How our ski holiday at Club Med Pragelato Vialattea went
Cai Mei Khoo, Editor-in-Chief
I'll be honest—winter holidays aren't quite at the top of my list only because of the packing that needs to be done. Thick coats and knee-high boots take up too much space in my luggage (I'm not known for packing light) versus bikinis (10 pairs for the size of one coat), shorts and sunblock. That said, learning to ski has been on my bucket list of things to do before I get old and too afraid of breaking a bone, so when the opportunity arose at Club Med Pragelato Vialattea, I took a deep breath, packed my bags and set off on an Italian adventure.
Located in Italy's Piedmont region, Club Med Pragelato Vialattea is surrounded by three protected national parks, and historic towns like Vicoforte and Barolo, known for its fine red wines. To get there, I flew into Turin airport from London, and took a car to the resort, which took just under two hours. Initially the site for the Winter Olympics in Turin in 2006, the resort has been transformed into a family friendly destination with modern, cosy chalets, complete with in-room espresso machines and flat screen TVs. The resort also boasts direct access to the slopes, with a cable car located right at its doorsteps—a short 4-minute ride takes you straight to the Vialettea ski slopes, which is where Rachel and I had our first ski lesson.
I figured the absolute worst that could happen was that I'd slide down on my behind but my instructor was encouraging, patient and kept reminding me to make pizza shapes.
The last time I skied was when I was 8 years old, and that was a one-off lesson, so this was pretty much my first 'real' ski lesson. We had about four full days ahead of us, and my goal was to be a proficient skier by the end of it. The first thing we learnt was how to stop—body leaning forward (even though it's natural instinct to lean back), legs slightly bent at the knees with skis in an inverted V position, or as they say in Italy, like the shape of a pizza slice. Once I learnt how to stop, things got a lot easier from there—until, on a one-on-one session, my instructor brought me to the top of the Vialettea slope, where we then proceeded to ski to the next town, Sestrière. Granted, he let me hold on to his ski poles down the steeper slopes, but when we came to what looked like a massive drop (to me), my heart similarly dropped. I figured the absolute worst that could happen was that I'd slide down on my behind but my instructor was encouraging, patient and kept reminding me to make pizza shapes.
Back at the resort, while feasting over (real) pizza and pasta at La Trattoria (only open for lunch, the restaurant is a popular spot for a break in between ski sessions), I could feel my thighs and shins (from pressure from the ski boots) starting to ache. However, I was thoroughly enjoying my ski lessons and decided to power through.
By day 4, I was one of two guests left in the beginner's group ski class (group ski classes are part of the all-inclusive rate)—the rest had all decided they either wanted to take it easy, or had gone off to try the various activities on offer such as cross country skiing, and Nordic walking. I was a much more confident skier by then—I was getting on and off the ski lifts without getting tangled up or falling, and had proceeded to the 'more advanced' beginner's slope at Sestrière, which I remember thinking on my first day as being really steep. If there's one thing a beginner skier should invest in, however, is a pair of decent ski goggles, which I failed to do. We enjoyed bright sunshine the first couple of days, which then turned into heavy fog and snow the last few days, which proved to be difficult when skiing in sunglasses.
On our final day, I decided to hit the spa for a much-needed, well-deserved massage. I made sure to use both the sauna and steam room that helped to ease muscle soreness and promote a sense of relaxation—also, there's nothing quite like escaping to a heated room in the midst of all the fog and snow. The spa also features a heated swimming pool, so even if you do go in the middle of winter, do pack along that bikini.
Our stay at Club Med Pragelato Vialattea has certainly changed the way I feel about winter holidays. I have a newfound love for skiing and can't wait to go on my next ski trip—but first, time to invest in some stylish ski gear, which might perhaps make packing a little easier.
