First-time skier Samantha Rowntree takes to the slopes at Japan’s newest all-inclusive resort, Club Med Tomamu Hokkaido.
Some things haven’t changed since Club Med first appeared on the travel scene in 1950 with a smattering of thatched huts on the beachfront in Solerno, Italy. The resort still offers all-inclusive getaways in gorgeous locales but has since spread its wings across the globe and taken its offerings upmarket. Club Med Tomamu Hokkaido is the latest Club Med resort to venture to an exciting ski destination.
Japanese luxury in Club Med Tomamu Hokkaido
There’s no mistaking the fact that I’m in Japan. From the moment I step into the lobby, a hot green tea pressed into my hands to take the chill off, the resort surrounds me with a sense of the local culture and landscape.
A cherry blossom tree spreads its branches in the centre of the lobby, while thin birch tree trunks and stone walls embody architect and designer Jean Philippe Nuel’s vision of contemporary interiors tying in seamlessly with the stunning natural surrounds.
Mid-century European design meets Japanese minimalism in each of the 341 rooms and suites, the larger catering for families. Outside the picture window in my room, the forest is blanketed in soft, untouched snow.
I’ve arrived in plenty of time to hit the slopes and, as a first-time skier, I’m both nervous and excited at the prospect. Thanks to Club Med’s almost-too-easy booking system, my hired skis and boots are already waiting for me in my locker – it’s time to get out there and see what this skiing caper is all about.
A novice on the slopes
Giving skiing or snowboarding a go is essential at Club Med Tomamu, even if you’ve never tried it before; the lift passes and lessons are included in the rate.
I join the beginners’ class that runs twice a day, tackling the basics of positioning, stopping and turning on the baby slopes close to the main lodge. Thanks to the English-speaking instructor’s excellent tutelage, I’m ready to test my skills on the mountain after just two lessons.
There aren’t any lines to get on the chairlift, so before I know it I’m off, full steam ahead. Well, as full-steam as my novice status will allow me as I shuffle off the chairlift and zigzag my way carefully down the mountain.
Along with allowing me to gradually grow my confidence, the gentle slope and leisurely pace gives me the chance to savour a bird’s-eye view of the winter wonderland surrounding me. The soft, fresh powder squeaks under my skis and, like spectators, perfectly white trees line the run.
Welcoming all experience levels
There’s room for skiers of all experience levels at Hoshino Resorts Tomamu; the ski resort covers 145 hectares and has 29 runs (four red, 14 blue, 10 green, one beginner), and although it’s fully booked, there’s hardly another person in sight. The mountain feels like mine alone.
Club Med and Tomamu are both known for offering unique experiences, and no visit to this Hokkaido powder haven is complete without exploring its off-the-slopes adventures.
Sake and soaking
My first stop in the village is the Hoshino Resorts-operated Mina Mina Beach, Japan’s largest indoor wave pool. I can see snow falling outside through the soaring glass ceilings, but inside the temperature is almost tropical. Instead I opt to pay a visit to the complex’s Kirinno Yu traditional outdoor bath. The air is ice-cold but the water is warm and welcoming. As I soak, tiny snowflakes cling to my hair and the forest around me becomes all the more magical.
I come back feeling refreshed and ready for canapés and après-ski drinks at Club Med Tomamu’s Unkai Bar, where friendly staff (known as GOs, or Gentils Organisateurs) greet you at the door. The bar offers majestic views of the mountain, a cosy library nook and a big fireplace. My fellow guests are gathered there, keen for a chat, along with the instructors I’ve been skiing with all day.
At The Nest Zen Bar, a hidden gem of the resort, the atmosphere is calmer and more intimate. A fireplace offsets the views of the outside world, lit up to show the falling snow. Tea lessons are available here during the day, but I’ve come for the Japanese whisky and sake tasting. This experience blends tradition with modern methods, and I am just as entranced by the stories behind the distilleries as I am with the drinks themselves.
Snow trekking Tomamu
The next day I set off to explore the area in a different way: snow trekking. We tromp through the incredible great outdoors in silence, deep snow muffling the sound of our steps. Snow trekking is one of the many included activities at Club Med Tomamu Hokkaido, along with alpine skiing, sledding, snowboarding, night skiing and yoga. I finish off my all-too-short visit with some fun at the nearby Hoshino Resorts-operated Ice Village, where a cluster of igloos awaits me. I order an ice-cold drink from the bar in a glass made of ice before getting lost in the frozen maze and surrendering to the winter delights of Tomamu.
This article appeared in volume 29 of Signature Luxury Travel & Style. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.