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Club Med, the popular all-inclusive ski specialists are returning to the Milky Way for 2012/13. Club Med Pragelato will be their first hotel in the Milky Way for two years after they relinquished their Sestriere property two years ago.
Pragelato may not seem as obvious a resort to enjoy the delightful 400km of skiing the Milky Way, or Via Lattea in Italian, offers, but when you see the resort you'll quickly see why Club Med have taken residence there.
Club Med Pragelato Via Lattea
The resort of Pragelato was built for the 2006 Winter Olympic games in Turin, with the job of hosting the ski jump and the cross country skiing. After the Olympics left the village, the Milky Way was left with a charming, purpose build resort surrounded by trees and in a naturally preserved site — note to the French, it is possibly to built charming resorts, they don't have to look like Val Thorens!
The Club Med hotel is more akin to their summer programme then their winter offerings, with the resort being built in the style of a chalet-filled village, as opposed to one or two large hotels. The complex was previously managed by another company, but Club Med have taken over and are currently redecorating and upgrading the resort to bring it up to their 4* standards.
This resort looks like it could be the ideal hotel for a romantic getaway, a family ski trip, or hitting up the Milky Way in style with some friends, for a chilled, yet awesome holiday. Club Med Pragelato will boast three restaurants, including La Trattoria — serving up local Italian cuisine — La Taverna— with its Savoyard fare and charm — and the hotel's main restaurant — boasting the usual array of fab food available in Club Med's renowned buffet.
For lunches there are also three mountain restaurants to visit, meaning you can take advantage of the huge ski area, yet still enjoy Club Med's hospitality. Chalet Mollino over in Sauze d'Oulx is exclusively for Club Med guests and can seat up to 300 during peak season, which is amazing considering the resort only has 234 rooms! If you are skiing a little further afield, or prefer more intimate lunches there is a restaurant seating around 30-50 people in Sansicario and another similar sized restaurant across the border into the French resort of Montgenèvre.
The hotel also boasts a decent modern spa, which is one of the very few additional costs, along with a couple of bars — including a chilled out lounge bar if you don't fancy the French entertainment.
The Milky Way
The Milky Way, or Via Lattea, is one of the most underrated ski areas in the Alps. The huge area boasts a whopping 400km of skiing across two countries, with the majority of easily accessed slopes being in Italy, with the French resorts of Claviere and Montgenèvre a few lifts and a morning of skiing away.
Cruisy blues and confidence building reds are the order of the day, with the most difficult skiing being at the top of Sestriere and over in Montgenèvre. There is tree-lined skiing everywhere, which both helps keep the snow in great condition and offers protection on white-out days, making for great all round skiing. There are a few snowparks and a border cross, if you are that way inclined too.
If you fancy skiing Claviere and Montgenèvre from the Club Med Pragelato, then it's a full day out on the mountain, hence the restaurant. It will take a good hour and a half to two hours each way for a good level skier, so make sure you leave early to make the most of it and give yourself enough time to get back! There is also night skiing in Sestriere to enjoy, with Club Med offering buses from the hotel to the slopes on the relevant evenings.
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Sestriere's longest piste: 9km Sauze d'Oulx's longest piste: 5km Montgenèvre's longest piste: 7km Claviere's longest piste: 6km
All-in-all the Milky Way is a fantastic intermediate resort, a great place to build confidence, enjoy a few cruisy runs on the mountain and to enjoy some Italian sunshine and great mountain food. My idea of heaven! The hotel is the best value 4* resort in the Club Med brochure and with its brand new facilities and tree-lined mountain charm it will be popular with couples, families and relaxed skiers alike, looking for affordable luxury and not a typical French resort.
Cheap ski deals are a bit of a misdemeanour as skiing is never cheap. By the time you have added your travel, accommodation, lift pass, ski hire/carriage, lessons (if needed) and food & drinks in resort, you are often lucky to get away with spending less than £1000. That's not to say that with good planning, realistic expectations and a bit of luck you can of course get a great deal, saving a small fortune.
People often flock toward the likes of Bulgaria and Andorra for a cheap ski break, but the realism is they are catching up with the rest of Europe year-on-year for price, yet the ski areas are not always as snow-sure or as challenging as the more renowned resorts. Andorra's lift pass prices are catching those of France, at £180, and the airfares to Bulgaria mean it often costs more than a cheeky week to a more renowned resort with a shorter flight.
Having taken into consideration the resort costs, including lift pass & ski hire, the holiday costs and the ski areas, I have put together an indication of where the best value cheap ski deals currently lie. There are a couple of self catered apartments, some value chalets and an all inclusive package, to give you a good indication of what to expect and where to look. Bargain hunting for cheap ski holidays starts as soon as the winter is over, so you now don't need to hold on in hope of getting a last minute deal.
To keep things fair and comparable I have looked at mid January, traditionally the cheapest time of the season where the resorts are fully open and for arguments sake have kept to London(ish) airports.
Self catered holidays can be a false economy due to the cost of food in resort, though sneaking some dry foods and packet mixes into your suitcase can help with this — student-style skiing! But if you are there for the skiing and/or the nightlife, accommodation is often at the bottom of the list, therefore squeezing into a 20m2 apartment with three friends won't bother you in the slightest.
