Wide overview from chairlift of pistes after fresh snow

La Plagne

Paradiski, Savoie, French Alps

In the Tarentaise Valley above Aime, and part of the protected Vanoise National Park, La Plagne is linked by the sensational Vanoise Express cable-car to Les Arcs.

The result is the vast Paradiski linked domain. Road access is among the more convenient Tantentaise resorts, although expect some congestion on Saturday change-over days.

A greener, more relaxing alternative is a train to Aime La Plagne, for bus transfers up the mountain.

View from chair-lift of ski pistes and freshly snow-covered trees.

The Ski Area

La Plagne has become something of a home-from-home for French skiers, loyal family groups returning each season. The British also seem to have taken it to their hearts over the years, not least since there’s something for all tastes and skiing abilities here. As in Les Arcs, the primary focus is on intermediate family skiers, who have countless areas to head off to and enjoy. Experienced skiers are seduced by the sheer scale of the Paradiski linked-domain experience, but the simple fact is that La Plagne’s own terrain is already huge and arguably more multi-faceted than that of its neighbour, with strong appeal to skiers of all levels. There’s not only a wealth of gentle terrain for novices and early-intermediates but also a good variety of higher-altitude Red- and Black-graded pistes (along with departure-points for off-piste excursions) designed to satisfy more experienced skiers.

Those who like to get around will find plenty to explore beyond Belle Plagne and the crest of L’Arpette (2385m), from which the choices include heading up to the Roche de Mio to ski on the glaciers of La Chiaupe and Bellecôte – even in July and August. Topping off at 3250m, this is La Plagne’s highest terrain. On the other hand, there are long cruises through the tree-line to Les Coches (1450m) and Montchavin (1250m), either direct or via Les Bauches (1800m). And that’s without taking the Vanoise Express link (which you’ll pass just above Montchavin) across to Peisey-Vallandry and Les Arcs.

Resort Information

Altitude : 1250m - 3250m
La Plagne
Pistes Total:
225 km
9 Green
71 Blue
33 Red
20 Black
Ski Resort Lifts : 109
12 Draglifts
31 Chairlifts
3 Gondolas
2 Cable Cars
1 Funicular
Paradiski
Pistes Total:
425 km
12 Green
135 Blue
77 Red
37 Black
Ski Domain Lifts: 128
6 Magic Carpets
42 Draglifts
59 Chairlifts
2 Cabriolet
14 Gondolas
3 + Vanoise Express Cable Cars
1 Funicular

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General view of ski village and mountains beyond snow-covered trees.

The Ski Village

La Plagne is arguably the definitive purpose-built ski package, and is on a grand scale – no fewer than ten centres are spread around the vast ski area on this side of the Vanoise Express link to Les Arcs. Here’s a brief run-down to introduce them:

Things kicked-off here in 1961 with what is now Plagne Centre (1970m). Despite an unmistakable look and feel of the swinging ’60s it remains very much the heart of things, with by far the widest range of services plus multiple ski-lift access to other areas. More about convenience and accessibility than charm, volume apartment accommodation dominates the village, though there are a couple of hotels.

In 1969-71 came Plagne Aime 2000 (which actually sits closer to 2100m) with even more assertive high-volume, high-rise accommodation designed to bring the fun of the mountain to everyone, rather than the wealthy. Dubbed ‘the liner of the snows’, it’s largely one huge building containing apartments, shops and services, with ski-in/ski-out access. Its appeal? Amazing views and unlimited doorstep-skiing opportunities. Club Med set up here in 1990.

Next in was Champagny-en-Vanoise (1250m), which in 1969 opted to link to La Plagne rather than to nearby Courchevel, and which brought a more traditional mountain village style to the party. Despite having grown significantly since then Champagny has nevertheless managed to retain its traditional appeal, with quality apartments and chalets, plus a couple of small hotels. A superb natural valley setting on a south-facing slope at the gateway to the Vanoise National Park makes it also worth considering for cross-country skiers, and there’s rapid access to higher altitude terrain via a gondola lift.

