May 23, 2024

Club Med Kiroro Grand in Hokkaido, Japan Hotel Review

Club Med Kiroro Grand in Hokkaido, Japan Hotel Review

Planning a family ski vacation is notoriously daunting; there’s equipment to keep track of, isolated mountains to get to, and a range of skill levels to accommodate — not to mention finding après activities for the whole gang. Add an international destination into the mix, and it gets even more complicated. But Club Med’s Kiroro Grand, a new all-inclusive resort in Hokkaido, Japan, has made it easier than ever to plan a family getaway to one of the world’s best ski regions. 


Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, is legendary for its abundance of light, fluffy snow. Club Med’s family-focused Tomamu resort opened inland in 2018, and the brand arrived in Hokkaido’s seaside Yoichi district with Kiroro Peak in 2022 (open only to travelers 12 and older). Its new Kiroro Grand resort is another winter paradise for families, with a massive kids’ campus, exquisite food, and impeccable ski conditions that last all the way into May. I attended the grand opening in December 2023 to see it all for myself.


Club Med Kiroro Grand

  • All-inclusive food, drinks, ski lessons, and nightly entertainment simplifies planning a family vacation. 
  • Skiers enjoy world-class powder without the crowds and lift lines, and the ski season goes all the way into May.
  • It’s close to the historic town of Otaru, an artisan hub known for its glasswork, sake distilleries, and incredible seafood.
  • It offers traditional Japanese experiences amid an eclectic community of guests and upbeat staff.


Merlin Chelliah, Kiroro Grand’s spunky, Singapore-raised general manager (or head of village in Club Med parlance), greeted me at the hotel with an infectious smile. “What Club Med does, the minute you come in the door, is make you feel at home,” she later told me over tea. With a diverse international clientele and staff, that’s no easy feat. But a resort culture that encourages everyone from ski instructors to head honchos like Chelliah to spend as much time as possible with guests makes everyone feel included — and puts parents at ease. 


“You have ski instructors all around the world, right? You meet them, you go for lessons, and that’s it. The lessons are done, and it’s finished. We create a relationship here. We create a circle of trust,” explained Chelliah, who helped open Tomamu and Kiroro Peak before taking her current position at Kiroro Grand. “After ski lessons, the instructor comes and engages in conversation at the table, eats with you, and says, ‘How are you? Can I give you some tips?’”


In addition to sharing meals with students, sports instructors (the resort also offers snow trekking and, in the summer, mountain biking and hiking) attend nightly events at the Kiroro Grand’s theater, where I enjoyed performances by live bands, acrobats, and DJs. Chelliah is also there, often serving as MC and leading the crowd in Club Med’s signature “crazy sign” dances to top off the night. Opposite the stage is a large lounge area with fireplaces and reading nooks, with a bar slinging cocktails for the adults and slushies for the kids.


Lydia Price/Travel + Leisure



I watched the high-flying gymnasts and live musicians leave the kids in awe, but nothing brought out their giant smiles more than ski instructors joining them on the dance floor. 


Chelliah credits Club Med instructors with turning her own son, now 11, into an enthusiastic skier after his rough introduction to the sport in 2019. Club Med’s Hokkaido ski instructors worked their magic with game-packed lessons and camaraderie off the slopes. And now? “He skis as well as some of the instructors here, and he’s proud of it,” she told me. “He’s gained so much confidence.” 


Courtesy of Club Med



The resort certainly excels in childcare, and it solves a host of other classic ski-vacation headaches as well. Gear is stored in lockers just steps away from the dining hall, and Kiroro Grand’s doors are only a three-minute gondola ride away from the base of the main ski area. When it comes to après-ski offerings, all-you-can-eat dining, hot springs, an indoor pool, game rooms, and a spa keep everyone entertained. 


Here, my full review of the new Club Med Kiroro Grand. 



The Rooms

The resort’s standard doubles, or Superior Rooms, come in three sizes ranging from 387.5 square feet (recommended for two people) to 473.6 square feet (recommended for up to four people). Light earth tones accented by pops of deep blue create a calming ambiance. Each room has a couch, ample natural light, and, of course, Japan’s world-famous high-tech toilets. 


Deluxe Double Rooms are slightly larger with mountain or forest views (recommended for up to three people). Even better are the Tatami Deluxe Rooms, which have traditional Japanese floored beds, sofa beds, and separate tubs and showers.


Lydia Price/Travel + Leisure



The Junior Family Suites (recommended for three people), Family Suites (for four), and Master Family Suites (for five) are the resort’s premium accommodations. Bay windows with reading nooks, intricate light fixtures, and marble-walled bathrooms elevate the spaces. Master Family Suites go up to 1,603 square feet, Family Suites are up to 904 square feet, and the Junior Family Suites have a 721-square-foot maximum. Suites come with turndown service, continental breakfasts delivered to the room each morning, and mountain views.



