A guide to preparing for your first Club Med skiing holiday
The slopes are glistening, the sun is shining and you can see your group beckoning you to join them. You’re nervous because it’s your first time on the piste. A tiny child has just passed you doing extremely skilled somersaults and you’re concerned because you’re not even sure you can master the chair lift, let alone stay upright long enough to propel yourself down the nursery run in a standing position. Don’t worry because we’re here to help!
Our guide is going to show you exactly what you can expect from France’s biggest and best ski areas, as well as how to develop some basic skills whilst enjoying yourself.
Before we get started – a warning! Skiing is highly addictive. The first time you stand on top of what looks like an impossible precipice, but is actually only as steep as the gradient of a golf course, it’s hard to believe you’ll ever want to return to this activity. However, we fully expect you to change your mind around day 3, which is generally when the penny drops and you’ll find you’re suddenly able to descend the nursery slopes with ease.
As experienced booking partners of many highly regarded ski holiday operators, the Aspen Travel team is very knowledgable about what is required of you whilst staying on a snow-capped mountain top and how you can best spend your time there.
Our recommended choice of tour operator for first time skiers is Club Med. Club Med has resorts in two of the French ski areas named by the Guardian newspaper for being among the best areas for beginners and in addition, the Club Med package will equip you with the skills you need get well and truly bitten by the skiing bug.
The best way to make sure you’re fully prepared is by buying an all inclusive package. With Club Med, this not only assures you a high quality of accommodation with spacious rooms and comfortable beds, but also full board cuisine. There will be facilities for you to use in the hotel and you’ll find shops, bars, clubs and restaurants near by as well.
Your flights, flight transfers, lift passes and all your ski tuition will be included. Having your lift passes sorted out for you in advance is particularly handy, as is not having to worry about finding a tutor who will best suit your level of expertise. As for equipment, there’s no need to buy any. Everything you need can be rented out there, at your resort.
Some of the most useful things you can take with you are a pair of shatterfree sunglasses, because a combination of bright sunshine and snow glare will dazzle you. Having good visibility as you make your way down the slope will inevitably make your skiing experience far more pleasant.
Not getting burnt is also a top skiing priority! Sun cream and lip balm is an essential item for all skiers. High up on the mountain top, you’ll be exposed to less pollution and more sunshine. Skiers are advised to carry suncream with them and reapply it through the day. Having a small rucksack, or skiing pouch bag will make this easier.
You can keep your water in your bag too because it’s important to keep hydrated. Although a main goal of a great skiing holiday is to spend plenty of time whizzing expertly down a hill, don’t underestimate the amount of physical activity you’ll be undertaking. Manoeuvring yourself around a steep incline with two planks strapped to your feet is hard work.
Upping your fitness level before you fly out will help you out a lot when you hit the slopes. If you want to practise beforehand, you could always check out your local dry ski slope. Watching skiing videos online will also give you a feel for the best way to get started.
As for the clothes you need to pack, the best tip we can provide is to make sure your trousers are waterproof. Unless you’re a natural, you’re likely to fall over at least once and just one fall is all it takes to soak a pair of cotton trousers and render you sopping wet, cold and miserable for the rest of the day.
The rest of your attire should be layered. Some beginners find they are too cold when they start their day, while others are too hot. Layers allow you to play around with your comfort levels and find out what works for you.
The one item you definitely need to remember is a pair of flexible gloves. Cold hands, or hands that encased in immovable gloves will provide you with a very frustrating ski experience.
You will have woken up to a beautiful alpine view and a hearty carb-laden breakfast (which you’ll easily burn off within hours). It’s quite possible you’ll see more seasoned skiers whizzing past the window of your dining room on their way to the slopes as the pros like to get an early start.
Your first stop will be the ski rental shop, where you’ll need to get a pair of well-fitting snow boots, skis and ideally a helmet too. The rental shop will be able to give you all the advice you need, but bear in mind that your boots should fit firmly and snugly, although you should still be able to flex your ankle and wiggle your toes. Don’t wear thick socks with your boots because if they fit well, your feet will be perfectly warm. Thick socks will make your feet too hot. The skis should be chin height, but no longer.
