Club Med Tomamu hits the peaks of chilled activity and entertainment for all the family, writes Gia Garrick.
Consistent powder snow days and all-inclusive on and off-mountain luxury.
This is no hyperbole when it comes to the brand new Club Med Tomamu, in northern Japan.
I was there in late January, mid-snow season in Hokkaido, while summer temperatures at home soared upwards of 25C. I'd never left such tropical temperatures to brave the cold by choice, but boy did this place change my idea of paradise. We had brilliant blue days that turned to white overnight; meaning we'd wake to the resort coated in soft, powdery goodness. I lost track of the number of powder turns I threw myself into and runs on and off-piste I explored in the week I spent on the mountain.
Club Med takes all-inclusive far above any expectation of the phrase.
At the Tomamu resort you can choose to hit the slopes all day, or instead do cooking classes, graffiti art lessons, Japanese tea or whiskey and sake tastings.
Activities range from snow trekking to yoga. Daily, or twice-daily if you're up for it, your ski or snowboard lessons are included.
You can be a complete ski beginner and I'd put money on you being hooked on the sport by the end of the week.
The cocktail list at Unkai bar is also a guaranteed fun pastime, as well as the bar's late afternoon and pre-dinner snacks and canapes. You truly can't beat it, particularly with its floor-to-ceiling views of the mountain as the sun sets, for a post-ski unwind.
The abundance of all-inclusive activities makes Club Med Tomamu the perfect snow holiday for families. If you're like me and want to spend the entire getaway on a snowboard or skis, there's nothing worse than having a friend or family member who isn't so keen. The best thing about Club Med is there is every opportunity to fill a day with non-snow fun, meaning the last thing you're going to feel is guilt on your latest powder run, knowing the kids/husband/friends/colleagues are happily entertained.
There's Petite Club Med for 2 to 3 year-olds, or Mini Club Med for kids aged 4-10. Not only will your little ones make friends for life, all the GOs (Gentils Organisateurs), who're paid to work with kids, or in other skilled areas around the resort) are qualified in teaching and childcare.
They'll organise everything from arts and crafts, puppet play and building snowmen under colourful outdoor lights, to putting shows and talent quests together to perform to parents worn out from days on the slopes. Your kids will appear to be having more fun than you are, grinning at you over the pre-dinner mocktail they've ordered themselves from the bar.
Meals are an experience in themselves; the main Itara restaurant boasting the freshest seafood, meats, breads and cheeses — much of which is sourced locally.
The buffet consists of four rounds of chefs, plating meals inspired by Japanese, Korean, Chinese and even Italian culinary delights. It's a plate-on-request system, so the food's cooked fresh as you watch. And the Itara restaurant has four dining areas, the design of each inspired by a different season.
Every meal is a fun challenge of "how many plates can I carry?" and really, the plates just aren't big enough in the patisserie and dessert section.
The cosier dining option is the Haku restaurant, a farm-to-table yakiniku barbecue where you choose your meat and veg and cook it at your table. And the Nest bar, with its specialty whiskeys and sake, is conveniently located along the short, enclosed walk back to the main resort.
But if you do find yourself getting bored of the resort's own bar options, just a short bus ride away is Tomamu's very own ice village — and ice bar.
Your resort package covers the trip there and back. There are colourful cocktails in frozen ice cups, or hot chocolates and marshmallows to toast on fires cranking between igloos.
You'll find sheepsskin-covered ice seats and an ice "hotel" room, with its hide-covered bed, an ice chapel you can hire out for a wedding, art rooms where you can solidify snowflakes or freeze flower petals in ice for eternity. And if you don't fancy walking down the slope to the ice village, you can quite literally take an ice slide. It's another unmissable piece of what is by definition a winter wonderland.
But if delectable food, metres of icing-sugar snow and happy kids isn't enough to convince you, the Onsen hot pools a minute's walk from the resort's front door surely will. The baths are long, shallow and hot, backing straight on to the snow with a view of powder-topped trees. More often than not it'll snow as you soak, the steam from the baths melting the snowflakes away like magic as they fall. It's a must to combat the ache of well-used muscles, worn out from hours of mountain play.
With more than 21km of trails, no lines at the ski lifts and endless off-piste exploration among the trees, sore legs are a promise.
For those who'd rather swim than soak (or prefer to keep their togs on) Japan's largest indoor wave pool, Mina Mina Beach is another resort neighbour, and run by the nearby Hoshino resort.
Every 15 minutes boogie-boardable waves start rolling in under fake palms, while giant inflatable pizzas and flamingos bob on swells out back.
The "beach" among the snow is an experience in itself — particularly for kids and teens.
There really isn't anything Club Med Tomamu doesn't have, and when it comes to a snow holiday you won't find a better deal. Packages start at $2450 for seven nights, outside peak season, all-inclusive.
It's far cheaper to head to Japan for a snow holiday than to any of the top spots in the US or Europe. You'll spend less of your time off travelling too — with a flight from Auckland to Tokyo under 11 hours. A domestic flight from Tokyo north, to Sapporo or Obihiro airports, is then no longer than an hour and a half.
And did I mention all the ski and board kit for rent at this Club Med is latest-season Rossignol? Yeah, you'd think I was joking.
fares to Tokyo start from $529.
For information and bookings at Club Med Tomamu Hokkaido, go to clubmed.co.nz.
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