Having kept to the dates mentioned before, you might be surprised to hear that the resorts of Avoriaz and Alpe d'Huez topped the list for accommodation costs and reasonable lift pass prices. Okay so €5 or so a pint may be the main downfall here, but there are some great value places to eat in both these ski areas. Pizza Roll in Alpe d'Huez is well used buy the underpaid resort staff and at €3 a pizza who can blame them. In Avoriaz ski down the Les Marmottes restaurant in the Lindarets valley for some great value mountain food — which will be much appreciated if a diet of pasta and sauce is on the menu in the evenings!
The Balcons du Soleil apartments in Avoriaz often offer great value, whether getting an early summer deal or a last minute cheap trip you can find prices here for sub £300 per person. The lift pass is around £196 (for 650km of piste!) and ski hire is around £90 for skis & boots and ski carriage is £51. The best price at the moment is from Luton airport on the 7th January for as little as £282 per person, based on four sharing a four person studio apartment — offering cosy but low cost accommodation.
Alpe d'Huez offers 260km of great skiing, a glacier, Europe's longest black run — the 16km La Sarenne — the infamous Le Tunnel's moguls and the great value Les Horizons d'Huez apartments. The lift pass is little more expensive here at £204, but includes use of the both the heated outdoor pool (budgie smugglers required), the indoor pool & sports centre and the resort bus, the ski & boot hire is again £90, ski carriage is £51. The cheapest ski deal here is again on the 7th January on a flight from Luton airport at £236 per person, based on four people sharing — the cheapest deal, but slightly higher resort costs.
Chalet holidays can actually offer better value than staying in an apartment, due to the fact most of your catering is covered (the staff have one night off during your stay). You are usually given a hearty breakfast, afternoon tea and a three course evening meal with wine. If you have good chalet hosts you can usually have a large breakfast with cereals, a cooked option and some fruit, then make yourself a cheese, ham or jam sandwich for lunch (though do this quietly as you are not supposed to) and ski back for tea, coffee and cake at 4pm and still have time for an aprés ski beer.
Based on out-and-out price, the Chalet Anemones in Les Deux Alpes offers fantastic value. Again using a Luton flight the price for two people in a twin room is only £416 per person on either the 7th or 14th January. So the difference in cost to have two full meals and afternoon tea, with only one evening not catered, offers great value. Les Deux Alpes is a student favourite, offering good nightlife, glacier skiing and reasonable resort prices — the lift pass is only £184 and ski & hire is again around £90 and ski carriage is £51.
For a great overall deal, great value on the mountain and the chance to ski two countries in one holiday, then the Chalet Choucas in La Rosiere offers fantastic value. At the moment, though subject to change, the chalet is offering buy-one-get-one-free lift passes for the area, and at £155 for two people that is a bargain. The ski area sits toward the end of the Tarantaise Valley, opposite Les Arcs and bordering Italy. Skiing down to La Thuile you can enjoy fantastic mountain food at great, Italian prices, giving great savings throughout the week. This time based on a flight into Gatwick and with two people sharing a twin room the price stands at £541 per person — at only £77.50 for your lift pass with ski hire from as little as £72 (or ski carriage for £30) you are looking at £690 for a week with everything bar lunch and one evening meal paid for!
Again sticking with Les Deux Alpes, there are some ridiculously good value all inclusive deals with the Club Med Les Deux Alpes, though if you fancy a different resort the Club Med Arcs Extreme and Club Med Aime La Plagne are often comparable in price. Club Med offer something different to the typical British ski holiday, first of all they are French run, owned and styled hotels, though they have english speaking staff. If you are here for the skiing and not the resort nightlife the hotels have everything you need. The price include accommodation, transport, all inclusive meals and drinks (apart from champagne etc), lift pass, ski school and on charter flights ski carriage. You can ski back to the hotel for lunch, a beer or a snack, the bar is open until early until the early hours and there is entertainment for all ages. If you head out on the 15th or 22nd January you are only paying £843 per person, based on two sharing — this means if you have your own skis you don't have to spend another penny (apart from travel insurance) and if you don't ski hire starts at only £99 pp. If five days skiing is enough for you, you can get all this for only £763 on the 9th January for six nights!
In a quick and almost lazy round-up here are the overall price comparisons for the best value self catered, chalet and all inclusive for seven nights:
So depending on how much you expect to spend on meals both in your accommodation and on the mountain, whether you are heading out into resort to party, fancy a glass of wine over dinner, or want the freedom to enjoy a drink whenever you fancy, depends on what works out best for you. Self catered are cosy, but low cost, chalets are comfortable, yet good value and Club Med include everything you need for a great price. All-in-all it's your choice and before you add in ski lessons and lunches Club Med is only £200 more than a chalet (lessons can cost up to £150 these days), and before you add in meals, tea and wine chalets are only £150 more than self catered. Do the maths and choose the best ski deal for you — I know what I'd go for!
* The prices in this article were correct at time of publish, though are subject to change at anytime.
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