It is becoming more and more common to find South Africans on the ski slopes of Europe – which is hardly surprising, considering how talented a sporting nation we are and how much we love to have fun! To make the most of your ski holiday, here are a few tips from Carel Nolte, one of our GMs, who has experienced a few of our Club Med resorts in the Alps.
Make the appointment for your French or Italian visa via Capago online. It is super quick and easy. If you have all of your documents ready (as per the handy checklist available on their site), your visa will be ready within a few days! That being said, I would advise arranging your visa a month or so before your trip.
You will need proof of health insurance for your visa. Some medical aids (Discovery being one example) offer you health insurance for travel, and Club Med also offers some insurance when you book your holiday with them. For most travellers that should be enough, but you can also check with your insurance provider to give you peace of mind.
Don’t spend a fortune on this. One rule of thumb – function trumps fashion! Be sure to have a waterproof, warm jacket (with pockets, especially one on the left inside pocket where you can keep your ski pass), waterproof gloves and waterproof pants – all of which you can get from stores such as Gone Skiing or Cape Union Mart. I also quite like the winter waterproof jackets from Dead Reckoning. Goggles you can buy at the villages (no need to go for the goggles that cost upward of 200 Euros; the goggles that are going for 30 Euros will do just fine). I find a buff handy, but not essential. Thick socks work well with the boots. And then one thin, warm top per ski day for when you are out on the slopes. At the resort you will get boots, skis, helmets and everything else you need. A BIG plus when skiing with Club Med.
Many people like to fly direct to Europe from SA and then get a short connecting flight to Geneva. Another option is flying via a destination (with a bit of a layover in a city). The former ensures you don’t lose any time and reach your ski destination sooner, the latter often provides better deals (in terms of cost). Consider using your airline loyalty programme (if you’re signed up to one) and shop around.
If you fly into Geneva, as you walk out of the baggage reclaim area, you’ll spot the Club Med counter – which is very well-signed. Check-in and get info on how long before your bus leaves. Normally there is time for a restroom stop and whilst we advise you buy a few beers for the bus (from the newsagents in the terminal) there us no need for food – the magic of Club Med gourmet dining awaits as you arrive at the resort!
The bus trip is between 90-120 minutes depending which Club Med resort you go to. Meet new people, enjoy the scenery, see how the snow appears and how the temperature drops as you ascend the mountain. Club Med has resorts that offer good skiing well into April.
Rooms are usually ready in the afternoon. If you arrive at the resort earlier in the day, plan to have a clean t-shirt in your hand luggage and be ready to relax and enjoy the views, or hit the bar (your all-inclusive drinks start upon arrival!) and make new friends.
Once you’ve got your your kit on (be sure to have boots that fit well!) you’ll head off on your first lesson (usually on the Monday morning). I strongly advise attending all lessons provided by Club Med, throughout the week. The first day (no matter your level) may be frustrating, but you will be amazed at how you improve – but you must stick to it. Also, be on time for lessons and enjoy learning from the experienced instructors. They know the best spots on each mountain, and will ensure you have the best experience possible! I also suggest having slops or comfy shoes in your locker for after your lessons.
Finally, as South Africans, most of us aren’t born skiing. So – think less, enjoy more, trust yourself and make memories on the slopes! And with the Club Med GOs on hand, your every need will be catered for.