Whether you’ve never skied before or are a seasoned pro, Club Med Sahoro in Japan is the perfect place for a family ski holiday with fab accommodation, all-inclusive food and drink, and multiple kids’ clubs
A family ski holiday has been on my bucket list for many years, but for some reason we never got around to it. Perhaps it’s because I thought it would require a lot of planning, research and booking well in advance. I can’t seem to think of what we’ll be doing a few months down the track, let alone a year ahead. To be honest it was our friends who spurred us into action and before we knew it I was buying and borrowing winter gear for the family.
It was our friends’ third trip to Hokkaido staying with Club Med. They have two properties – Club Med Tomamu only opened in December 2017 and is a newer and larger property hosting over 300 rooms. Club Med Sahoro, the older of the two with newly renovated rooms, is more intimate with 177 guest rooms. Our friends opted for Sahoro this time, so we tagged along.
Both Club Med Resorts are located in northern Japan’s Hokkaido prefecture – home of the best ice-cream, best ramen and anything melon-flavoured. Trust me, anything with the word Hokkaido in it has got to be amazing.
From Singapore you can fly direct to Sapporo and Obihiro Airports to get to Club Med, or you may choose to go via Tokyo for a couple of nights to break up the trip. We chose to go direct to Sapporo and spend a few days adjusting to the cold before heading to the slopes.
Flight time is just over 9 hours and the train into Sapporo Station from the Airport is about 45 minutes. If you choose to spend a few days in Sapporo I would highly recommend getting the Kitaca Prepaid IC Card at the Airport train station, which you can use on all transport (trains, buses and trams) during your stay in Hokkaido.
In Sapporo, we were lucky enough to experience their annual Snow Festival. Usually in the first week of February, this great family event is perfect to get some snow action. After living in the tropics for nearly 8 years my kids could not get enough of making snow angels, family snow ball fights and being stupidly cold. There is a lot to see and do at the Snow Festival – snow and ice sculptures, sledding, snow tube slides, ice-skating and even an aerial ski jump competition can be viewed in the city’s long stretching Odori Park. A side trip to nearby Asahikawa to the famous Asahiyama Zoo to see the penguin walk is also a must. Google when the snow festivals are happening (there are quite a few in the area), and do try to tie it in with your family ski trip.
After a few days acclimatizing to -6C temperatures and buckets of snow, we travelled to Club Med Sahoro via train from Sapporo Station. Club Med Sahoro is close to a small town called Shintoku, a two-hour train ride from Sapporo or if you take the Club Med shuttle from Sapporo Chitose Airport it’s about a 2-hour coach journey.
The resort is all-inclusive with ski-in/ski-out facilities, which means the price you pay is for practically everything: accommodation, full-board food and beverage (including alcohol), ski passes, ski school, their superb kids’ club, as well as daily entertainment — so no extra planning or organizing is required. With the resort right on Sahoro Mountain, you can practically ski right out of property.
The ski pass included in your package allows you to discover 21 different slopes – 8 for beginners, 3 for intermediates, and 10 with Black Diamond advanced runs – with gondola and chair lifts for smooth transitions as you go from slope to slope.
Club Med Sahoro offers a few options for families. Their Family Suite can accommodate up to 5 people with a separate sleeping area for kids and a lounge. We opted for their Master Family Deluxe Room, which was just about enough room for our family of 4 with the kids (ages 9 and 12) sleeping in an area behind sliding screens. The rooms were refurbished last year and include all the bits and bobs you need for your stay, with plenty of cupboard space for all that ski and winter gear which seem to take up a lot of space!
As soon as you check in and freshen up you may as well hit the slopes asap to get the most out of your ski holiday. We rented our ski gear – helmet, ski poles, skis and ski boots – from Club Med. It’s worth notice that this is not included in the package and will set you back around SGD$90 per day for adults and SGD$60 per day for kids, so if you have your own ski gear or equipment, it may be worth bringing.
My kids had never skied, my hubby is a snowboarder, and I was super rusty, so we all had lessons. Why not? It’s all part of the package!
The Club Med Ski School is made up of wonderfully patient and highly experienced instructors from all over the world, all certified and trained. My son is 9 years old and started in a beginners’ class and quickly progressed a few levels by the end of the holiday. The instructors carefully decide if you are ready to graduate to the next stage and they even hold medal ceremonies for the kids.
My daughter, aged 12, and I had adult classes, again starting in a group beginner level. A few days in, both adults and the kids were using the chairlifts and able to ski down the mountain’s green (easy/beginner) trails. We had a family ski afternoon on the last day so we could show off what we’d learnt. That was great family bonding time.
There are classes twice a day – the morning session starts around 9am or 10am, depending on level, and goes for two hours. You then have another session after lunch for two hours.
World-famous Kids’ Clubs
There are three age-specific kids’ clubs – Petite Club Med (2-3 year-olds, at additional cost), Mini Club Med (ages 4 to 8), and Junior Club Med (ages 9 through teen) – that allow children (even my nearly teen) to explore the vast range of activities whilst being looked after by the Kids’ Club staff. This is what Club Med is famous for – having your kids entertained and cared for whilst you enjoy time with your other half and friends is priceless. Sounds like a perfect holiday, right?) and Mini Club Med caters for kids from 4 – 10 years.
