Vive la FRANCE! Club Med in the moun­tains? says there’s a lot more to the all-in­clu­sive brand than pools and cock­tails...

Irish Independent - Weekend Magazine - - WEEKEND MAGAZINE COMPETITION -

My first ex­pe­ri­ence on a black run is en­tirely un­in­ten­tional. The idea is sim­ple enough — in or­der to ac­cess the green run, we first have to cross the black, inch­ing hor­i­zon­tally over the hor­ri­fy­ingly steep in­cline.

“And we’re not go­ing to ac­ci­den­tally start ski­ing on the black?” I ask the in­struc­tor.

“No, we go across, like this,” he ges­tures, inch­ing slowly for­ward on his skis.

I’m very sus­pi­cious al­to­gether. And rightly so, it turns out. Sec­onds later, I’ve picked up a fe­ro­cious amount of speed, and am hurtling to­wards my pre­sum­able demise. I skid with the grace of a drunken gi­raffe and fall, legs akimbo, slid­ing ar­se­first down the run as skiers grace­fully swerve around my re­mains.

As I sit, scoop­ing fist­fuls of snow out of my knick­ers, I look back and see the rest of my group edg­ing slowly across the run, like a gag­gle of duck­lings.

My in­abil­ity to slow down be­comes some­thing of a theme through­out the day, much to my own frus­tra­tion and the cha­grin of my in­struc­tor. When­ever I try to slalom across the slope, I lose my way and end up plum­met­ing down the moun­tain, leav­ing echo­ing screams in my wake.

WEEK­END MAG­A­ZINE

7 Oc­to­ber 2017

This is how I find my­self sit­ting in a snow bank, star­ing down the moun­tain, the rest of my group nowhere to be seen. There’s only one way down, and I’m try­ing with all my might to sum­mon the courage I need to get back on my feet. I try to em­body the spirit of ev­ery pow­er­ful woman I know — Bey­oncé, Oprah, Mu­lan.

But Mu­lan ul­ti­mately fails me (or I her) when, mo­ments later, I spin around again, ski­ing back­wards for three ter­ri­fy­ing sec­onds, be­fore fall­ing and smack­ing the back of my head so hard, my vi­sion blurs. It’s a handy re­minder that you’d be cat­a­stroph­i­cally id­i­otic to ski with­out a hel­met.

I call it quits soon af­ter, nurs­ing a bit of a bruised ego (and a very bruised bum). I’m not sure ei­ther can take more of a bat­ter­ing, so I make my way back to the re­sort.

I’m stay­ing (and ski­ing) at Club Med Val d’Isère, an all-in­clu­sive re­sort in the mid­dle of one of the chicest ski­ing ar­eas in Europe. You might as­so­ciate Club Med with swim­ming pools and daiquiris, but here you trade your sun lounger for a pair of skis. The Club Med ethos re­mains — ev­ery­thing is in­cluded, from your lift pass to your even­ing beer — so you could eas­ily make it the week with­out putting your hand in your pocket.

De­spite the con­cept com­ing along leaps and bounds in re­cent years, I’m al­ways a lit­tle ap­pre­hen­sive at the thought of all-in­clu­sive buf­fets.

Thank­fully, the food on of­fer is a smash. Think juicy, rare beef cut into thick slices upon your re­quest, doused with a red wine re­duc­tion and served with a creamy gratin dauphi­nois. There’s a ra­clette sta­tion too, where you can swathe what­ever you please with ooz­ing, smoky, melted cheese. Each meal is ac­com­pa­nied by a never-end­ing flow of ex­cel­lent house wine.

The all-in­clu­sive el­e­ment is made su­per easy — there’s no con­fu­sion about what you can get, or com­pli­cated bev­er­age pack­ages to de­ci­pher. In­stead, you just wander up to the bar when­ever you please.

Your lift pass and lessons are in­cluded, which is worth con­sid­er­ing when you’re com­par­ing prices with other op­er­a­tors. All those ex­tras can re­ally rack up, adding a good few hun­dred euro on to the price of your trip.

The only thing not in­cluded is your ski gear, though this can be rented on site.

And Val d’Isère? There are 300km of runs to play with: 26 black, 41 red, 67 blue and 20 green. I’m told that in this re­gion, the greens are like blues else­where, the blues are like reds, and so forth. I choose to be­lieve this be­cause even the greens seem pant-wet­tingly scary from the top.

On my first day, I suc­cumb to the

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