The following year saw the former mining village of Montalbert (1350m) linked to La Plagne, its three family holiday developments eventually merging into one during 1980. Bordered by forest, it could be a solid choice if you feel like alternative activities such as walking or dog-sledding, while sheltered tree-lined slopes and snowmaking keep the pistes open for as long as possible.

More recent developments like Belle Plagne are more traditional-looking and sit well in the landscape. 1972 saw a large high-rise development opening at Plagne Bellecôte (1930m, and originally known as ‘Les Ours’), which subsequently attracted more traditional chalet-style accommodation suited to motivated skiers and boarders focused on making the most of everything the mountain has to offer. The next arrival was Montchavin (1250m), a once-forlorn mountain hamlet whose fortunes were transformed when it linked to La Plagne for the 1973 ski season and suddenly became a fully-fledged ski village. Despite its relatively modest altitude, Les Coches (1450m) has added some attractive development since its launch in 1980. Like strong>Montchavin, it’s virtually traffic-free, and offers views of Mont Blanc plus convenient access to the Vanoise Express cable-car to Les Arcs. Finally, a combination of good value plus good ski access makes them deservedly popular with families.

Higher up the mountain (on the site of another former mining village) is Plagne 1800, which opened in 1982 and whose chalet-style skyline offers a lower impact alternative to the first-generation developments nearby. Popular with families, it’s good for beginners and offers a less-pressured setting than Plagne Centre.

Last (opened in 1980 and 1990 respectively) came Belle Plagne and Plagne Soleil, at a snow-sure altitude of 2050m. Which to choose? Well, Belle Plagne is the more visually-attractive of the two, while Plagne Soleil is popular with families, who value its proximity to ski schools and shops, plus easy runs back to the resort. Finally, there are numerous villages centred around Aime in the Tarantaise Valley which have relatively easy road access up to La Plagne and provide welcoming accommodation in year-round working communities. Staying in the valley would particularly suit those who arrive by train and who wish to discover the wider area using public transport.

Staying There

Value for Money Accommodation Dining Out Nightlife Village Charm

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Skier on fresh snow with snow-dusted pine trees.

Best For

The simple answer is anyone with a desire to ski big-time, although it’s equally possible to base yourself in somewhere on the geographical margins like Champagny or Les Coches and see things differently. The real point of it all, though, is the opportunity to cover a lot of distance on well-prepared, high-altitude pistes in a location which benefits from seriously heavy snowfalls. You’ll be happiest if you’re pretty sociable, too, as getting around a vast area will put you in the upbeat company of a lot of other skiers with the same idea (and you’ll be passing through various ski-lift intersections in villages en-route).
A sense of fun is also an asset, and will help you accept the original high-rise apartment block developments and village bustle around places like Plagne Centre (more of a town than a village) and instead concentrate on enjoying near-endless quality skiing through some of the most beautiful mountain scenery you’ll find anywhere.

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Skiing There

Beginners / Families Intermediates Advanced / Expert Mountain Scenery

Snowboarding

Play areas for all ages! There's a new family fun run, water-slides, big air bags, toboggan runs and a chrono speed timed run.
1 Snowparks
3 Snowboarder Cross
1 Half-Pipe


Cross-Country Skiing

Most of the cross-country trails are in the beautiful Champagny-en-Vanoise sector at the entrance to the Vanoise National Park
60km Cross-Country and Nordic Ski Trails

Handiski...

  • Large choice of ski schools and equipment.
  • Ski schools are exceptionally experienced in a wide range of disabilities.
  • Large range of equipment available.
  • Plagne Aime 2000 is completely accessible by wheelchair users with adapted facilities, reserved parking and accessible shops and accommodation.
  • All the chairlifts are accessible (except the top of the glacier) giving unequalled possibilities for adapted skiing and other activities.
  • 50% reduction for disabled skier (proof required) and accompanying skier when two identical passes are purchased together, same dates, same sector.

icon-smileyYes please...

