Club Med Val d’Isère: ’45 Things We Adore’

It’s been over 70 years since Club Med set out to build out all-inclusive experiences. Most people assume this to be an ‘all-you-can-eat buffet’ and, if you’re lucky, drinks included. But in fact, it’s instead a choice to have everything carefully considered and managed for you.

The brand has enjoyed many personalities over seven decades, but it has consistently radiated that French flair, freedom and generosity. It’s full of energy, it adores a party. But something has happened to Club Med, the arc of its trajectory bending harder, targeting the premium travel market with newfound intent.

In a post-pandemic world where travel is fiercely competitive, Club Med is announcing new launches or reinventions, staking its claim on the lucrative couple, family and multi-generational segments. The challenge, of course, is how to walk the tightrope of a premium experience, keeping adults happy as individuals, connecting mom and dad as a couple, and appealing to children or teens – not always easy to please – delivering an unforgettable trove of memories for the entire family unit.

These resorts are more stylish than they were before, a much greater investment has been made, and in the process of this injection the company is insistent on sustainability, eco-certifying all new properties through BREEAM, the world’s leading science-based suite of validation and certification systems for buildings.

It’s all in here!

On a recent press trip, we were the very first guests at Club Med’s new ‘Exclusive Collection’ at Val d’Isère in the French Alps, a current beneficiary of a 50 million Euro renovation (R1.2 billion), weaving responsible, state-of-the-art amenities into a cosy, alpine design.

Intelligently, understanding the family travel sector, Club Med has committed itself to slipstreaming guests into their holiday as painlessly as possible via pre-trip facilitation on the My Club Med app, managing ski passes, confirming shoe sizes, and establishing the level of ski expertise in order to set up lessons. 

Our group arrived late on the first evening but were met by our hosts with a bracelet that opened our room with a simple tap, and, in the morning, also opened our locker, with helmet, skis, and boots inside – all a perfect fit – plus a ski pass. From the locker room, where ski technicians and instructors are on the same floor, you walk 20 metres through a tunnel and onto the slopes, where your instructor greets you. Ski out, ski in; it can be minutes from locker room to piste. Any fanatical skier will tell you that’s rare, and for long-haul travellers from regions like South Africa, this spares families the typical first-day admin. 

This accessibility doubles its value if you have kids because there’s significantly less fuss, frustration and occasionally tears. As a parent, I’ve been there myself. 

The Mini Club Med+ is a haven for young explorers. Here, children engage in a range of activities, from the thrilling Super Pilot adventure to building an igloo village. The ESF ski school, with its 25-hour weekly program, is perfect for young skiers and snowboarders, ensuring they learn and have fun in a safe environment, among those in the same age group.

Of course, tackling the slopes isn’t for everyone, particularly in multi-generational travel – so those keen on exploration and adventure beyond skiing can try snowshoeing, electric mountain bikes, dog sledding or even a cold water dip in the lake. For some on our trip, a highlight was simply taking the cable car up, and enjoying a hot chocolate gazing at the Alps, or enjoying the picturesque village and its boutiques. 

If the most important ingredient of all is a no-show, Club Med’s snow guarantee is something I have not seen before in four decades of touring the mountains. This assurance, a comfort to ski enthusiasts, promises alternative arrangements when conditions are far from optimal – if Val d’Isere is less than 50% snow covered – ensuring that your skiing remains a reality, as opposed to an uncertain promise.

It’s no secret that skiing is testing and tiring. At the end of a day, the hospitality has to take the reins. On your return, what strikes you is the warmth and modern alpine interior design, both inviting and exquisite, with snow-capped mountains stealing your attention as the sun sets.

The resort’s culinary offerings are a diverse mosaic of traditional alpine dishes and international flavours. Le Bellevarde, a standout attraction, is more than just a restaurant; it’s a culinary journey. The mountain terrace, with its sublime views, offers a mountain barbecue experience.

The nightlife is vibrant, with regular DJ sets, cocktail hours, and live music. These events cater to couples and families alike, and the lighting, sound and production value is genuinely a surprise. There were some late nights. 

The hospitality at Club Med Val d’Isère is both vivacious and personal. The staff, known as GOs and GEs, are not just employees; they are ‘Freedom Planners’, dedicated to making your stay as fulfilling and enjoyable as possible, a hallmark of guest satisfaction that has stood the test of time.

Sustainability is a key pillar of Club Med’s operations. The resort’s eco-certification and initiatives like the ‘Bye Bye Plastic’ program reflect a deep respect for the environment. This commitment extends to food waste management, energy-efficient practices, and even the provision of electric charging stations for eco-conscious travellers.

Wellness tourism, a growing trend, finds a special place at Club Med Val d’Isère. The resort offers a range of wellness activities above and beyond the fresh air, physical exertion and adrenaline of skiing, adding a sublime pool and outdoor jacuzzi, a sauna, yoga, and treatments at the Club Med Spa by Cinq Mondes.

You’ll notice by now so little has been mentioned about the rooms. This is testament to how much is on offer everywhere at this resort. Despite the energy spent, there is so much to experience, to share, to explore. They very much follow the cozy and alpine feel that weaves through the property but here rooms play second fiddle to the rest of the orchestra. 

Intermittently, you can come across a ‘45’ logo, commemorating Club Med’s 45th anniversary originally designed in 1995 to celebrate Club Med’s birthday. Interestingly, the ‘merch’ of that year was so popular that every birthday thereafter still wanted the famous ‘45’. And therein lies the magic of Club Med – when you’ve tasted something so good, you just want more and more of it. I think you will feel exactly the same about its new Exclusive Collection in Val d’Isère.

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