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A weekend in the French Alps made me a born again skier
3:11pm Tuesday 20th December 2011 in Travel
I was not looking at the beautiful scenery of the French Alps as I skied down the perfectly white snow for the first time, writes Steve Zacharanda.
My eyes were fixed on the brand new Club Med resort fast approaching me as I tried to stop myself careering down the slope and crashing into its mighty fine restaurant.
I needn’t have worried though because my legs went in opposite directions and I ended up on my backside staring at the blue sky.
I couldn’t have been happier.
I’d reached 35 and had never been near a ski slope as I’ve always put off by having to learn a skill on holiday, the cold, the cost of the gear and everything else associated with a past-time that attracts those with wads of cash and are prone to wear red trousers.
However, I am now a ski convert. And am delighted that there are places like Club Med’s brand new Valmorel resort which have opened up skiing to everyday people who don’t want to break the bank.
The French based tourism giant has thrived after the credit crunch as tourists become more thrifty. Under the guidance of Henri Giscard d'Estaing, who couldn’t be more French if he tried, Club Med has attracted massive Chinese investment which injected funds to build a brand new £75m resort like Valmorel.
For a start it is all inclusive resort so visitors can eat and drink top class French fare to their hearts content without keeping a constant eye on their wallet.
It wouldn’t be France without an amazing array of food that would put any England holiday camp to shame. Breakfast, lunch and dinner ran like clockwork with meats, cheeses, countless main courses and delicate deserts.
The only trouble with buffets is that you need laser guided focus not to end up with plate after plate of food which you didn’t want but couldn’t resist and bare no relation to one another.
The oysters and the fois gras stood out for me and in the name of quality journalism I had them over and over again to ensure the taste was not a fluke.
Upstairs there is an al a carte restaurant which doesn’t have as much choice which, for me, was a relief.
And families can be safe in the knowledge that there will be plenty to do for the children, whether they want to ski or not, classes are available for three-year-olds but there is also plenty of activities for children and even a special teenage room where even the most hardest to please can play on computers until their eyes fall out and acne clears up.
And for the adults there is plenty of opportunity to shake a leg on the dancefloor with live bands and music until the early hours, be warned though, you might find yourself dancing to Boney M.
Club Med have also ensured the new resort will also tick the boxes of those who want a more exclusive experience with its Five Trident luxury section which boasts bigger suites and quicker access to the slopes.
And for the mega-rich, who want a butler and a home from home, there are brand new chalets which can either be bought or rented for 20,000 Euro a week and even come with a complimentary butler who can cook, lay the table and iron your red trousers.
But the beauty of skiing is that even if you cannot afford a box of Lambert and Butler let alone a butler everyone is equal on the slopes because it’s not about how rich you are but how brave you are.
I always thought the ski gear itself would cost as much as the flight out there but prices have gone downhill faster than Franz Klammer on a promise.
I certainly didn’t feel out of place in the Aldi ski gear I wore, you can get everything you need from the German supermarket and get change from £120.
And I never felt the cold either as skiing certainly gets the blood pumping, the mountain air is some of the best I’ve ever breathed, and of course the après ski drinks taste all the better because they feel so deserved.
Club Med’s equipment room has over £500,000 of skis, snowboards, helmets, hiking boots all of which can be hired out with the minimum of fuss.
There was an army of ski instructors who all seemed to speak great English and though could probably ski blindfolded had infinite patience with beginners like me who spent more time on my backside than on my skis.
Nestled in the Savoy underneath the shadow of Mont Blanc Valmorel has some fantastic skiing runs, Club Med’s resort alone has 150km.
Obviously as a beginner I never got off the nursery slopes but I did take a ride on the chairlifts to the top of the slopes and loved every minute promising myself I’d return one day to ski down the mountain.
The trouble with all inclusive hotels is they are often miles away from anywhere but the Club Med resort is walking distance from Valmorel, a skiing village which has plenty of bars, restaurants, other attractions and of course ski slopes.
If you have a car then you can drive on some of the most awe-inspiring roads on the planet.
The Alps are the geographical jewel in Europe’s crown and exploring them at your leisure would provide memories that can be cherished forever.
There is plenty to do besides skiing as Valmorel has many outdoor pursuits available including cycling, hiking, zip runs, ice skating and hang gliding.
But if you don’t fancy that much exertion then you could spend some time in the Club Med Spa by Carita getting every part of your body massaged, buffed and pampered. After I had a massage I enjoyed a steam, swim and then sat in an outdoor jacuzzi not feeling the slightest bit guilty about not skiing.
In fact on reflection of my time in Valmorel I spent more time in the restaurants and on the dancefloor than I did on the white stuff.
Then again I’m a damn sight better dancer than I am a skier so I wasn’t sure what I was aching most from when I got back home.
A 7-night all inclusive stay at Club Med Valmorel starts from £1,348 per adult and £1,161 per child – based on departure on 15 January 2012.
To book visit www.clubmed.co.uk, call 08453 67 67 67, or visit your local travel agent.
Club Med’s all inclusive holidays include: Return flights from London and transfers between the airport and resort, accommodation in a club room, all meals with wine, beer and soft drinks, bar drinks and snacks, a wide range of group classes and sports activities ski and snowboard tuition and ski passes.
Aldi’s new ski gear range is available in stores right now and includes everything from jackets, salopets, hats, gloves, thermal underwear and socks.