  • Near-limitless, high-altitude skiing including 5 natural/ungroomed "Pistes Natur" on the Glacier de la Chiaupe for expert skiers.
  • Modern, efficient lift system.
  • Plagne Montalbert has a new 6-seater detachable lift for the 2016/17 season to improve skier flow.
  • Excellent ski schools.
  • Children under 6 get to ski free.
  • Convenient rail access into the nearby Aime La Plagne TGV station.
  • Wide range of accommodation, with something for most tastes.
  • Mountain scenery here comes as a great surprise.
  • Six ski touring trails with 3 designed for beginners, 2 intermediate level and 1 difficult, all designed to learn, practice and train, are marked and followed with the help of a topographical guide.Equipment hire and mountain guides available in resort.
  • Equipped picnic area on the slopes with benches and tables, barbecues, solar recharge terminal and kids' toboggan area.

icon-frowneyYes but...

  • Premium skiing like this doesn't come cheap.
  • You'll be forced to ski through busy bottlenecks like Plagne Centre in order to get around.
  • Here and there piste signage is less than obvious.

icon-winkingOur Tips

  • If you don’t really need a 6-day lift-pass for the entire Paradiski area, enjoy exploring all La Plagne has to offer, and cut your outgoings. You still get one day access to Les Arcs / Peisey-Vallandry via the Vanoise Express (min. 3 day skipass required).
  • Arrive by train and avoid peak season traffic chaos.
  • Download the Paradiski LUGE app for iPhone or Android. Highly personalised and intuitive to use, YUGE will tell you where you and your friends are located, help you avoid the queues, track your performance, log all your photos and more. There will be a desktop version for 2016/17 so you can top up your ski pass and prepare for your Paradiski adventure.

Practical Information

Getting there

By Car
For Dover-Calais ferry travel, other cross-channel routes, offers and bookings visit P&O Ferries

Autoroute A43 direction Albertville, then N90 via Moûtiers (where you turn for Champagny en Vanoise). Continue to Aime where you turn for Plagne Montalbert and all altitude La Plagne villages. For Montchavin Les Coches continue on the N90 then take the D220 & D225. Snow chains or winter tyres advised.

By air
Low cost flights from regional airports throughout the UK such as Snowjet go to the nearest airport at Chambéry Savoie Mont Blanc. Bus transfers are available from Chambéry Savoie Mont Blanc, and the airports at Lyon, Geneva, and Grenoble.

By train
Ski trains are a great option. For altitude resorts and Plagne Montalbert, go to Aime La Plagne, Landry for Montchavin Les Coches and Moûtiers for Champagny en Vanoise.

Bus and taxi links are available from the stations to your resort. The La Plagne website has a full list of timetables and prices.

Book your TGV fast train from Paris or Eurostar’s ski train direct to the French Alps with .

Transfers
Visit Ski-Lifts for the best range of ski transfer destinations from airports and main rail stations.


Things to do

Vanoise Express


Skiers boarding Vanoise Express cable car, La Plagne, French Alps.

Take the Vanoise Express cable car to Peisey-Vallandry and Les Arcs to experience skiing the second largest linked domain in the world.


You will need a Paradiski lift pass or a minimum 3 day La Plagne lift pass which gives one day access to Les Arcs.




Take the Bobsleigh


The Olympic bobsleigh track at La Plagne is 1500m long with 19 thrilling bends. There are four types of luge or bob to try (accessible to disabled riders).


There are more details on the La Plagne website or tel: +33 (0)4 79 09 02 01


Fatbike


With their very wide, under-inflated wheels to give great grip and control, Fatbikes are a big hit in La Plagne. This season sees the offering expanded with more bikes and longer opening hours ensuring there is a great choice of downhill or touring biking options after the slopes close. There are two options to try with a mountain biking instructor (bike equipment and helmets supplied):



400m to 600 m descent on a groomed slope in Montchavin-La Plagne. Price: €40. Min. height of skier 1.60 m. www.evolution2-montchavin.com



Biking along trails from Plagne Centre or Belle-Plagne down to La Roche. Return transport included. Price: €49. Min. age 13. www.elpro.fr



