Winter wonders in Kiroro

Opened just in time for Japan’s ski season, the new Club Med Kiroro Grand demonstrates how excellent hardware, warm service and the all-inclusive format make a dream combination for fuss-free vacations.

Club Med Kiroro Grand rises on the Kiriro slopes in Akaigawa, close to Sapporo and Otaru which are familiar tourist destinations in Hokkaido, Japan.

Launched on December 1, 2023, the property commands privacy, being one of only three resorts (one of which is Club Med Kiroro Peak) in this part of the Kiroro mountain resort grounds.

Club Med Kiroro Grand at sunset

Warm welcome
Stepping through the entrance, one arrives into a cavernous ‘forest’. The lobby is dressed in shades of nature, with plush carpets that resemble a dappled forest floor, a blend of wood and stone furniture and fixtures, and enormous chandeliers that conjure a vision of stars.

The frigid cold is kept out, and a faux fireplace brings visual warmth to this inviting space. Considering my time at the resort during winter, the enchanted forest interior was a delightful contrast to the stark whiteness outside.

The legendary Club Med hospitality – characterised by enthusiasm and friendliness – was felt right from the start when a group of Gracious Organisers (GOs) settled us in with hot towels and tea, and started a detailed introduction to the property, snow sports preparations, and all-inclusive benefits at our fingertips.

As someone new to the Club Med experience as well as snow sports, that introduction proved very useful.

In a small town, not far away
Club Med Kiroro Grand feels like a bustling little town with everything one could need. It has a massive boutique where guests can pick up the latest snow apparel and rent outfits; a centre where ski and snowboard packs are available for rent; a kids club with an indoor playground, library, activity zones, and lockers; a stage for evening shows and guests activities plus a large seating area; four restaurants and a bar; plenty of lounge areas where guests can rest and socialise; and a spa that houses an onsen.

Through Club Med’s all-inclusive offer, this little town feels just like home – eat, drink and play without having to reach for your wallet. The ticket to Club Med comes with accommodation, ski passes, ski lessons, childcare, full-board F&B, and a variety of entertainment.

For guests who do not care for snow sports, the resort will still delight. There are daily fitness programmes as well as cosy corners where one could read, write and daydream in peace.

While I had high hopes of conquering the slopes with my husband, I learnt soon that my feet were not made for snowboarding. No problem – I earned myself two glorious days of time alone, reading and dreaming up editorial content for 2024, while my boys went along for their own ski and snowboarding lessons.

Junior family superior room

Easy for kids, easy for parents
The resort makes it easy for grown-ups and little ones to have their own happy me-time. The kids club provides full-day programmes featuring snow and non-snow activities. Parents/guardians check their little ones in by 08.30, and move on to their own programme.

My boys joined the Mini Club Med programme, and partook in snow sports lessons, games and craft. I spied with my little eye during mealtimes, and saw that Mini Club Med GOs led the children to meals at the main restaurant, and assisted little ones who could not quite gather food or feed on their own.

The resort very smartly designed a restaurant entrance next to the kids club, and reserved a dining area for the little ones. Children attending the kids club get to begin their meals ahead of other guests – a brilliant crowd management move.

At the end of the day, the children are awarded a certificate for their hard work on the slopes through a lively presentation on stage.

Smooth slumbers
There are 266 spacious guestrooms, all dressed in the same natural tones and plush fabrics seen elsewhere in the public spaces. The resort offers three room categories – superior, deluxe and suite – and my family of four resided in two separate junior family superior rooms.

While the accommodation structure lacks adjoining rooms, the resort team promises to do their best to allocate neighbouring rooms to large family groups, subject to availability.

Despite having to sleep apart, we had no complaint since we were able to spend all our waking moments together. Furthermore, our large rooms meant we were able to hang out together in comfort every night, reminiscing the fun we each had in the day, before returning to our own room for sleep.

Our rooms are furnished with plush twin beds, daybed set against large windows, study desk, wardrobe, plenty of hooks for essential winter layers, and a spacious bathroom.

I dare say our rooms – 729 and 730 – are blessed with the best views. Both look out to the bunny slopes, and it cheers the soul to see groups getting started on their lessons every morning. Views of falling snow against a mountainous backdrop are also seared into my memories.

Yoichi’s Aki dining room

Dine very well
Yoichi main restaurant dishes out three main meals a day. This space boasts multiple live cooking stations where an army of chefs tantalise hungry guests with freshly cooked dishes across various cuisines, four dining halls, and numerous self-help drink stations that dispense ice-cold Japanese beer, soft drinks, juices and hot beverages.

Dining at Yoichi is part of the full-board arrangement, and dishes change daily to ensure delight and surprise at every meal.

Guests can also dine at The Ebisu Sushi Specialty restaurant and The Kaen Yakiniku Specialty restaurant at an extra charge.

Yotei bar serves a wide range of local and imported tipples, and a generous selection is included in the stay package.

Bonus points for the quality hot and cold snacks – such as beef udon, samosa and sandwiches – that are provided in between meals to keep bellies happy. The winter cold can make one peckish all day!

I now understand why Club Med is a tradition among some winter- and snow sports-loving travellers. During my sojourn I met fellow guests who make Club Med winter retreats an annual family outing. Some are fans of Club Med’s three other existing mountain resorts in Hokkaido; one, a teenager, vowed to ski at all Club Med mountain resorts around the world.

The all-inclusive offer is a brilliant convenience, and I love that there are activities for everyone, whether or not they thrive on snow. However, the draw is beyond that. Club Med is a vibe, and the happiness of other jolly holidaymakers and cheerful GOs is contagious.

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