Before kids, we took a ski vacation every year or so, and travelled to a smattering of places in the Rockies, from Park City to Lake Louise, and many places in between. We not experts, but we love the mountains, the snow and the adventure.
After our son was born, we didn't think a return to the slopes would be practical. More dedicated skiers might leave the baby with the grandparents. We changed our vacation theme and started exploring more beaches.
When our son turned 4, we decided he was old enough to learn learn how to ski and join our adventures. Being unabashedly type A, I started the spreadsheet to study various family friendly ski resorts throughout US and Canada. There were only a key few requirements...
- Needed to be ski-in/ski out, or at minimum walk to a lift.
- Needed a Children's ski school on site.
- Fun things for our family to do at the end of the day.
Then one day, husband casually mentioned the crazy idea "What if we took him skiing in Europe?"
After a ton more of research, we decided to do something crazy and fly our 4 year old across the Atlantic to learn to ski. The final decision came down to an all-inclusive vacation package with Club Med's Pragelato Vialattea resort in Turin, Italy. The price tag was actually less expensive than skiing in Colorado!
When the three of us arriving in Turin Airport, a Club Med representative was waiting for us, helped us with our belongings and walked us out to our Mercedes sedan. We enjoyed the scenic drive us the hour to Club Med Pragelato Vialattea resort which took about a hour.
This idyllic resort is a cluster of little ski chalets nestled into the slopes. Club Med bought it from the Olympics where it had housed world class ski teams not too long before.
The rooms vary a little, but ours was upstairs with a parents room, kids' room, and a bathroom. Not huge but plenty of space. The rooms were very comfortable with great care thanks to housekeeping . On the way from the rooms to the main resort, there is a cloak room, indoors, which allows you to store all of your coats in your personal locker so that you don't have to find a place for coats at dinner or in the bar. The lockers really make everything better when you think about all that you have to walk around with in winter with kids!
We knew that Club Med includes the meals, drinks, childcare, lift tickets, entertainment and ski lessons, we didn't know how top notch all of those would be. The only thing we paid for on arrival was equipment rentals (which was very reasonable), but as soon as we retrieved our skis, poles, boots and helmets, they showed us where we could store them. There's a ski room directly adjacent to the gondola, so we loaded our gear into our personal locker (same key as our coat locker) ...that's as far as it equipment ever went. Better still, they took my son's skis - I didn't seem them again until we returned them - and we took his boots and helmet to the kids club, where they stayed. One of my biggest concerns about this trip was hulking gear around, and it was 100% taken care of.
One of the most notable things about any resort is the food. At dinner the very first night, you knew that this wasn't going to be a typical resort buffet. Club Med offers one buffet restaurant and one table service restaurant. The buffet area is set up in stations, there are 5 or 6 stations where they prepare a plated appetizer or entrée - presentation is top notch. There is a genuine concern for not just the quality of the food, but also the appearance. There's also a meat station, pasta station and cheese station (this is Europe after all!). Lastly the dessert station was truly decadent, with several choices every night plus a massive gelato case with over a dozen flavors. The dishes at lunch and dinner changed every day, there was no repetition (except the gelato). Club Med is known for gourmet food and does not disappoint.
One of the highlights at any Club Med resort are their attentive staff. They are called "GOs", or Gentils Organisateurs (Gracious Organizers). When on the job, they are quick to anticipate guest needs. During their "off" time they will ask to join you during meals, mingle and encourage camaraderie with fellow guests. Thanks to them our family met so many other families from around the world who also share a love for skiing.
After dinner, we headed to the bar, where they had a list of specialty cocktails, but of course they would prepare anything you wanted, and prepare it with care. . What was truly magical about the bar was the nightly entertainment for the children, with performances done in French and English, but understood by everyone. It was the highlight of his day, and we truly enjoyed having a cocktail and watching our son completely enthralled with hilarious skits from the Children's Club.
The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, we prepared to do what we came here to do: ski. The children are divided by ages and meet at a predetermined time at the bar to be taken over to the kid's club. What truly amazed me (and the other moms) was that not only was I able to avoid walking his gear all over a resort, I also never had to put it on him - the GOs in the kids club helped him into his jacket and boots and helmet every day! They took the kids up the gondola and we went to find our lessons!
The adults have a little assessment on the first day to break everyone into experience groupings (and language - there are French and English groups). We were sorted into a group and assigned an instructor. This group was probably the biggest highlight of our trip. We had with us 2 Australians, 3 Portuguese and 2 Israeli companions, and a phenomenal Italian instructor. We spent 5 days with these people and enjoyed every minute. Our instructor guided us into new terrain and out of our comfort zone, we all took pictures, drank espresso, and had new experiences. Even if I were an expert, I'd take advantage of the lessons!
At the end of a long day, we returned to the club. They offer an Apres Ski spread, including hot chocolate, hot wine, cakes and biscuits, again changing each day. After lounging for a while, enjoying the goodies, we'd walk to our little chalet, rest for a while, and head out to dinner. We got into a bit of a routine, but looked forward to each new day.
I was full of pride and joy watching my 4 year old playing with so many other kids from all around the world. It didn't matter if they spoke the same language or not. Friendships were made and he learned the world is much bigger than he ever knew. He was discovering a world of adventure that was simply...FUN! I realized value of these life lessons and sense of wonder could never be found in a spreadsheet.
Now, we have a younger son. We're excitedly planning another ski vacation to Club Med Valmorel in France. This resort features a baby nursery starting at age 4 months in addition to all the other wonderful Club Med inclusions. With prices here starting at $194 per night...why wait for an amazing family ski holiday?