Where to stay

Tried and testedHotel Vancouver & Sun Valley Apartments

Plagne Soleil

Hotel Vancouver balcony with view of ski area, La Plagne

This hotel and the adjacent Sun Valley self-catering apartments enjoy a slope-side position and wonderful views over Plagne Centre and the La Plagne ski domain. The Hotel rooms are comfortably furnished with ample space to relax. There's a desk with TV, armchair, bathroom with bath and overhead shower and a separate toilet. Lots of storage in a large wardrobe meant everything was neatly stowed away out of sight. Our only gripe would be the lack of tea or coffee making facilities in the room. WiFi was payable in the room but free in reception, which has comfy leather sofas and fireplace.
The Hotel bar is open every evening with happy hour 16h30-18h30 (second drink at half price) and offers themed music events such as 80's nights.
The Hotel restaurant (also open to the public) serves a range of tasty food from à la carte to pizzas (takeaway possible) and those staying on a half-board basis get a decent three-course evening menu, usually with a buffet starter. Wine, coffee or mineral water are all extras.

Fresh snowfalls surrounding Sun Valley apartments, La Plagne

On nights when the menu isn't to your liking or you have special dietary requirements it's best to agree on an acceptable alternative in advance. Excellent buffet breakfasts include hot choices, ham, cheese, pastries, and a selection of bread and cereals.
At the adjoining Sun Valley we inspected a two-bedroom self-catering apartment, one of 65 in the residence, and found it to be a very high standard of comfort, very well equipped and comfortably furnished.

Reception of Hotel Vancouver, La Plagne, Paradiski

This 4-star development has its own reception area (free WiFi) with pool table, and has an indoor heated swimming pool, sauna, steam room and spa shared by Hotel guests. There's covered parking (€39 per week), ski lockers and laundry room.
You can ski straight out onto a blue piste to pick up La Bergerie chairlift but we found that returning to the entrance, though possible, was less straightforward - skiing back to the small village centre of Plagne Soleil (mini-market, restaurants, ski-school) and walking about 100m was simpler. Ski hire is available from the on-site ski shop. There's a regular bus service between Plagne Soleil and Plagne Villages. Take the Telebus from there to get to Plagne Centre for shopping arcades, bars and restaurants.

For more information and booking for
Sun Valley Apartments see :
Ski Collection
0844 576 0175 (UK)
or +44 23 9289 0960
reservations@skicollection.co.uk

Ski holidays at Hotel Vancouver are available through tour operators such as Crystal and Neilson.


Tried and testedHotel **** Carlina

Belle Plagne, 73210 Macot La Plagne
Tel: +33 (0)4 79 09 78 46
Email: info@carlina-belleplagne.com

Exterior view of Hotel Carlina, Belle Plagne, Paradiski, French Alps.

As you enter the hotel lobby you sense that this really is somewhere special. The lounge and bar are relaxing and warm, with cosy fireside nooks or armchairs beside huge picture windows overlooking a large terrace and the pistes. When we arrived waiters were laying tables for dinner in the elegant dining room, the exposed timbers creating a welcoming Savoyard warmth, while guests drifted into the bar to relax after a day's skiing. Other guests enjoyed the spa and indoor swimming pool, with sauna, Jacuzzi and steam room.

Apartment interior at Hotel Carline, Belle Plagne, La Plagne, Paradiski, French Alps.

Standard double, triple or family rooms sleeping up to 5 people are avaiable. The family rooms have a children's space, either separated from the parent's room by a door or located on a mezzanine. Superior rooms are larger, with a family option of two communicating rooms, each with its own bathroom. Take a Suite to enjoy even more space and comfort for two people. All the rooms are south or west facing with a balcony. Exposed beams and wood clad walls bring an Alpine feel to the rooms, some accentuated by the classic Savoyard fabrics, while others have stylish contemporary decor.
A slopeside position in Belle Plagne permits ski-in, ski-out access for all levels of skier.


