La Plagne, in the Tarentaise Valley of the French Alps, is probably the world’s most popular family friendly ski resort. Many are attracted by its vast ski area and its myriad of beginner and intermediate runs and the choice of affordable apartments and villas.
The resort was born in the 1960s, with a bold new post war vision of giant Alpine complexes to provide affordable ski holidays, but these ended up no bigger than rabbit warrens amid vast acreages of linked ski slopes.
Decades later, these tiny apartments were knocked into larger units and nine satelite villages were developed. One of which is former farming village, Montchavin – my base for the duration of my stay.
In recent years La Plagne has been connected by a spectacular cable car with neighbouring Les Arcs – the Vanoise Express. It spans a valley that is 1,800m wide and 380m deep and forms the vast ski and snowboard playground marketed as Paradiski.
It sits between enormous linked ski areas – the Espace Killy (Val d’Isère-Tignes) and the Trois Vallees, which comprises resorts including Meribel and Courchevel. At its heart is the original, 45 years-old development now known as Plagne Centre.
Its great advantage was (and still is) that it allowed visitors to ski from and back to its doors. The flattish snowfield outside, the so called Front de Neige, with its cat’s cradle of lifts heading in all directions, can be so busy it gives the impression that if you sat long enough at one of its outside tables someone you know would eventually come gliding past.
Paradiski is claimed to be the world’s second biggest ski area connected by lifts. It has some 265 miles of pistes, and with more than two-thirds of its skiing over 6500 feet.
A great advantage of La Plagne is the large amount of blue rated intermediate cruising, on long and unthreatening slopes. Unthreatening, that is, on groomed powder. If you’re unlucky enough to catch them when they are hard and icy, head for steeper red or black pistes, for the easy terrain tends to attract skiers whose compulsion to bomb down exceeds their abilities.
Experts may wish to head for Roche de Mio for its 2,700m of challenging runs or the Bellecôte Glacier for black pistes and the opportunity to go off-piste.
And you can always take the cable car to Les Arcs, you don’t have to journey far to find a clutch of similarly moreish descents above Vallandry.
Skiing back to Montchavin – it lies at only around 4100 feet – can be tricky. In warm conditions I found the snow to be heavy as wet sugar. But you can always wimp out and catch the gondola down the last stretch.
The resort certainly has its charms with a lovely range of pistes and gives the impression of being a sort of Metropolis on snow that is worthy of its popularity.
Note: This is a vast area so it may be worth downloading the Paradiski app, Yuge, so that you know where the queues are and anticipated waiting times. There’s also a digital piste map, weather forecasts, ski itineraries and tracking information.
Where to eat: Les Cocottes offers commendable cooking, pleasant service and not bad prices – though unless the £ recovers from its post Brexit vote slump you’ll need to allow about £25 – £30 a head.
Where to stay: a double room at the Hotel Bellecôte for a week between late January and early February costs between €130 and €150 a night for b&b.
Tour firms offering holidays at the hotel include Erna Low and Ski Solutions. Peak Retreats also offers holidays to Montchavin.
For more information on La Plagne go to www.la-plagne.com
Header image by Ola Matsson