Why the Alps Should Be Your Next Ski Trip Destination
While the prospect of Rocky Mountain powder probably has you drooling long before summer’s over, you really can’t call yourself a skier until you’ve experienced the Alps. From endlessly sprawling terrain and panoramas to pristine snow conditions, unique local culture, unbeatable cuisine (hello, fondue), and convivial après-ski and nightlife scenes, a ski trip to the French, Swiss or Italian Alps will leave you transformed. Here’s why:
It’s more affordable than you think
You might assume that because it involves crossing an ocean, the price tag on an Alps trip must be outrageous. Think again. Some of Club Med's all-inclusive ski vacations break down to less than $200 per day… basically what you’d drop on a nice dinner. That includes lift tickets, ski lessons (yes, in English and yes, for all skier levels… even bump lovers and cliff jumpers), lodging in modern and spacious rooms, gourmet meals and -- you’re not going to believe this -- open bars. Normally, coordinating and planning each of these elements can be daunting even before the calculator’s involved. Knowing the price tag up front for a high-end trip to France, Switzerland, or Italy makes it pretty easy. To really take planning and budgeting out of the equation, ClubMed is offering a sweeps: 7-nights for 2 adults to a Club Med Alpine ski resort (pick which one you want, subject to availability). If a free, weeklong trip to skiing paradise sounds like a good deal to you, check out the details here.
The scenery is other-worldly
Nothing quite matches the Dr. Seuss-like jagged glory of the Alps, which, in spite of lying at a lower elevation than the Rockies, reach well above the tree line (the trees end at lower elevation at Europe’s latitude). Take, for example, France’s L’Alpe d’Huez. Connected to five neighboring ski resorts -- Auris-en-Oisans, Huez-en-Oisans, Oz-en-Oisans, Vaujany, and Villard Reculas -- Alpe d'Huez is a major part of the enormous Grand Domaine. Its picturesque villages resemble something you’d see in a Disney fairy tale and its summit views sweep across the white gum-dropped expanse of the entire Southern Alps. The namesake of the Club Med Alpe d'Huez resort (opening in December) also happens to be one of the world’s longest ski runs -- a steep black (expert) trail that stretches for a whopping 10 miles and drops more than 6,000 vertical feet, taking you from the famously sunny summit to the front door to your heated ski room.
There is a ton of terrain for every level
Don’t let the mention of a 10-mile-long black run scare you. Europeans love to ski on smooth, groomed corduroy and the Alps offer an abundance of green (beginner) and blue (intermediate) runs. Conveniently, most European resorts also have an extra classification of ski run -- red (advanced) -- the difficulty of which ranks between blue and black… perfect for intermediate skiers vying to take their skills to the next level. Among the world’s most gargantuan ski areas, Paradiski has a squad of 55 grooming machines that comb the slopes (all 264 miles of them) regularly. Club Med’s aptly named Les Arcs Panorama is situated front and center, in France’s Arc 1600 village, so-named because it is perched at an elevation of 1,600 meters (5,250 feet) and accessed by funicular -- an experience worthy of a European ski trip unto itself.
Its culture is refreshingly laid-back
Surrounded by chatter in several languages and more ostentatious getups (e.g., fur and onesies) than you’re used to makes for rich memories, but the overpowering sensation you get skiing the Alps is that everyone is embracing every moment of every day. This starts with a slowly sipped espresso in the morning and continues through every turn on every trail, every sip of hot wine at a slopeside bar, every evening visit to the sauna (especially at the Club Med Spa by Carita at Grand Massif Samoëns Morillon), and every multi-course lunch in the middle of the ski day, which brings us to…
The food is deliciously decadent
If you’re an avid skier, you know that a smashed peanut butter and jelly sandwich tastes delicious when you’re exerting yourself at high altitude. Well, be prepared to ramp up your taste buds. Especially in France, culinary offerings are the cornerstone of any activity. Everything from the crispy-chewy baguettes to the drippy raclette cheese, fresh vegetables, meats, and wine will rank among the best you’ve ever tasted. Club Med’s vacations include all-day gourmet dining and open bar at a variety of restaurants, but outside of what’s included, you’ll find exquisite wine and buttery baked treats on every corner -- a serious upgrade from that cold $25 lodge burger back in the US.
There’s a bumping après-ski and nightlife scene
Contrary to the swanky, gray, mustachioed image you might have of Club Med circa the 1970s, today’s Club Med draws a young crowd. The majority of its Alps destinations are run by a staff of enthusiastic, multilingual 20- and 30-somethings. Every base area bar is radiating with DJ tunes at the end of the day and the après-ski selections range from festive dance floors to a relaxing glass of wine under a blanket at the ice bar fire pit. And the party literally continues ’til dawn -- bars in the Alps often stay thumping until the lifts start turning. Because when you’re on vacation, the revelry should never stop.