For many Africans the concept of snow is a foreign one. The extent of our exposure is limited to the teasing snow-capped mountains in the Drakensburg or what could have been cement dust mistaken for snow a few years ago. But the reality is many South Africans have never experienced the frozen rain.
Being in sunny Africa a typical yet rewarding holiday would be spent on the coast, sun bathing and reading - with the only snow experienced being the crushed ice in the frozen margaritas. However, due to curiosity and Club Med, The Afropolitan found itself agreeing to attend the launch of their new ski resort; the Club Med Val Thorens Sensations in the French Alps.
Due to the fact that we are a beach and bush kind of country much panic ensued when we realised that there was a lot of ski gear we didn’t have and needed. However, our stress was alleviated when we found out the Club Med resort we were going to offers a fully stocked ski gear room where we would be able to get all our hardware. Calm was restored and before we knew it we were aboard our Air France flight to Paris, which was in itself a treat what with the flatbeds and French champagne on tap! From Paris we flew to Geneva and from there we drove to the resort.
When faced with having to decide between Beach or Bush holiday most people do not ever consider bum-boarding...in the snow!
The picturesque and postcard beauty of the two and a half drive to Saint-Martin-de-Bellevile was highlighted by the winding small town roads through La Bathie, Les Menuires and Saint Marcel and we couldn’t resist taking pictures at every turn to show off to our friends!
After filling up our memory cards we arrived at Club Med Val Thorens which was teeming with journalists and media personnel from around the world. After we were checked in the adventure of a lifetime began – and it was an adventure that would be filled with champagne, skiing and dancing until the wee hours of the morning!
A Town With Tourists In Mind
Club Med Val Thorens (CMVTS) is located in the picturesque village of Val Thorens that is nestled in the commune of Saint-Martin-de-Belleville in the Savoie Department of France. At 2300m altitude Val Thorens is the highest ski resort in Europe and forms part of the Les Trois Vallees linked ski area, which is the largest linked ski area in the world.
Club Med Val Thorens has been awarded Best Ski Resort in the World and Best French Ski Resort by the World Travel Awards 2014 and it’s easy to see why. From the minute you arrive you can feel the energy of the resort and the community at large but somehow that energy does not take away from the homely feeling you get as you walk around the small town. Being a ski resort, Val Thorens is always buzzing with tourists and the locals have mastered the art of making them feel welcome wherever you go. From the lady in the local bakery selling delicious carb-loaded baked goods to the law enforcers helping you find your way everyone is friendly and welcoming!
At the Club Med resort, the staff (Club Med G.Os) are ever present and willing to assist with each and every need the guests might have, it doesn’t take long to start feeling right at home and ready to have fun.
Our first day was laid back as we were given time for unpacking, freshening up and snoozing off the jetlag. With the falling snow outside it was easy to drop our shoulders and take a moment before hitting the slopes.
Being the highest resort in France, the skiing experience is second to none! While our own level of experience on the slopes had been limited to bum boarding in fake snow in sunny Johannesburg, trying out skiing for the first time was either going to be an amazing treat or a diabolical mess which could have resulted in broken bones and bruised egos. But having travelled so far there was no way we were not going to dominate the slopes…or at least try!
But because our enthusiasm surpassed my knowledge and skill, we was pleasantly surprised (and relieved) to find out that Club Med are keenly attuned to the varying degrees of skiing experience that their guests have. To this end they have taken the necessary measures to make sure that even the most hesitant novice heads out to the slopes with all the knowledge they want and all the support they need.
First stop was collecting all our gear and the GOs in charge of the equipment were knowledgeable and keen to fit us with the correct boots and skis. As beginners we were assigned ski instructors that patiently walked us through the process; from how to put on our skis, the correct way to walk in them and how to carry your equipment after. With much patience from Eliza our ClubMed instructor we were snow-ploughing like pros on the first day and skiing down slopes by our last day, albeit the junior ones, but we were amazed at our progress!
Did You Know?
ClubMed VTS has an on-site ski gear room where one can hire out equipment like ski boots, ski’s and poles. This equipment is replaced every year to ensure their guests only use the best.
A Resort Designed For You By You
Catering for client needs is not the only way in which ClubMed is made for you, ClubMed Val Thorens Sensations is the first resort to be made for you BY you! Using crowd sourcing via their networks on FaceBook and the Club Med family, they invited people to share what they wanted in a resort.
Based on this feedback they designed a hotel that catered specifically for their guests specifications. The look and feel of Val Thorens Sensations is designed to appeal to all your senses and your quirky side. When you enter the hotel foyer two wooden woolly sheep greet you and a climbing wall dares you to try it out. The lighting is eclectic and the touches are luxurious.
Every floor has a distinct theme, with bars and beer taps available so you will find thirst quenchers readily available after a hard day on the slopes. The top most floor offers the Epicurious lounge for the ultimate in fine dining. To compliment the Michelin star cuisine, there is a Wine Bar with a world-class selection of wines. The Epicurious Lounge has the added bonus of sunbeds and an outdoor Jacuzzi on its balcony. From there you can sit and sip champagne as you watch the ski lifts go by.
Should your body need a break from falling in the snow and the Jacuzzi isn’t easing the muscles enough, the Carita Spa is on site to soothe your muscles before you head out again.
Need we say more?
VTS offers several dining areas to guests staying at the resort – one of these options includes the option of dining in a Yurt. In keeping with the quirkiness of the resort, there is an indoor Yurt in the dining room where one can sit inside and dine. #TrueStory! For those not sure what a Yurt is, it is a traditional Turkish portable tent that is covered in animal skins or felt. Nomadic tribes use this as dwelling, but at Club Med it’s a design piece in which you can enjoy your meal!
Dining in the main area is buffet style with a larger than life assortment of desserts and breads. To add to that, there are a handful of chefs whipping up fresh meals with much French flair so leave your banting and paleo ways at home and indulge in some French breads and cheeses that will have you craving more!
Club Med is built to entertain – each and every floor offers a different vibe to cater for all tastes and party needs; from laid-back lounge tunes to a good old club dance riot. Over and above that there is a show put on every night by the staff to get the party started. It is highly recommended for guests to bring their dancing shoes and leave their cares at home when you visit a ClubMed resort!
While we were in Val Thorens we had the privilege of getting tickets to France's most prestigious ice-racing series held at the French ski resort of Val Thorens, The Andros Trophy!
Launched in 1990, The Andros Trophy attracts the world’s best drivers and car manufacturers to the highest ice race track in France. To prep for this glamorous and spectacular event the ice tracks are prepared weeks in advance, but the locals say due to the unpredictable alpine weather conditions ice melts or re-forms at unexpected points of the race making for very exhilarating racing!
Our FOMO got the better of us and we put our skis down for a while and enjoyed the action!
As with any ClubMed holiday, everything is all inclusive, from flights to food and fun and we thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent at Val Thorens. A ski holiday had never really been something we considered but as we made our way back we knew without a shadow of a doubt that we would be back!