After the previous season’s family ski plans fell victim to Covid travel restrictions, Michael Wolstenholme and his family were finally able to take their long-awaited trip to Pragelato in the Sestriere area of the Italian Alps to see how it shaped up for a family ski holiday.
The last few years has seen an increased demand of ‘all-inclusive’ ski holidays, including Club Med, with an impressive 22 alpine resorts across France, Italy and Switzerland. Fourteen of these are considered by ClubMed to be a good choice for a family ski trip. Club Med is an ‘all-inclusive’ French tour operator offering summer and winter beach, activity, lakes and mountain and ski holidays across the globe. They have been going since 1950 and have developed a good reputation (and loyal following) for high quality all-inclusive holidays with no hidden costs.
Pragelato is a small village located in the Piedmont region of the Italian Alps and is part of the large Milky Way (Via Lattea) ski domain. The village is nestled in a valley and sits at 1,600 metres. It has its own modern cable car to whisk you up the valley and to plug into the main Via Lattea ski network, and the close by resort of Sestriere. There is also a run back down the valley to provide you with ‘ski in’ accommodation.
Before we get stuck into the skiing, I wanted to talk a little bit about the accommodation (and the quality of the all-inclusive elements) as in many ways, this is more important for a family ski holiday than the skiing. I’ve stayed once before in a Club Med in Alpe d’Huez and was really impressed by the whole experience but each resort has a different persona so it would be interesting to see how different Pragelato would be. My first impressions were that Club Med Pragelato felt more of an actual resort complex than a hotel. This was largely down to its individual chalets and chalet blocks being spread out over the property. This chalet style also gave it a more traditional feel. The resort itself has 234 rooms, three restaurants, a lounge bar with evening entertainment, the kids club, ski hire shop and a leisure centre (pool, gym sauna and spa).
The main restaurant was spacious, well presented and had a number of different seating rooms to choose from. Each room had its own unique décor and all of them were nice places to enjoy a family meal together. The food was also tasty and there was plenty of options, including wood fired pizzas, pasta dishes, cheeses, cured meats, grilled meat, fish and an impressive line-up of different flavours of ice cream. There are also A La Carte options, but we really didn’t feel the need to explore these given the high standard of the main buffet.
Skiing the Milky Way
The Milky Way ski domain offers north of 400km of pistes over 247 slopes and links the resorts of Sauze D’oulx, Sansicario, Pragelato and Sestriere on the Italian side to Claviere and Montgenevre on the French side. More than 80% of the area is over 1,900 metres high with a top elevation at 2,800 metres. In terms of getting around there are over 70 lifts servicing 9 green, 70 blue, a staggering 134 red and 34 black runs. The Sauze D’Oulx section is great for some fast and steeper runs, although a few of the chairlifts in this area could do with upgrading to make them a little quicker.
For those of you who are beginning your ski journey, or are seeking less of the steeper stuff, there is plenty on offer to keep you entertained and to help improve your technique. There is also a nice nursery area at the top of the Pragelato cable car where the children’s groups spent the first two days learning before setting out to explore the blue runs down to Sestriere and beyond.
The Via Lattea ski pass that is provided as part of the Club Med package does also include been able to visit and ski the French side for a day. The skiing on offer over in the Montgenevre section of the Via Lattea is some of the best in the whole domain and is a great ski safari day out but you do need to set off early as it does take some time to reach this section. Just make sure you also give yourself ample time to return to avoid closing lifts – it would be a long and expensive taxi journey back!
Overall, the Milky Way is a really excellent ski area offering high elevation, a good level of snow surety, some fantastic long runs and excellent mountain restaurants. The Via Lattea lift pass is also one of the best value lift passes anywhere in Western Europe.
