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Number 1 ski base in the French Alps

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Stunning peaks, piles of melting cheese, and unexpected activities make the Alps irresistible.

“Whatever you do, lean forward,” says Niko, my guide. “If you relax, we should have an abortion.”

Almost immediately, there is an annoying beep. The lines knit tightly together, we both lean forward, the multicolored polyester wing flowing over us. Our skates are not too early.

It is late afternoon in Alpe d’Huez, a ski resort in the French Alps. The mountains shimmer pink and orange and the village lights twinkle beneath our feet. In the distance I can see the last skiers heading home and the raucous après-ski scene unfolding in the valley.

We float in lazy loops, pointing out to landmarks, before darting down for a smooth, buttery drop.

When visiting these famous mountains, expect incredible scenery, endless trails, glamorous fashion, and exceptional cuisine. But as my spontaneous paragliding trip shows, it’s also full of surprises.

Views of Club Med Alpes d’Hize. Photo: Club Med

Stop 1: Signals

Tignes is a collection of villages in Val Claret, the valley that runs alongside the popular ski resort of Val d’Isere, and is home to the gleaming 430-room Club Med, which opened in December. All-inclusive luxury accommodations combine a cozy mountain chalet with a cutting-edge art hotel. The design is grounded in wood, stone, concrete, and glass, but softened with jewel tones, graphic prints, and playful furnishings. Equinoxe’s main bar is the pulsating heart of the resort – and the entire venue revolves around the laid-back après-ski scene. The service is impeccable and plays a huge part in creating a social culture where you know you can sit down and chat with anyone.

Built on a former car park and designed with sustainability in mind. Rather than being isolated like many mountain lodges, it’s right in the heart of town and minutes from all the major lifts.

Stunning view from the Tignes ski lift. Photo: Club Med

“We have a product that seems to meet every need,” says Michelle Davies, managing director of Club Med Australia. “But what guests often find is that thanks to the resort’s prime location, guests are free to explore the entire ski area and take full advantage of the village’s services.”

The terrain is guaranteed with snow and lessons are part of the show, but there is more than endless racing. Outside, you can snowshoe, fat bike, and snowshoe. You can enjoy a gondola ride, dine at the star-rated restaurant Le Panoramic and take an unforgettable guided excursion on the local glacier.

Inside, you’ll find gourmet dining, wine tastings, live entertainment, fitness classes, a relaxing spa, and the largest indoor pool in the Alps. Of course, there’s also Club Med’s signature kids’ club, which is a huge draw for traveling families.

The swimming pool at Club Med Tignes. Photo: Club Med/Nick Cafu

Stop 2: anxiety

Tell someone you’ve been to this beautiful lakeside town and you’ll get one of two responses. “Oh wonderful, where is he? He is the first with polite curiosity.” Oh, miss! It’s so pretty,” she says for a second, with a beaming face before the speaker turns into a stream of happy holiday memories.

The best time to visit is in December, when the nearby peaks are covered in snow and the mercury drops just enough to give each one an apple-like glow. But the best part is the bustling Christmas Market in the Old Town which runs from late November until New Year’s Day. Within easy walking distance is the Super Hotel Anse, a recently renovated four and a half star Accor residence. The decor is stunningly chic, modern, and art deco-luxe, mixing deep colors with dramatic lighting and carefully chosen textures. Step onto the balcony, however, and the interior will be forgotten – it pales in comparison to the lake and mountain views.

Near the lake, Annecy is one of the most beautiful cities in France. Photo: Getty

The best thing to do here in winter is walking: stroll by the lake, follow medieval canals, browse shops and meander from platform to market stall. I find myself scrolling between souvenirs, attentive wine vendors and steaming pots of tartiflete, a hearty local winter dish of sliced ​​potatoes, fatty bacon bits, onions, a drizzle of white wine and reblochon. In other words, they’re the carb-dense foods your inner oven craves.

Enjoy an evening at Captain Pub, a rustic bar by the bridge, and you’ll easily find yourself making friends with the locals, even if your French is limited.

Mid-Alpes d’Huez Club. Photo: Club Med

Third stage: ALPE D’HUEZ

My final destination is Club Med Alpes d’Huez, where breakfast is an incredible form of torture.

The food is certainly great, but the southern views from the buffet are totally irresistible. On the other side of my table, the sun’s rays are shining with fresh energy like sparks and my anxiety is growing every minute. However, thanks to the ski in/ski out location, we put our skis on just in time for the first chair.

There is something for everyone, from laughing honeymooners and first-time families to the world’s best. At one point, I found myself skating alongside Brody Summers, an Australian mogul skier and three-time Olympian. He has competed several times in Alpe d’Huez and is enjoying his first foray as an artist.

“It’s a seamless experience,” he says. “It really impressed me at Club Med. When you’re a serious skater, you want to get out as fast as you can, and they’ve made it as easy as possible.”

Views of Club Med Alpes d’Hize. Photo: Club Med

He was ahead of me at La Sarenne, the longest running black race in Europe. It extends for about 16 km around the edge of the station, from the top of the station downwards, with an elevation difference of 2,000 m.

No matter your level, your appetite will be satiated, so La Cabane Ski Restaurant is a must-try. When you’re not obsessed with sight, you can soothe your rumbling stomach with a melt-in-your-mouth burger. Pair it with a crisp Pinot gris or a local Mont Blanc beer, you’d be rude not to.

Keep the good times going by visiting the party scene at La Folie Douce.

It’s hard to describe exactly – part restaurant, part bar, part day club – but don’t be surprised if you end up dodging corks popping from chilled Mumm bottles or dancing on gigantic sounding tables.

You never know what the Alps have to offer, but you can be sure it will be interesting.

The writer has traveled as a medical club guest.

Dinner at Club Med Alpe D’Huez. Photo: Club Med

emergency exit

Qatar Airways flies to Geneva via Doha, and then it’s a scenic three-hour drive through the French Alps.

If you book now for December 2023, you’ll find rates starting at $2,915 per couple for seven nights at the Ten Club Med and $2,385 per couple for seven nights at the Club Med Alpes d’Huez.

The price includes ski passes and ski lessons. Children under four stay free, including food, drinks and activities.

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