Watch where you ski!

An ex-skier rediscovers her love for the sport in the Italian Alps.

Ski 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Ski 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
“Please take care not to accidentally ski into France, as we only have insurance for you in Italy.”
Ah, the joys of skiing in Europe, and not in Israel. For skiers on Mount Hermon, that recommendation would probably sound different: Please take care not to accidentally ski into Lebanon, as you will probably get shot.
Straddling the Italian and French Alps, Vialettea has the second-largest ski terrain available in Europe, with more than 400 km. of paths for all levels.
The diversity of terrain is important, as it can often take a while for Israelis, including this one, to get their “mountain legs.” After three years in Jerusalem without seeing even a single snowflake (until last week), I was ecstatic to be surrounded by snow.
On my first run, I took off down the mountain a little too eagerly, hurtling straight into a snow bank on the side of the route. Luckily the freshly fallen snow from the night before made my spectacular stop more like a slow-motion fall into a giant pile of cotton balls.
Vialettea’s newest resort, the chaletstyle Club Med Pragelato Vialattea, is so achingly postcard-perfect I sometimes felt as if I were walking through a Hallmark calendar of the Alps – the snow perched delicately on evergreen trees on each side of the lift, children in cable-knit sweaters drinking hot chocolate with whipped cream smeared on their noses, cedar-roofed chalets snuggled in deep valleys, and vistas of snowcapped mountains in every direction.
Then there were the unexpected perks of staying in a sparkling new ski resort: a Jacuzzi the size of a swimming pool, underground passages to coat lockers to store snowy boots while popping into the dining hall for some foie gras, and three mountainside restaurants included in my stay so I didn’t have to organize my day around coming back for lunch. That last also meant I didn’t have to employ my usual ski nutrition plan, which involves gnawing on a frozen Clif Bar on my way up the lift so I don’t have to stop skiing for a minute.
As a serious budget traveler, I was put off at first by the idea of an all-inclusive resort. I was also suspicious of some of the more cult-like aspects of Club Med – referring to guests as “Gentils Membres” (GMs) and staff as “Gentils Organisateurs” (GOs); the traditional “Touch of White” parties, where everyone actually wore white; and the hardest part to swallow, the choreographed moves for popular ’80s ballads, known as “crazy signs.” The ballad “Jessica” by Israeli band Ethnix is a popular crazy signs choice.
But skiing is an expensive holiday any way you look at it, and eventually I drank the Club Med Kool Aid – along with all the other unlimited alcohol included in my stay.
I’m a firm believer that ski holidays should take into consideration “opportunity costs” – how much time you’re wasting trying to get cheaper deals at non-mountain ski rental shops when you could be carving turns in fresh snow. Club Med’s typical insistence on making logistics run as seamlessly as possible is helpful when every moment should be spent gliding through the white stuff.
Luckily for me, the resort also included a mountain guide (weekdays only), who steered our group of moderate skiers toward the best runs for our ability level, while giving me personal tips throughout the day. On a mountain as big as Vialettea, it was helpful to have someone suggesting routes that I could explore later on my own.
Vialettea’s size means you need to stay aware of your location on the mountain to ensure you can get back to your resort before the lifts stop working.
Beginners staying at the Club Med should also note that a free shuttle is the only way to get from the resort to the ski school, as the slopes from the Club Med cable car are more advanced.
The last ski run of the day is a gently sloping, long, winding route that takes you right back to the central square of Club Med. But beware: The stunning view of mountains slowly slipping through the trees will be trumped by your aching muscles. After an entire day of skiing as hard as possible, my legs turned to jelly and I didn’t even have the energy to stop; I just kind of collapsed into a fence next to the ski rental shop to stop the momentum.
Then I put my skis in my locker and stumbled over to the pool-sized Jacuzzi, already planning the menu of drinks for the night. Life is hard, even if you aren’t skiing into neighboring countries.
The author was a guest of Club Med Pragelato Vialattea.