Ski lessons are included as part of a Club Med package. They are provided exclusively for Club Med guests by a local ski school and there is a good range of classes available to suit all abilities. I would normally head off myself for a bit of ‘me-ski’ to discover the area, but I put myself down for one of the advanced groups just to get a feel for the quality of the tuition on offer. I’m pleased that I did as I found it socially rewarding as well as learning some new drills and technical tweaks to help improve my skiing. In my experience an ‘advanced’ group lesson tends to be at a level where people are learning to parallel ski, so it was great to have the option of a group that was aimed at accomplished skiers. My wife (Letang) also benefitted from the option of a more advanced intermediate group which has helped her to become a more confident skier. At this level, Letang found it beneficial to be in an area with a high number of red runs as time spent practising on steeper terrain accelerated her ability and confidence.
Lessons tend to last most of the day with a lunch break where you can either head back to the hotel, or, have lunch on the mountain in one of the Club Med affiliated restaurants at no extra cost. This a great benefit to ClubMed’s all-inclusive offering as it avoids the notoriously expensive mountain restaurant lunch.
My daughter Lilly (7) also seemed to enjoy her group lessons and it was brilliant seeing her been able to start to link turns, stop and grow in confidence – as well as make new friends. Club Med does get a lot of visitors from all parts of the world. With the Southern Hemisphere on their school summer holidays, Lilly met and formed friendships with children from Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and Australia.
The Kids Club at Club Med Pragelato deserves a special mention. Lilly had an amazing time and really enjoyed the activities and the entertainment that was provided. Testament to this is that after two days, she preferred to lunch with kid’s club and would abandon us in the evening if there was something going down in kids club. Having good childcare is an important consideration when booking a family holiday and we felt that Club Med excelled in this area.
When you have young children in tow, you just want things to be as smooth as possible. Having to self-cater, book lift-passes, lessons, buy lunch and dinner, book lessons and childcare and keep them entertained etc is time consuming, usually stressful at times…and often costs a lot more than you thought it would. This is where an all-inclusive family ski holiday makes complete sense and Club Med do it very well. Furthermore, their properties tend to be in easily accessible areas of good ski areas so no need for buses or longer walks to the lifts – just step in your bindings and go. Apart from ski equipment hire, everything else is included.
A family ski holiday can cost a lot. I therefore wanted to touch on this a little in relation to booking a family ski holiday with Club Med. ClubMed are seen in the more ‘premium’ bracket of ski holiday providers but (and it’s a BIG BUT), in return you should receive an excellent level of quality. One way to reduce the cost would be to look at booking in non-peak weeks where flight and hotel costs are reduced. A one-week off-peak stay at ClubMed Pragelato from 14th January for 7 nights for 2 adults and 2 children costs £6,236 (including British Airways Flights). This includes a Family Superior Room (2 separate rooms, all meals, drinks and snacks, ski/ snowboard lessons, full area lift passes and kids club.
Booking And Getting There
Michael and his family stayed in Club Med Pragelato Sestriere in a ‘Family Superior Room’: www.clubmed.co.uk/r/pragelato-sestriere/w
Holidays to Club Med Pragelato can be made directly with Club Med. Also speak with one of Club Med’s affiliated UK ski travel agencies. Skiline.co.uk feature Club Med ski holidays so it would be worth picking up the phone to them (0208 313 399) or enquiring online at www.skiline.co.uk/ski-holidays/italy/pragelato/club-med-pragelato-via-lattea
A like for like holiday for this season for 2 adults and 1 child departing on the 7th January for 7 nights at Club Med Pragelato Sestriere is currently priced on Club Med’s website at £5,197 excluding flights.
Equipment hire: Ski hire is not included in a Club Med holiday. The quality of the equipment we hired last season was good and would cover all abilities, including expert. Adult skis range from £115 for the week for intermediate level skis to £171 for expert skis (Snowboard hire is very similar). Ski boots range from £58 to £76 per week and an adult helmet is £28 per week. Children’s hire ranges from £60 to £80 for skis, £48 for boots and children’s helmets are free.
Ski lessons: These are included in the price of a Club Med holiday,
Lift pass: A 6-day Via Lattea full area pass is included in the price of a Club Med holiday.
Flights: Ryanair from Stansted to Turin, Titan fly from Gatwick and British Airways also fly to Turin from Uk airports.
Transfer: Transfers are included as part of a Club Med holiday.