Before you put your skis on, it’s a good idea to do some stretches to warm up. Either the rental shop staff or your instructor on the slopes will be able to advise you on how best to put the skis on.
Your next challenge is the chair lift. If this has been one of your biggest worries about getting started, don’t worry, you’re not alone. For many people, catching the lift seems a more terrifying prospect that throwing yourself down an ice covered hill at top speed! There’s no need to worry. The beginner’s chair lift is designed to be easy for you to use; getting on and getting off. If the lift is a T-Bar, the trick is to lean towards your partner, not away from him or her, to help you stay upright.
When you find the beginners area, don’t be surprised that it’s not steep. (You might actually be relieved). Only a very slight incline is required in order for you to move and it’s more important you get used to how it feels wearing skis and moving in them.
We strongly recommend you take the lessons included in your holiday package. Your instructor will make learning how to ski fun and be able to help you progress quicker than if you’re trying to figure it all out for yourself. More than likely it will be group lessons you’ll be offered and in the first instance, you’ll learn the basics such as how to stop, turn and slow down. The more you do it, the more your confidence will grow and should you wish to pay extra for private one-to-one instruction, you will progress even quicker. Don’t be scared to fall over. It happens to all of us! If you do fall over, try and land on your bottom! Who cares if you feel silly? All the beginners will be doing the same and landing on your bottom is better than being airlifted expensively off the slopes with a broken ankle!
Another thing to bear in mind is that you will see advanced skiers flying past you aerobically. Some of them may be just kids. Don’t feel intimidated. With a bit of work, that could be you next year. Also don’t be tempted to do the black runs, before the blue ones. No matter what your friends say, don’t be talked into a slope that you’re not ready to tackle.
Making the most of the apres ski
When you finally drag yourself off the mountain for the day, you’ll feel exhilarated, pleased with your progress and probably a little bit sore. There’s nothing better after a long day on the slopes, than sinking into a hot tub and soaking your aching muscles, or indulging in a sauna and swim. Once you’ve changed into warm dry clothes, why not enjoy a steaming bowl of fondu and a glass of wine or two as the sun sets behind the mountains. If you’ve got the energy, you can then hit the bars or the nightclubs. If you’re staying with Club Med, evening entertainment will be included in your package. Ski resorts can be as lively or as relaxing as you need them to be.
Two of our favourite Club Med resorts for beginners are the ones located in the best learning to ski areas, as named by the Guardian. Club Med Avoriaz is cosy, tastefully decorated in a modern chalet style, with plenty of wood panelling and has great rooms. Splash out on a suite and you’ll have a tremendous view of the entire resort from your private balcony!
Cars are forbidden in Avoriaz; the whole village is pedestrianised. Beginners learn near the mountain top here and there’s now a blue run, which will take you gently and pleasantly all the way back to your accommodation.
If you fancy a day off the skiing at any point here, there’s plenty of other activities to entertain you. You could try downhill mountain biking, trekking, ice skating and there’s even a water park.
Club Med Les Deux Alpes is a snow-sure resort and a favourite with all who’ve visited here. There’s plenty to see and do and you won’t be disappointed. The usual high Club Med standards apply and the inclusive package is your best option.
If you’re travelling with your family, Club Med is a great choice. Kids clubs and ski tuition for the kids is included in your package and available for a very young age. Your kids will also be shown the skiing basics, but be warned they may be better than you by the end of the week!
If you’re ready to take a thrilling icy plunge into the world of skiing, we can practically guarantee you won’t look back. Skiing is tremendous fun for all the family and you’ll see wintery landscapes of incredible beauty. Please get in touch with the Aspen Travel team now to find out about our availability for 2017. We have a large range of options available besides Club Med and we’ll happily find the best package to suit your dates, abilities and budget.