As skiing is an activity, you can drop your kids at the Club from as early as 8.30am and the whole suiting and booting for ski school is all taken care of by the Kids’ Club’s qualified and approachable staff. As you can imagine it’s quite the production getting the whole kit and caboodle on, so this is such a bonus!
To be honest, the only additional activities we wanted to bother with after a day of skiing was using the outdoor hot-tub and their indoor Ofuro (Japanese hot soaking bathtub), both perfect to soothe those aching muscles and relax the body after a day on the mountains. The outdoor hot tub is a must-try – just imagine snow falling on your face whilst being submerged in a glorious warming tub of water. Then dare your kids or husband to jump out and run around in the snow! And if you aren’t up for the hot-tub challenge, go for the female or male indoor bathtub, just be warned that you will need to be naked for this one!
Apart from the resort’s facilities, you can also, at an additional cost, try snow sledding, ice fishing, horse riding or go on a mini trek on a snow mobile. There’s also a well-equipped gym and you can sign up for Zumba, Yoga or Squash lessons, and of course a day spa for massages to iron out those sore muscles.
Buffet-style international cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner is served in the Daichi restaurant daily. There’s a great variety and they cater for all sorts of dietary needs. The Japanese corner with endless sushi and sashimi was the highlight for me, as well as the yummy raclette. The friendly chefs and catering staff are also great prepping any additional requests – you just might be rolling out of the resort, mama. But you do burn a lot of calories skiing, right? (Wink) My kids loved the Hokkaido ice-cream machine! Don’t be surprised if your kids go back for more, they tend to rule Club Med by the second day of the holiday.
Snacks and beverages are available throughout the day at the bar area. Most families catch up here at the end of the day and enjoy a mulled wine or two, brandy, hot chocolate or a refreshing glass of beer or sake, and the kids over-indulge on colourful slushies, yummy pancakes and toasted sandwiches.
The fun carries on well into the evening … or until you call it a night. After dinner the Club Med staff put on a show, often asking your kiddos to take part. My daughter was roped in on day 1 and loved it. I guess if you work at Club Med (whether you are a ski instructor or a bar tender), you need to be multitalented. Quite often my kids found it a hoot spotting their ski instructor prancing around the stage in a ballerina costume or pretending to be Tina Turner. There are also a few Mini Club shows on certain days of the week where you can watch your kids perform on stage.
From the moment you arrive to the moment you are saying goodbye, the Club Med staff G.O.’s (Gentle Organisers) are with you every step of the way. The service is impeccable, nothing left un-turned, always with smile of their face, infectiously cheerful with a real personal touch. Everyone even knows your name!
The team is led by their wonderful and well-respected GM Merlin Chelliah from Singapore – this lady is in a league of her own. She is there to greet you on arrival, there to serve you at lunch and dinner, and is center-stage in all their evening shows and performances. She has boundless energy and everyone leaves the resort in awe of her.
What you need
As it was our first ski holiday experience, we definitely over-packed. I suppose better to be safe than sorry, but seriously you don’t need endless changes of clothes on the slopes. First of all you hardly sweat, and secondly no one is checking if you’ve worn the same thing three days in a row. Après ski is also very casual, so please don’t pack a cocktail dress or heels!
Here is my list of must-haves for 4 days:
1 x Warm Hat – not essential as you will be wearing a helmet, but my kids wore a small beanie under the helmet for added warmth. This is also nice to have when out and about
1 x Ski Snood or Balaclava – this keeps your neck and half your face warm and is a must for the chilly wind
4 x Thermal Long Sleeve Top – we doubled up with two on the colder -15c days
2 x Thermal leggings – to wear under the ski pants
1 x Fleece Zip Up Top – to go over the thermals
1 x Ski Jacket
1 x Ski Pants / Bibs / Salopettes
1 x Glove Liners
1 x Ski Gloves
3 x Warm Ski Socks
1 x Snow Boots – to wear when out and about when you aren’t skiing
Also pack a few of those small hand warmers that you can get for cheap in Daiso or Decathlon. These work a treat inside the gloves for extra warmth.
In the evenings for the dinners and the shows most people wore jeans or tracksuit bottoms with a warm top. To save on space we wore our snow boots everywhere but some people bought an extra pair of shoes or trainers.
So will we go back?
Club Med Hokkaido is perfect for those that want a taste of skiing in Japan in a no-hassle, all-inclusive resort style environment. It’s perfect for families, particularly those with younger kids. Just about everything is looked after. If, however, you are looking for a village or shops to explore and get some local Japanese culture, then this not for you. This is a resort where you will be spending your days and your evenings in with little to escape to.
As a family of beginners we found the medium sized terrain of Sahoro ample. My snowboarder husband did go off-piste with friends, and with copious amounts of snow found it challenging enough. Advanced skiers may find it repetitive after a couple of visits but I would also suggest that a 3-to-5-day stay is just about right.
For this family, we have now got the ski bug and are already thinking about booking for 2020! Once you experience Club Med Sahoro I’m afraid you’ll be so spoilt that you’ll want to go back time and time again!