HOKKAIDO

First-time skier Sa­man­tha Rown­tree takes to the slopes at Ja­pan’s new­est all-in­clu­sive re­sort, Club Med To­mamu Hokkaido.

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An all-in­clu­sive Club Med ski­ing es­cape on the slopes of To­mamu

Some things haven’t changed since Club Med first ap­peared on the travel scene in 1950 with a smat­ter­ing of thatched huts on the beach­front in Sol­erno, Italy. The re­sort still of­fers all-in­clu­sive get­aways in gor­geous lo­cales but has since spread its wings across the globe and taken its of­fer­ings up­mar­ket. Hokkaido’s To­mamu is the lat­est ski des­ti­na­tion to wel­come a Club Med re­sort.

There’s no mis­tak­ing the fact that I’m in Ja­pan. From the mo­ment I step into the lobby, a hot green tea pressed into my hands to take the chill off, the re­sort sur­rounds me with a sense of the lo­cal cul­ture and land­scape.

A cherry blos­som tree spreads its branches in the cen­tre of the lobby, while thin birch tree trunks and stone walls em­body ar­chi­tect and de­signer Jean Philippe Nuel’s vi­sion of con­tem­po­rary in­te­ri­ors ty­ing in seam­lessly with the stun­ning nat­u­ral sur­rounds.

Mid-cen­tury Euro­pean de­sign meets Ja­panese min­i­mal­ism in each of the 341 rooms and suites, the larger cater­ing for fam­i­lies. Out­side the pic­ture win­dow in my room, the for­est is blan­keted in soft, un­touched snow.

I’ve ar­rived in plenty of time to hit the slopes and, as a first-time skier, I’m both ner­vous and ex­cited at the prospect. Thanks to Club Med’s al­most-too-easy book­ing sys­tem, my hired skis and boots are al­ready wait­ing for me in my locker – it’s time to get out there and see what this ski­ing ca­per is all about.

A novice on the slopes

Giv­ing ski­ing or snow­board­ing a go is essen­tial at Club Med To­mamu, even if you’ve never tried it be­fore; the lift passes and lessons are in­cluded in the rate.

I join the begin­ners’ class that runs twice a day, tack­ling the ba­sics of po­si­tion­ing, stop­ping and turn­ing on the baby slopes close to the main lodge. Thanks to the Eng­lish-speak­ing in­struc­tor’s ex­cel­lent tute­lage, I’m ready to test my skills on the moun­tain after just two lessons.

There aren’t any lines to get on the chair­lift, so be­fore I know it I’m off, full steam ahead. Well, as full-steam as my novice sta­tus will al­low me as I shuf­fle off the chair­lift and zigzag my way care­fully down the moun­tain. Along with al­low­ing me to grad­u­ally grow my con­fi­dence, the gen­tle slope and leisurely pace gives me the chance to savour a bird’s-eye view of the win­ter won­der­land sur­round­ing me. The soft, fresh pow­der squeaks un­der my skis and, like spec­ta­tors, per­fectly white trees line the run.

There’s room for skiers of all ex­pe­ri­ence lev­els at Hoshino Re­sorts To­mamu; the ski re­sort cov­ers 145 hectares and has 29 runs (four red, 14 blue, 10 green, one be­gin­ner), and although it’s fully booked, there’s hardly an­other per­son in sight. The moun­tain feels like mine alone.

Club Med and To­mamu are both known for of­fer­ing unique ex­pe­ri­ences, and no visit to this Hokkaido pow­der haven is com­plete with­out ex­plor­ing its off-the-slopes ad­ven­tures.

Sake and soak­ing

My first stop in the vil­lage is the Hoshino Re­sorts-op­er­ated Mina Mina Beach, Ja­pan’s largest indoor wave pool. I can see snow fall­ing out­side through the soar­ing glass ceil­ings, but in­side the tem­per­a­ture is al­most trop­i­cal. In­stead I opt to pay a visit to the com­plex’s Kirinno Yu tra­di­tional out­door bath. The air is ice-cold but the wa­ter is warm and wel­com­ing. As I soak, tiny snowflakes cling to my hair and the for­est around me be­comes all the more mag­i­cal.

I come back feel­ing re­freshed and ready for canapés and après-ski drinks at Club Med To­mamu’s Unkai Bar, where friendly staff (known as GOs, or Gen­tils Or­gan­isa­teurs) greet you at the door. The bar of­fers ma­jes­tic views of the moun­tain, a cosy li­brary nook and a big fire­place. My fellow guests are gath­ered there, keen for a chat, along with the in­struc­tors I’ve been ski­ing with all day.

At The Nest Zen Bar, a hid­den gem of the re­sort, the at­mos­phere is calmer and more in­ti­mate. A fire­place off­sets the views of the out­side world, lit up to show the fall­ing snow. Tea lessons are avail­able here dur­ing the day, but I’ve come for the Ja­panese whisky and sake tast­ing. This ex­pe­ri­ence blends tra­di­tion with mod­ern meth­ods, and I am just as en­tranced by the sto­ries be­hind the dis­til­leries as I am with the drinks them­selves.

The next day I set off to ex­plore the area in a dif­fer­ent way: snow trekking. We tromp through the in­cred­i­ble great out­doors in si­lence, deep snow muf­fling the sound of our steps. Snow trekking is one of the many in­cluded ac­tiv­i­ties at Club Med To­mamu Hokkaido, along with alpine ski­ing, sled­ding, snow­board­ing, night ski­ing and yoga. I fin­ish off my all-too-short visit with some fun at the nearby Hoshino Re­sorts-op­er­ated Ice Vil­lage, where a clus­ter of igloos awaits me. I or­der an ice-cold drink from the bar in a glass made of ice be­fore get­ting lost in the frozen maze and sur­ren­der­ing to the win­ter de­lights of To­mamu.

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01 The in­cred­i­ble pow­der snow at To­mamu makes ski­ing a joy 02 The lobby at Club Med To­mamu Hokkaido 03 Igloos at Hoshino Re­sorts’ fun-filled Ice Vil­lage © HOSHINO Re­sorts 03

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