool and grand outdoor decks. The ski-in,ski-out resort is at the base of some of Serre Chevalier’s best runs. The area has a lot of old-school charm and a fantastic range of terrain for skiers of all abilities. There are even public byom (meat) picnic/barbeque areas on the slopes. Situated in Les Ecrins National Park, much of the surrounding area around this Club Med resort is protected from development.
The Bottom Line
At a Club Med ski resort, you’re guaranteed to meet people from all over the world who share a love of skiing. While there are plenty of families and groups, there are an equal number of guests traveling on their own who love to meet fellow alpine enthusiasts.
Club Med is a great way to explore new places, especially for a first trip to a region. It eases the barriers of entry for those who aren’t accustomed to international travel, or who simply don’t have the energy, resources, or interest in being their own booking agents and tour guides. There are nearly 600 ski resorts in France and Italy alone, so deciding where to go is difficult.
One thing Club Med does for you is figure out where the best ski villages are, then makes travel to them (and skiing them) as easy as it gets. There’s even a “snow guarantee” clause (it costs extra) in the Club Med agreement that allows you to cancel or be compensated when there’s a lack of snow—both before your trip and during your stay.
Club Med really wants you to not only enjoy your holiday but to be a return customer. Prices vary from property to property, but across the board there are great deals to be had. Book early and you may save nearly 50 percent. For spring skiing, you can save big on a holiday. Plus, you’ll have a stress- and hassle-free vacation that lets you disconnect and relax upon arrival.
“We take pride in delivering experiences that create long-lasting, transformative, and cherished memories, and our wish is to continue showing travelers how seamless it can be to travel around the world—whether that be to the sandy beaches of Mexico or the mountains of the French Alps,” says Club Med’s president, Henri Giscard d’Estaing—son of the former French president.
Club Med’s goal is to expand its portfolio with three to five resort openings (or reopenings) per year. In addition to a newly re-opened Club Med Tignes, the brand also launched Club Med Val d’Isère (France) and Club Med Kiroro Peak (Japan) this winter.
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