Food and Drink

Yoichi, the resort’s main restaurant, provides a globe-spanning array of comfort food at every meal. Chefs prepare food in front of guests, so you can dine on freshly cooked seafood filets, Thai stir frys, and Korean barbecue at your leisure. The ramen station is always popular; it serves a rotating menu of savory broths and noodles with an assortment of toppings. Western favorites like pizza, pasta, and bagels are also served daily. 


Lydia Price/Travel + Leisure



Yoichi’s dining rooms include tables in the theater and main lounge, where snacks are served in-between main meals. At afternoon tea time, chefs make crêpes to order while baristas serve matcha lattes and hot chocolate at the coffee bar. Guests can also nibble on a spread of pastries and finger sandwiches and enjoy a full-service bar with a handful of signature cocktails — and slushies for the little ones.


The Kiroro Grand also has three specialty restaurants (not included in the all-inclusive pricing). At Ebisu, I dined on an eight-course sushi menu that highlighted the best of the region’s seafood. Ogon, the hot pot restaurant, made for a lively evening, and at barbecue spot Kaen, I enjoyed a succulent array of Wagyu beef, scallops, and pork, all local. 



Experiences and Amenities

Kiroro Grand provides everything you need to hit the slopes, with equipment rentals, group lessons, ski lockers, and lift tickets included in the price of your stay. Private lessons are available for an extra fee. The trails are open for night skiing, and guided snowshoe treks are also available.


For me, the standout amenity was the traditional onsen, a hot outdoor soaking tub fed by mineral-rich spring water. I went for a soak every day after skiing, sometimes following it with a few minutes in the sauna. Guests can also unwind at daily yoga sessions and have access to the indoor pool, cardio center, and hot tub in addition to a game room with ping-pong, darts, and foosball. 


Courtesy of Club Med



The main floor of the resort has a ski boutique stocked with Rossignol equipment and other essentials for the slopes, plus a convenient store that sells local goods and a wide array of Japanese snacks. 


Club Med has a dinner dress code every night. Some examples when I stayed were “white and silver,” “casual chic,” and “colorful elegant.” It’s by no means mandatory, but Club Meders love to add some flair to their evenings by abiding by the theme. Live bands, DJs, and aerial acrobat performances follow dinner.  


Activities that come with an extra fee (i.e., not included in the all-inclusive rate) range from a Hokkaido glasswork workshop to tours of Otaru, the nearby seaside town with a rich artistic history.



The Spa

Next to the onsen you’ll find the spa, which offers massages, body treatments, and facials. I enjoyed a 90-minute massage with a skilled masseuse. After my massage, I continued to relax while watching the snow fall with a cup of Jasmine tea in the spa’s lounge.



Family-friendly Offerings

Club Med Kiroro Grand was designed with families in mind. Group lessons are included in room rates for skiers of all ages. The sprawling kids’ club includes a climbing gym, vibrant decor, and piles of toys. Babycare can also be reserved for an additional fee. 


Lydia Price/Travel + Leisure



Nightly shows at the theater are all kid-friendly. Once a week, the kids get a chance to take the stage themselves after a dance workshop. 



Accessibility and Sustainability

Kiroro Grand prevents food waste by having chefs stop cooking 45 minutes before the end of meal services at the buffet. They strive to use local food whenever possible.


The resort also limits product waste by keeping a grab-as-you-need amenity box in the lobby in lieu of in-room toiletries. 


Kiroro Grand has two accessible rooms, both Junior Family Suites.



Location

Travelers flock to Hokkaido for its legendary snow. The Kiroro Ski Resort, which is just a three-minute gondola ride away from Club Med Kiroro Grand, has almost 19 miles of skiable terrain with an average of around 4,000 skiers per day. If you hate crowded slopes and lift lines, this is a ski area for you. 


Flights from Tokyo to the Kiroro Grand’s closest airport, Sapporo’s New Chitose, are about 1.5 hours. From there, the Kiroro Grand provides shuttles for the 1.5-hour drive to the resort. You’ll ascend a winding, forest-lined road with intermittent views of the Sea of Japan and Yoichi’s sweeping mountain range. 


Otaru, a famous fishing village about 40 minutes away from the Kiroro Grand, makes for an enriching day trip. Enjoy tours and tastings at the renowned Tanaka Sake Brewery, take a glassblowing class, or learn about the town’s history on a canal tour. 


Club Med made a point of becoming active participants in the local community after the small village of Akaigawa, population 1,300, welcomed them with open arms. Chelliah recalled the mayor telling her team to “help my people” after COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the local economy. Now, 31 percent of her staff are Akaigawa natives. Meanwhile, taiko students perform weekly in exchange for a salary and the chance to spend a few days at the resort practicing English.



How to Get the Most Value Out of Your Stay

You’ll get the best room rates during the resort’s low seasons in late March and late April. Since the area has the longest ski season in Japan, you’ll still get to enjoy plenty of powder. The resort and mountain close on May 6 before reopening for the summer season in mid-June. There is a seven-night minimum stay. Kids under four stay for free.