Slope style: More to snow holidays than life on skis
La Plagne is a beautiful ski resort in the southeast of France
The buildings of Plagne Centre and village of Plagne 1800 in the French Alps: the La Plagne region features 11 villages and accessibility between places is good.
My guide yells something incomprehensible in my direction.
“What?” I yell back.
“Fiachradh, you are off-piste!” Judging by the soft snow on my side and the perfect snow on the other where he is – I don’t doubt him. It’s not the last time I wander off into the unforgiving off-piste areas (unintentionally, I might add). I’m impressed by my ability to ski; it’s stopping that vexes me.
The guides from ESF ski school in La Plagne have no problem pushing your abilities – even those of a beginner. Drifting unsteadily towards the crest of a hill is terrifying but my guide assures me to simply follow his tracks.
La Plagne, a beautiful ski resort in the southeast of France, features about 425km of ski runs across 128 trails. Located about 2.5 hours from both Lyon and Geneva airports, getting to the resort is a treat in itself through the picturesque mountainous region.
The La Plagne region features 11 villages and accessibility between places is good: busses are free, though it’s undoubtedly more fun to take a chair lift and ski to the next place. Even if you’re a little unsteady on your skis.
One of the most striking elements of the area is the breathtaking views. From snow-covered rolling hills to Mont Blanc, to a panoramic view of the Alps when you stand atop any of La Plagne’s peaks. For a fabulous view of the mountains, take the scenic gondola ride to Glacier de la Chiaupe near the peak of Bellecôte.
There is a wealth of restaurants and bars across La Plagne. If you’re staying in a chalet on half-board, hosts will provide breakfast and dinner six days a week, and dietary requests will be catered for. Many places around the resort do a ski-in, ski-out so you can easily nip in for a meal without interrupting your time on the slopes. Just make sure not to fly past your chosen spot as I almost did.
With Mount Blanc as your backdrop, pop into Chauffe Marcel, a small restaurant with fabulous BBQ options on the Lovatiere piste. Over the winter months, Chauffe Marcel also hosts various parties in its outdoor area.
Restaurant Le 360, opened in December 2017, is modern and cosy and can be accessed via the Montalbert gondola. The peaceful surroundings of the Plateau du Fornelet are fabulous to gaze out on as you dine on a menu based on quality local produce, all supervised by Michelin-starred chef Jean-Michel Bouvier.
Skiing down La Bergerie piste – and doing my best to avoid the bumps, jumps and other skiers – I almost sail past Le Chair Lift. A quick turn sends snow flying and I’m seated outside in the glistening heat. It’s a great place to sit, and the four-cheese pizza is highly recommended.
Bar La Mine is a good spot for some apres ski. Génépi, the traditional herbal liqueur, is definitely worth trying. It’s on sale almost everywhere and you can pick up larger bottles in many of the stores.
If skiing and snowboarding tire you out, there are a variety of other activities on offer in the area. Colorado Luge, a toboggan run, is an incredibly fun descent. The slope is tailored for the run so there’s no need to worry about clattering into skiers. If you want more, the Super Luge runs for 6km, dropping 400m in altitude. Maybe make sure you can master the “brakes” first.
For thrillseekers, France’s only bobsleigh track offers runs from 80km/h up to the Olympic experience of 130km/h. Dressed in professional overalls, Olympic medallist and world champion Bruno Mingeon will bring you down the 1,500m and 19 bends in no time.
If you can handle heights there is a variety of paragliding options ranging from five to 35 minutes in the sky, offering beautiful panoramic views of the alpine valley.
Or you can ride on the “Snow Panthers” (snowmobiles) across a 12km route. Ski touring (cross-country skiing) is available if you wish to walk the mountains before the lifts open, and for a more in-depth experience take a snowshoe excursion. If you feel you’ve mastered skiing, you can try snowboarding for two hours every Friday in a taster session.
There are also walking trails ranging from about 5km to 12km, and a free map of all trails is available at the tourist office and information points. Take a stroll and soak in the views, silent except for the swish of skis on snow.
Wonderful and terrifying
I try my hand at ziplining – a thrilling experience, despite the appearance of danger. If you can tolerate the rush, you’re given a beautiful view of skiers below. The 600m zipline below Aime 2,000 is wonderful and terrifying, reaching speeds of up to 90km/h.
For a high-tech take on your adventures – and bragging rights with your friends over apres ski – the free Paradiski Yuge app (available for Android and iPhone) tracks where you ski, total distance travelled, top and average speeds each day, itinerary recommendations, piste and shuttle maps, and even a geolocation feature to track your friends. You can also keep up with the weather forecast and waiting times for lifts to better plan your day.
La Plagne offers a good mix of adventure vs relaxation. Whether it’s upping your game from a blue slope to a red, or taking a gondola between peaks and hiking down from a glacier, the resort offers something for everyone. From traditional French fondue to having a beer in the glistening snow, from whipping past your friends without being able to stop to a massage before dinner, La Plagne is a fantastic place to treat yourself.
Just remember to pack high-factor sunscreen. Getting burnt is bad. Getting burnt on the inside of your nose is worse. And one final thing: if you like cheese, there’s a 24-hour cheese vending machine in nearby Aime.
Directski. com offers charter flights with Aer Lingus to Lyon every week beginning Saturday, December 22nd. The last outbound flight is March 23rd. Chalet Alisier prices start from €879 per person sharing which includes return flights and transfers to chalets, and accommodation for seven nights. Breakfast, afternoon tea and a three-course evening meal with wine is provided six nights of the week. Other self-catering chalets start at €574 per person for seven nights.