Where to Eat

La Bergerie

Sommet de Plagne Village
Access direct from the Bergerie lift
Tél.: 04 79 09 07 95

La Bergerie restaurant, La Plagne

Situated at 2100m altitude, this chalet alpage restaurant was reconstructed in 1993 to provide a traditional style restaurant with large sunny terrace. It's a perfect meeting point for families and groups as it's accessible by learners. It serves freshly made food including burgers, Savoie dishes, salads and pasta.


Insight: La Plagne

Elevated view through snow-covered trees of Plagne Centre ski village, La Plagne

Insight: La Plagne

We’ll be honest; the first time we came to La Plagne was many years ago, at which stage we simply didn’t have the experience to explore more than a fraction of what this huge ski domain offers. Since then, however, after skiing another sixty-something areas in France alone, we’ve put a lot of mileage under our skis in all kinds of snow and weather conditions. This time, we tell ourselves, will be different.

So will our report, which acknowledges the sheer scale of things by focusing less on our exact routes than usual and more on where we ended up and our experiences and observations along the way, starting with the journey up the mountain.

“The following morning the snowfalls show no sign of easing, so we decide to stay low and enjoy floating around on the fresh powder on some of the forested runs above Les Coches and Montchavin…”

Wooded pistes above Montalbert, La Plagne
Forested pistes, chairlift and skiers, La Plagne

Getting to La Plagne

The mountain road, despite the altitudes involved, feels somehow like a less arduous climb than many areas, not least since there’s a sense of openness for much of the way which allows you to see something of where you’re heading. As we pass signs to the first of the ski villages we glimpse some modest-looking ski-lifts with car parking for local day visitors who prefer to take the easiest access point to the skiing and forego potential parking issues further up the mountain. So far it all looks pretty down-homey, with no hint of La Plagne’s major-league ski area reputation, but as we continue on the names keep coming, the signs look more slick and accommodation becomes ever more visible until we’re clearly in the thick of things. Now we really need to keep an eye on signage to find our way to our base in Plagne Soleil, but we’re on it almost before we realise it and hunting for car parking. Things get suddenly better as the hotel reception staff hand us a remote ‘plip’ unit for the secure underground garage, into which we roll gratefully. Minutes later we’ve transferred our gear to our apartment and are attempting to getting our bearings as we take in the views from the balcony.

Making sense of it all (or trying to)…

The following morning we awake to the leaden skies of a looming depression; snow is on the way. So we head out straight away and ski down to Plagne Bellecote to join the waves of like-minded skiers taking the Collosses high-speed chairlift up to the 2250m ridge which will allow us to drop down past Plagne Villages in favour of Plagne Centre. When we get there it’s already lively, to say the least, with skiers heading in all directions to their chosen departure points. We take the Becoin chairlift up to 2345m for a run down past Plagne Aime 2000, followed by a Blue-graded cruise through the trees down to the foot of the Adrets chairlift.

One final haul gets us to Le Fornelet (1970m), for a longer swoop through near-silent forest down to the village of Plagne Montalbert – a vertical drop of some 620m. Even down here the snow cover remains good and the village has a cheerful feel, with a large, sheltered novice area, making it ideally suited to young families. Nearby are some nice Blue-graded runs through the forest, Gentil proving to be particularly memorable for the natural beauty of the setting. Montalbert’s lifelines with the rest of the ski area are the two-stage chair-lifts back to Le Fornelet, which keep us entertained with overviews of those riding a pair of draglifts and heading off onto more inviting tree-lined runs. We like it over here.

Colosses chairlift, La Plagne
Off-piste after fresh snow, La Plagne

To the brink…

Once we reach Le Fornelet we take another long Blue-graded, tree-lined cruise on Cornegidouille down to La Roche (1418m), where we join the high-speed six-seater chairlift for a haul back to Plagne Aime 2000. This time we’re covering some distance.

