South Africans don’t get a great deal of opportunity to hit the slopes. But when we do, we hit them hard. And no one hit them harder than I did during our recent week-long ski vacation at Club Med Val Thorens Sensations in the French Alps. I fell over way more than anyone else in our group did. But then I’d get up again and whizz off to the next fall.
The whizz is the fun bit, by the way. It makes the falling worth it.
Team CN&CO was well represented at the #SkiRunOrgan trip to Val Thorens, Paris and Dubai at the beginning of April. It was a trip-of-a-lifetime, combining a week of skiing with a long weekend in Paris (incorporating the Paris Marathon for some) and a few days in Dubai for a small group, just to take the chill off.
Round 1: Val Thorens
As someone said on the bus once we headed above the snow line, it felt like we were on the wrapper of a Swiss chocolate slab.
Val Thorens is the highest ski resort in Europe, which means ski conditions last way longer than anywhere else. Most other regions run out of snow by the end of March, according to my ski instructor Adèle Tiberghien. Yet as I sit here at my desk in Joburg on 19 April, the snow report tells me that there’s 150cm at the top and 95cm at the bottom, and that 81 of the 82 slopes in the area are open. The website lists 1 May as the last day of skiing.
So much for those who said we wouldn’t get out on the slopes!
What struck me most about Val Thorens was its massive size – not the village itself, but the actual ski slopes. It forms part of the Three Valleys ski area, which is ridiculously huge – reportedly the largest ski area in the world, with more than 340 slopes and 160 ski lift operators. Our Club Med ski pass gave us access to all of them! We could literally go on any slope, any lift, any gondola, anywhere, at any time we wanted.
We also each had our own ski/snowboard group for the week, complete with dedicated instructor. Being such a big posse, we were able to chop and change groups depending on ability – some snow bunnies wanted to go higher and faster, while others, like me, were happy to plod along the green slopes for the whole week (although Adèle did reveal, after my very last run, that I’d actually conquered a blue slope, which made me feel most accomplished).
This amazing video by Nina Pearse (accomplished snowboarder who managed to conquer an incredible amount of virgin powder on the trip) perfectly captures the essence of our week in Val Thorens.
Being Club Med, everything was included – accommodation, food, drinks, entertainment, ski/snowboard equipment, instructors, transfers… everything. The rooms were really spacious, with balconies overlooking the mountains, Wi-Fi, loads of cupboard space, bath and shower (important for some – i.e. my roommate, Michele, who prefers to bath), and lots of reading lights over the bed (important for others – i.e. me, the big reading-nerd).
I’ll end the Val Thorens bit with a confession – I always imagined a Club Med holiday would be really cheesy, with its organised activities and mass produced, buffet-style meals. But boy, was I wrong! There was never any pressure to participate in anything, and the food was way beyond my wildest expectations. I could have eaten all day… except that all I really wanted to do was get back out onto the slopes.
And yes, I did develop a little holiday crush on my ski instructor. But isn’t that what’s meant to happen?
Round 2: Paris
Michele and I (obviously) didn’t take part in the Paris Marathon, which meant we had three full days in Paris – two of which were spent on the open-top Big Bus and the third shopping and doing lunch.
Open-top bus tours are always a winner in a city like Paris. They help you to orientate yourself, and you can hop off at any time to do some exploring. What I loved about the Big Bus was the free Wi-Fi, which we grabbed wherever we could!
Shopping is also a must. Michele helped me to do some serious damage to my credit card – in euros, nogal, which grew more expensive by the day after our president’s disastrous cabinet reshuffle. But it was all worth it. I always say the pain of the debt is forgotten as soon as it’s paid off, while the thrill of the holiday lasts a lifetime. Probably not the most responsible approach to finances… but it is what it is.
Two Paris highlights for me were our night picnic in the gardens at the Eiffel Tower and the show at the Moulin Rouge.
Round 3: Dubai
We didn’t join the group in Dubai – preferring to come straight home from Paris – although we got to spend a fair amount of time in the airport since we flew Emirates. What a fantastic airline! The Airbus A380 was a treat to fly in and we got up to quite a few shenanigans on the flight.
Would I fly Emirates again to Europe? Probably not. It adds a whack of travel time onto the journey, although it can be a lot cheaper. However, I’d definitely consider the airline for destinations in the East.
Speaking of the East, there’s a Club Med ski resort in Japan that looks rather fabulous. And another resort in Turkey that might make for a good holiday.
Seems like the bug has bitten! I predict I’ll be spending a lot more time on the Club Med website in the near future. Join me?
Reflections on our #SkiRunOrgan Val Thorens/Paris trip