Things are always clear in hindsight. That is particularly true when it comes to travelling to new destinations and heading off on new adventures. Whenever I plan on visiting somewhere new, I use my trusty friend, Google, or ask friends and people within my network (who have already travelled to that particular destination) for their advice and handy tips for first-timers to the area. At times, though, there are basic tips and principles that people (and Google) take for granted, and don’t even think to tell you.

That said, the team and I thought it’d be useful to start a series titled “I wish someone had told me – …” for each “first time” experience or trip. This series of posts will hopefully serve as a handy guide for anyone else who’s going through a similar “first” or travelling to a particular destination for the first time.

The first post in this series is for anyone heading out snowboarding (in Val Thorens, French Alps, in particular) and contains a list of things I wish someone had told me for my first trip. Carel and I will be heading off to Club Med’s resort in Val Thorens in April for a week of snowboarding with the brand, so this post serves multiple purposes.

Here goes…

I wish someone had told me – to pack (besides “the usual” stuff you’d pack for a cold/winter holiday):

  • Ski pants (waterproof)
  • Ski jacket (waterproof, with pockets – to keep your ski pass inside)

I would recommend buying your own pants and jacket in SA (the price might be quite a bit higher in Val Thorens with our current exchange rate.) A ski jacket and pair of ski pants can be quite pricey, so another option is to borrow from a friend who may already have a set to lend you for your trip. If you plan on heading out on more ski/snow trips after your first one, then buying your own set is an “investment.”

  • Ski socks (the thicker the better)
  • Ski goggles (SA doesn’t have a big variety of trendy looking ski goggles. You will find a much bigger variety in Val Thorens at about the same price as in SA. These goggles are a must. You don’t quite understand just how bright it gets until you’re on the slopes, almost blinded by the white snow all around).
  • Waterproof gloves (these should not be thin gloves, as you’ll need to fit hard padded wrist guards underneath your gloves – particularly for snowboarders).
  • Wrist guards (if you’re snowboarding)
  • A scarf
  • A warm hat/beanie
  • A buff (to wear over your mouth and guard you against cold air that’ll literally bite you atop a ski lift on very icy and windy days).
  • A swimming costume (for the Jacuzzi – if you’re staying at Club Med).
  • Shoes with rubber soles or good grip for when you’re taking a stroll around the town.
  • A mini flask to keep in your ski jacket pocket. To store water. Obviously.

You’ll get pretty dehydrated going up and down the slopes, and carting a backpack or bottles of water won’t be the most convenient thing. A mini flask with water in your pocket will be a godsend.

  • A small backpack (in case you want to take any NB supplies with you up and down the slopes. Ski jackets tend to have multiple pockets, so you’ll be able to store a fair amount in your jacket pockets alone).
  • Sunscreen! Don’t underestimate how sunburnt you can get (particularly on your face) while on the slopes. And let’s be honest, a goggle tan is not the trendiest thing.

If you’re flying Air France, you’ll be capped at 23kg’s with your luggage. For a ski/snowboarding holiday, that’s not a lot. Pack smart.


Club Med hotel

The lobby at the Club Med Val Thorens resort


I wish someone had told me – about Club Med Val Thorens:

  • Inside of the Club Med Val Thorens resort, it’s very warm. You’ll get away with wearing long pants and a tee inside. It’s outside that gets chilly.
  • There is a laundromat at the resort. This is often packed, so it’s handy to know that there is another laundromat about a two minute walk from the resort – which has a mini vending machine with all of the laundry detergents you’ll need.
  • You will have your own ski locker at Club Med (which you access with your room key) to store your skis, boots and helmets etc. in each day.
  • Club Med is a ski-in ski-out resort. What this means is that when you head into the Club Med ski equipment room (where you will all kit up each day before heading out onto the slopes) you will exit through a door which leads you directly onto a slope to begin skiing/boarding immediately. Handy? Heck yes!
  • If you opt to join the Club Med ski lessons, these will begin on the Monday and run daily until the Friday. Generally how it works is (Monday-Friday):

o   Breakfast

o   Morning ski/boarding lesson session on the slopes

o   Return for lunch at the resort (unless you opt to enjoy the apres ski and lunch at your own cost on the mountain)

o   Afternoon ski/boarding lesson session on the slopes

o   Afternoon tea and snacks (the most amazing buffet of snacks and treats, and hot drinks). There is also entertainment during tea time

o   Chill time

o   Dinner

Note: you’ll have access to coffee, tea and all hot drinks and water all throughout the hotel at all times of the day, for free.

 The above is the “general” routine at Club Med if you take part in the ski or snowboarding lessons. You don’t have to stick to this routine, though. If after a few lessons you feel confident to take to the slopes on your own, you are welcome to “leave” the lessons/group (after notifying your instructor.) Saturday is your “free day” without an instructor and you can enjoy the slopes at your leisure. By the Saturday, you will in all likelihood be confident to head off on your own after a few days of lessons.

If you do not partake in the ski lessons at all, your days and time are your own. Breakfast, lunch and dinner times are the same for every day. You will get the full run down on the Sunday of arrival.

  • There is a beautiful spa at Club Med. Any treatments will be for your own account. A massage after a strenuous day on the slopes will be a godsend.
  • There is a gym with the basic equipment (treadmill, some weights etc.) at the Club Med resort. Pack accordingly if you’d like to use it.
  • There is a daily stretch/pilates class after the afternoon ski session each day – to relax and ease out your muscles. Trust me, you’ll need a good stretch.
  • If “relaxing in a Jacuzzi on an outdoor balcony, in the snow, overlooking the French Alps” has been on your bucket list – prepare to tick it off at Club Med. For this, you’ll need to book a Jacuzzi slot with the team at reception.
  • I was in Val Thorens at their resort last year and had the best time. This is a little something I wrote for Bizcommunity on my return which I think gives a pretty nice overview on what to expect from the resort and Val Thorens village itself.
Club Med Val Thorens

The view of Val Thorens from the Jacuzzi balcony at Club Med


Gabbi in Val Thorens

Me (Gabbi) in Val Thorens rocking my Dead Reckoning tank top and leggings. See, I told you it wasn’t THAT cold…

I wish someone had told me – about a snowboarding holiday in general:

  • If you’re heading to the French Alps for a ski/snowboarding holiday, and are flying Air France, your flight route will more than likely look like this: SA -> Paris -> Geneva. This differs from airline to airline and itinerary to itinerary. From Geneva, you’ll catch a bus transfer to the resort. With Club Med, they have their own transfers that pick you up, and are generally included in your all-inclusive package (unless you specify “land only” with Club Med, in which case you’d organise your flights and transfers yourself. This is a mission, though, so best to stick with “ALL INCLUSIVE.”)
  • The drive from Geneva airport to Val Thorens is about 2.5 hours. Bring along a book or some music to keep you occupied, take a nap, or just relax and enjoy the scenery.
  • When you’re skiing and snowboarding, you won’t be as cold as you think. Don’t over dress on the slopes. A pair of long johns or leggings under your ski pants and a tee-shirt/thin long sleeve top under your ski jacket will be sufficient.

There may have been a few things I’ve overlooked (as Google and friends tend to do), but I will update this post as often as necessary to ensure I cover all bases.

If you have any other handy tips to add to this post, let me know:

This post was written from my hotel room, Ayre Hotel Rosellon in Barcelona, overlooking the spectacular Sagrada Familia. This is my first time visiting Barcelona, so my next post will be for things I wish someone had told me – about Barcelona.

Keep an eye out…