After dropping back into nearby Plagne Centre and negotiating the throng once again, we board the Funiplagne lift up to the windswept ridge of La Grande Rochette (2505m). Here the visibility is less than ideal for an onward run all the way down to Champagny-en-Vanoise, much less a chairlift ride up past the Roche de Mio 2700m to reach the Glacier de La Chaupe and the slopes of Bellecote (3417m). So for now we content ourselves with the more sheltered option of an enjoyable Blue-graded cruise down Petite Rochette and Les Leitchoums, which serve up glimpses of scenic entertainment through the gathering cloud, all the way down to Belle Plagne. By now conditions are clamping down fast, as the expected heavy snowfalls sweep in. They’ll keep the La Plagne road clearance teams busy throughout the night.

The Vanoise Express

The following morning the snowfalls show no sign of easing, so we decide to stay low and enjoy floating around on the fresh powder on some of the forested runs above Les Coches and Montchavin. Getting there involves taking the muscular Arpette eight-seater chairlift from Plagne Bellecote up to L’Arpette (2385m), where things feel more than a little confusing in the limited visibility. We now need more than a vague sense of where we need to be heading. The piste map suggests that taking the Replat piste to our left will keep us out of trouble, so we do just that before snaking our way through the other skiers heading somewhat tentatively down the Mont Blanc piste.

There are Red-graded alternative routes down, but being new to this sector, we stick to what amounts to the main highway until we’re stopped in our tracks by the looming silhouette of the Vanoise Express cable-car over to Peisey-Vallandry and Les Arcs. We hadn’t planned to take it, but somehow when we’ve come this far and understandably few skiers seem inclined to head over, it seems a pity not to make the most of the opportunity. The journey across, suspended above the villages in the valley far below feels distinctly eerie in the present weather conditions – more like a balloon ride, in fact. On the other side we emerge to join a sea of skiers taking on reviving hot drinks and snacks at cafe tables, and end up purchasing the most expensive coffees we’ve ever consumed (from a disposable cardboard cup..). Not somewhere we could recommend, then.

Vanoise Express cable car, Paradiski, French Alps

Curiosity satisfied for now, we head back across the valley to La Plagne and ski down to Montchavin for a quick look at the near-deserted front-de-neige before working our way back all the way up to L’Arpette and skiing back to the welcoming warmth of our hotel. It’s the right decision, for the epic snowfalls continue unabated through the night.

Next morning, though, the skies have finally cleared to reveal the full extent of the overnight accumulations, which look even more magical beneath a clear blue sky – when it snows here it really snows. What’s more, it’s so cold that snow quality won’t be compromised by the sunshine, so we waste no time heading to the Funiplagne lift and riding up to La Grande Rochette.

Into the great wide open

This time things look very different, with visibility fast becoming perfect, so we go for the 6km-long Mont de la Guerre all the way down to Champagny-en-Vanoise, a vertical drop of 1250m (4105ft). It’s graded Red but begins innocently enough with a quite gentle cruise, becoming steeper somewhere around the mid-point. Today’s perfect conditions mean there’s no hint of ice or slush, and our skis run straight through any churned-up drifts, the only interruptions being brief pauses to take in the jaw-dropping scenery all around. Privileged moments like these are a major part of what skiing is all about for us.

Skiing into more traditional-looking Champagny-en-Vanoise, for a high-speed gondola haul back towards La Plagne.
Fresh snow, snowboarders, La Plagne

Before long the piste drops into the tree-line, and begins to zigzag its way among snow-dusted trees looking like something out of a Christmas card. The lower section offers a choice of more of the same or straight down towards the valley floor – we carry on and enjoy the magic of the indirect route just a little longer before we join the final straight drop into Champagny, also looking picture-perfect.

Heading back via the gondola lift and a series of chairs gets us up to Les Verdons (2500m) for a return drop into Plagne Centre, and a final haul back to ski over to our base on Plagne Soleil. Sadly, our time in La Plagne has run out, and we still never made it up to ski on the Glacier de La Chaupe, but in some ways it’s good to have a reason to come back. Not that we really need one; despite covering a lot of distance here, there’s still a lot we haven’t seen – a situation we look forward with great pleasure to remedying. MountainPassions heart icon