I wasn't sure if I could do it.
As the rest of my media friends, who were all first-time skiers like myself, were effortlessly gliding through the snow within the first hour of our beginners’ ski class, I was falling down for the umpteenth time.
We were learning to ski at Club Med Tomamu in Hokkaido, Japan, the latest snow resort by the popular holiday company which had opened in December.
“To turn to the left, rest your body weight on your right leg and point your skis to the left,” explained the ski instructor, Charlotte Jameson, 21, from England.
The instructions sounded easy enough but balance and coordination had never been my strong suits. My legs seemed to have a mind of their own, sliding (and slipping!) in every direction other than the one they were supposed to go.
Jameson did not give up, correcting my stance and going through the steps with me over and over again.
“Just keep practising those movements,” she spurred me on in her bright, chirpy voice. “It’s about persistence and not getting too frustrated with yourself. In the end, it’s about having fun.”
True enough, towards the end of our two-hour session, my legs finally obeyed and I managed to make my first turn without taking a tumble!
Impeccable snow quality
Whether you’re someone who has never skiied or snowboarded before or a hardcore ski/snowboard junkie, this winter paradise will cater to your every need.
Spreading across 145 ha at Tomamu Mountain in Hokkaido, the ski resort boasts 28 slopes with varying degrees of difficulty. The soft, powdery quality of the snow in Tomamu – called “champagne powder snow” – makes for a silky smooth skiing experience.
“As Tomamu is in the middle of Hokkaido, the snow here is dry. Dry snow is best for skiing. It feels soft and smooth when you ski down,” shared ski school director Jason Oh.
Indeed, even landing on your bum feels like plopping onto a bed of marshmallows. Trust me, I know.
“If a ski resort is near the ocean, there’ll be a lot of humidity, which makes the snow wet and heavy. It will be more difficult to control your skis,” he said.
Oh, who has over 10 years of experience as a ski instructor in Canada, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan, added that Tomamu has the best snow quality he has ever seen.
No fuss, no muss
As with many of the Club Med villages around the world, this resort made all the necessary travel and activity arrangements for us to ensure that we only focus on enjoying ourselves. Upon landing at the New Chitose Airport in Sapporo, a shuttle bus picked us up and whisked us away to the resort, which is about 90 minutes away.
As first-time skiiers, naturally, we didn’t bring (or have) any ski equipment with us but we needn’t worry because ski gear is available for rent there.
Once we got our equipment and attire, which were personally fitted, the items were stored away for our lessons the next day.
“With some ski resorts, you have to walk or take a bus to the slopes. Club Med makes it easy for you. We have a chairlift and gondola right in front of the resort which makes going up and down the slopes a breeze,” Oh said.
Club Med has 24 snow resorts in operation worldwide, so Club Med Tomamu’s “ski in, ski out” concept runs like a well-oiled machine.
There are also ski classes tailored specifically for kids (Mini Club Med for ages four to 10 and Club Med Passworld for ages 11 to 17) so parents/grandparents/older siblings can concentrate on their own ski lessons. Now, that’s a holiday.
Plus, with the all-inclusive holiday concept Club Med is known for, not only is your skiing experience taken care of, your accommodation, food and beverage (including alcohol!) and the use of various facilities are all sorted when you pay a flat, one-time fee.
Ski’s not the limit
If skiing and snowboarding are not really your thing and you simply want to breathe in the cool mountain air, then try snow trekking instead. It allows you to take in the picturesque landscape around Club Med Tomamu while feeling the light, fluffy snow under your feet.
You can also head over to Ice Village where a collection of ice domes houses bars, gift shops and even an ice hotel with furniture made entirely of, you guessed it, ice!
The temperature dipped as low as -8°C during our stay at the resort, but keeping warm wasn’t a problem.
I went for a swim at Mina Mina Beach, a heated indoor wave pool. If you’re game, pamper yourself at Kirin-no Yu, an open-air onsen (Japanese bath house).
Another way to keep warm, for those who can, is to sample Japanese sake and whisky at the Nest Bar.
The fun doesn’t stop when the sun sets as Club Med’s employees double up as entertainers and put on a different live performance every day.
After 10pm, you can shake your troubles off on the dance floor.
All that moving about meant that we needed constant fuel. At its main buffet restaurant Itara, we had our fill of quality Asian and Western dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Buffets often mean that dishes are cooked in advance and as a result, things would go cold (or worse, bad) by the time guests tuck in to eat.
What impressed me with Club Med’s buffet was the fresh, piping-hot dishes that kept coming out from its kitchen doors. There were also a few live cooking stations available.
It was the local cuisine that stole the show for me, notably its fresh melt-in-your-mouth sashimi, succulent Hokkaido crab, and my favourite, the rich, creamy Hokkaido ice cream.
Yes, ice cream in winter is not a bad thing.
The resort’s other restaurant, Haku, specialises in yakiniku (Japanese barbecue) where guests get to grill an assortment of premium meat.
Oh, what a view
After a long, fruitful day, it’s nice to just unwind in the zen, contemporary Japanese room designed by award-winning French interior designer Jean Philippe Nuel. Don’t forget to pull back the curtains and enjoy the view. I gasped when I first saw the snow-covered pine trees sprawled out before me outside the window.
I had many wonderful memories from the trip but one stood out in particular – the hospitality shown by Club Med employees, or the “gentle organisers” as they’re officially called. These folks never pass up the chance to smile and brighten up someone’s day.
“With other ski schools, when I finish a lesson, that’s it. At Club Med, when I finish a lesson, my students and I have lunch or a drink at the bar. So it’s not just an instructor-guest relationship, we’re friends,” shared Oh.
For a resort specialising in activities out in the cold, there sure is a lot of warmth here.