Rachel Au, Senior Lifestyle Writer
Winter has never been one of my favourite seasons. My fear of shivering in the cold—despite multiple layers of HeatTech, shirt and sweater combined—has infinitely trumped my desire to see snow; that is, until Club Med Pragelato Vialattea's invitation for an ski holiday came around. I'm not great with anything that requires good balancing skills but I'm also often hopeful I might somehow discover an innate talent (never try, never know). And so, with a luggage packed with the thickest jackets, the most 'innovative' thermal wear, and ski gear (their Pragelato resort does not offer ski gear rental except for the equipment and shoes—however they do sell them), I was off to the Italian Alps.
23 hours later (mode of transportation included two flights, a 2-hour layover in Hong Kong, and a 3-hour car ride from the Milan-Malpensa Airport), I finally arrived at what would be my home for the next five days. The sight of the cabins surrounded by a sheet of snow was truly breathtaking. Our trip was during the end of the peak season but up on the Alps, we're assured there'll be plenty of powdery white for a thrilling ski session.
There are several types of rooms and chalets at Club Med Pragelato, and we had the chance to try two of them. The first two nights were at the Club—Family type, which was essentially a 2-floor cabin with a bedroom and bathroom at the top, and another two beds in the lounge area at the bottom; as well as a small kitchen and dining area, and a small toilet. Perfect for a family with two children, I'd say.
The last two nights were spent at another Club accommodation except this one is at a chalet where its two floors are split as two individual rooms. Tip: Be there when the resort staff delivers your luggage. Club Med Pragelato has a rule where they can't put the luggage in your room if you're not there. Trust me; I had to lug my 15kg bag up the stairs. But otherwise, cosy and inviting, this room is great for solo travellers and couples alike.
It was a lot of fun skiing downhill, feeling the smoothness of the ice and the breeze in my face—falling down multiple times, however, wasn't.
So, the main purpose of the trip: Skiing. I can cross it off my list of possible hidden talents. It's not the instructors. It's me. They're patient, give concise and clear-cut instructions but my legs and feet just wouldn't do the right 'pizza' shapes, as Cai Mei described above, to stop. It was a lot of fun skiing downhill, feeling the smoothness of the ice and the breeze in my face—falling down multiple times, however, wasn't. Of course, with more practice, I'm sure it's possible but after three sessions and experiencing the worst fall of all the falls I had, I was done. I had a slight injury near my tail bone (it wasn't super serious but I did feel a stinging pain for almost a week after whenever I sat down).
And yet, there were still other activities on hand that I could participate. Being an all-inclusive resort (accommodation, meals, refreshments from the bar, activities for children, day and night entertainment, ski pass and group classes), Club Med Pragelato basically delivers a worry-free holiday and more. There are plenty of additional options of things to do at the resort—at an additional fee, of course. One of them was Nordic Walking. The activity is free for all but you'll have to rent the equipment to participate (snow shoes and walking poles). Mind you, it's quite a workout but the view you get in return is absolutely worth it. It was like a picture out of a classic Christmas tale! Also, don't overload on your inner-wear because you will sweat doing this. I did it twice in one day and felt completely guilt-free at dinner.
Speaking of dinner, every meal at Club Med Pragelato was delightful but between the three available restaurants, lunch at La Trattoria was my favourite. The pizzas were thin slices and the pasta, light and flavourful—the kind of satisfying carbs after a workout outdoors in the snow. Il Piemonte, on the other hand, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet-style but expect something different each time you visit—and that is something I appreciated since we ate there for three nights.
Somehow, I ended each day at Club Med Pragelato with a feeling of contentment—partly from the wonderful buffet spread but also from enjoying the peaceful walks under the stars back to our warm, cosy chalets. It's the kind of holiday where I can truly disconnect from our usual busy lifestyles, and connect instead with nature, and try something new. And hence, I've now developed a warmer affection for winter holidays except you won't see me on the slopes, but on a Nordic Walking course in my snow shoes. 'Snow problem.
The ski holiday season starts back in December so start planning! For more info on Club Med Pragelato Vialattea, visit their website.