Skiing One of the World’s Three Biggest Ski Areas

STORY BY
Andy Taylor

La Plagne in the French Alps is rated as one of the top ski resorts in the world, and after visiting and skiing this magnificent resort, it’s easy to see why. Often listed amongst the top 10 best ski resorts worldwide, this versatile and family friendly resort can cater for every level of skier and boarder from complete novice to hardened pro.

La Plagne is part of the high altitude Paradiski ski area, the world’s third biggest, connected by the remarkable Vanoise Express double-decker cable car to Les Arcs and Peisey Vallandry across the valley.  La Plagne itself has a 3,250m high glacier with slopes that drop down to 1250m, with 128 lifts on its side of Paradiski alone.

The 2000 metres of lift served vertical – one of the world’s biggest again, encompasses everything from wide open glacier skiing up top to classic tree-lined runs through the forest below.

La Plagne is made up of 10 different villages – some traditional, centuries old, others purpose built at altitude in the past 50 years, all well connected by fast lifts to every part of the resort.  The villages are small and quite spread out, so transport is needed if you want to look around without your skis on, but it’s not hard to find a great apres ski bar or restaurant close to your accommodation whichever you choose.

(Pic Credit: Royer)

Skiing and Boarding for All

There are plenty of facilities to cater for young families including junior slopes, sledging and play areas. At the other extreme, for adventurous skiers and boarders there is plenty of black runs, and off piste terrain to explore.

For most of us in between who consider ourselves intermediate skiers, who enjoy wide open uncrowded runs, La Plagne is ideal.  I could concentrate on improving my technique on well-groomed slopes with varying levels of difficulty.

Whilst meeting local ski instructors and overseas visitors working in La Plagne, I learned that a key attraction to the area is that thanks to its huge and versatile terrain it offers the added bonus of offering valley skiing down below the treeline to avoid the worst of the elements on windy or bad weather days.

“If I want to have a quick, fast ski for an hour or two I can access red and blue runs depending on how I feel, or I can spend the whole day and hardly do the same run twice,” one seasonaire told me.

On the slopes myself my overall impression was that the lift system was huge and well set up to get people en-mass up to the high runs quickly. There were so many options for skiing that once on the mountain you could explore a different part of it every day. The glacier was also spectacular with views to Mont Blanc and looking down onto Courchevel and Meribel.

 

Thrill Seekers

La Plagne has lots to do besides the vast amount of skiing and boarding. If there’s a thrill seeker in you, then why not try the 1.5 km bob sleigh run just outside La Plagne Centre. This was used in the 1992 Winter Olympics and is the only bob run in France. There are different options depending on the level of speed you are looking for including the proper four man bobsleigh reaching up to 85km per hour, where you ride behind a professional driver. We did the self-steering four man bob ride, which was an excellent and new experience for me….hopefully to be repeated.!

Where To Stay

I stayed at the Araucaria Hotel and Spa located in one of La Plagne’s original and larger bases, Plagne Centre. The hotel has just been completely refurbished and reopened at the start of the 17/18 season.

This is a ski in / ski out hotel right at the bottom of the Slalom run with a ski hire shop handily located right in the basement of the hotel. The ski schools and apres bars are also right outside the hotel and facing the lower ski runs.

The rooms are spacious and family friendly. The bar and restaurant area is huge and really nicely presented with large TV’s, music entertainment and play areas for children. The restaurant offers a buffet style dining included in the room which has a good choice of cuisine to suit all appetites. The quality of the food was excellent as was the service.

The icing on the cake is a huge spa within the hotel that offers a pool, sauna, steam room, ice room as well as the full range of spa treatments such as massage, therapy and so on. This is available to all guests at an additional cost.

Family Oriented

The resort was very well set up for families. There were all the usual kid’s facilities that you would expect from a large ski resort including, kids clubs, kids ski school, fun areas and play areas both indoors and out, and also crèche facilities. Child care was offered every day from 9am to 11pm, which included baby sitting and baby listening services.

Wining and Dining

If you were more interested in bars, clubs and apres ski, then study the area closely before booking, as staying in some of the accommodation and villages would require a bus to get to the nightlife rather than walking into the town. But the great thing with La Plagne is that the range and choice on offer means you can pick the location that’s right for you and still be as close to all the skiing action as you need to be.

The villages that we saw whilst there offer all the expected French hospitality, excellent food and drink that you would enjoy in the Alps along with adoption like Italian or middle eastern style dining as well.

Getting there: Rail or Air, What’s Your Preference?

Getting to La Plagne has all the options. We travelled down to Montiers on the ski train (Eurostar) from London St Pancras. It was an eight hour journey through some very scenic parts of France. The train is comfortable and well catered with meals and a separate bar area. The additional advantage of taking the train is that you can carry a suitcase as well as your ski bag at no additional cost.

Coming home, we transferred to Geneva which was around three hours and flew home from there. Comparing the two options the journey times door to door were very similar as the destination of the train in Moutiers was a short transfer up to La Plagne.

Whether you take the train or fly the journey down is quick and easy and arriving in La Plagne is reward enough for the effort in getting there.

It’s stunning, and that’s the best way to describe it!

La Plagne by Direct Ski Train

Inghams offers a range of holidays by ski train to several resorts in France. The benefits of travelling by train include free ski carriage coupled with a much more generous luggage allowance (two bags per person plus hand luggage) than flying – good news with all that ski kit.  Check in is much faster than at the airport and there are short transfers to resort too.  Plus you should enjoy convenient, comfortable and stress-free travel along with great scenic views en route.

Inghams is offering a seven-night holiday on a half board basis at the four-star Araucaria Hotel & Spa in La Plagne, France, from £949 per person based on two sharing in March 2018 or from £1,059 per person based on two sharing in January 2019. Price includes return train travel from London St Pancras to Moutiers and resort transfers. Lift passes, equipment hire and tuition can be pre-booked through Inghams. To book, visit www.inghams.co.uk/ski-holidays or call 01483 791 114. 

 

Image top credit: Elina Sirparanta

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