Ski Resorts in La Plagne, France
Skiing and Snowboarding in La Plagne, France
If you like high-mileage, snowsure intermediate cruising, there is no better single ski resort in the world than La Plagne, with the majority of its vast slopes north-facing, more than 100 lifts and a marvelous sense of adventure as you travel between the different regions.
Throughout its four decades of existence, La Plagne has had its share of detractors, who discount the area as a soul-less intermediates' heaven, pertain to its apartments as rabbit hutches and think the nightlife is someplace on par with Slough in a blizzard. To a degree, these critics are correct. Most of the ten resorts that join together to make La Grande Domaine are more concrete than cuckoo clock (the lower villages and Belle Plagne is an exception), although this has been remedied through more sensitive development, and none of the nightlife is wildly inspiring since most people are happy to ski all day and sleep all night. But what these ten resorts do feature is over 200km of well-maintained pistes in a really snowsure surroundings. Certainly there are a lot of gentle motorway blues to flatter, but if you're looking for more rugged challenges, then La Plagne has heaps of off-piste. In spite of its faults, and unlike Slough, La Plagne is a glorious triumph of size over style and with the state-of-the-art cable-car link to Les Arcs, the nightlife is no longer an issue. You'll require all your beauty sleep just to have the energy to come through to every far-flung corner of this super-resort.
The main skiing, over Plagne Centre and Plagne Bellecote, is all between 2,000m and 2,700m. Primary access from Plagne Centre is via the Grande Rochette Funiplagne cable-car, which takes skiers up to 2,500m in only four minutes, wind or no wind, though there may still be queues to get on during rush hour. From the top the choices are endless. Some steep, usually mogulled reds head back down to Plagne Centre, there's an excellent underused blue across to Plagne Bellecote or you could come down into the Champagny sector through the 5km-long blue motorway Geisha, which is as attractive as its name evokes -wide, scenic and south-facing. From the base, there are two chairlifts, one going back up to the Grande Rochette ridge (and the start of Mont de la Guerre, among the most adorable runs in the Alps), the other leading up towards Roche de Mio.
The other main ski lift out of Plagne Centre is the Becoin chair that goes up to Biolley at 2,350m. This opens up access to a superb steep competition red back to Plagne Centre or, off the back, a few blacks - including the daunting Morbleu, which is occasionally icy, generally bumpy and always tricky. It also leads, through another chair, to Plagne Montalbert's gentle but relatively isolated tree-lined ski area, which bottoms out at the village at 1,350m and is covered by snow cannons.
La Plagne's other main ski area is on top of the concrete jungle at Bellecote and the much more attractive chalet-style Belle Plagne. Main access is through the Roche de Mio gondola that now has more weatherproof cabins. Starting in Bellecote, the lift goes via Belle Plagne and ends up at Roche de Mio at 2,700m. There is also access to Roche de Mio from Bellecote by two high-speed six-man chairlifts. From Roche de Mio, you can go farther up to the Glacier de Bellecote at over 3,000m. The glacier is steeper than most and, when it's open, the snow is warranted to be in ground condition.
Back at Roche de Mio, reds and blues lead down to Belle Plagne or into the Champagny region, while it is also possible to ski the whole way down to the villages of Montchavin and Les Coches, a descent of about 1,500m and with some great off-piste along the way (particularly in the trees above Les Bauches). Montchavin and Les Coches can likewise be reached directly by the fast Arpette chairlift from Bellecote, which leads to some mild forest runs in the Plan Bois area up above Les Coches. From here, you can either hop on the Vanoise Express double-decker cable-car through the valley to Les Arcs or back up to Arpette and home for a well-earned rest.
La Plagne has some great pit stops sprinkled around, especially in and above Montchavin-Les Coches and Champagny. Plan Bois on top of Les Coches has rustic charm in abundance and makes for aperfect lunch stop on a cold day. Les Bauches, in the same sector, is a serene spot in the trees, with a superb sun terrace and views around to Les Arcs. Roc des Blanchets, in the Champagny sector, has great views towards Courchevel, friendly service and a great lunch stop after the long descent from Roche de Mio. Up high, Au Bon Vieux Temps, just beneath Aime La Plagne, is ideal for top-notch Savoyarde dishes in good-looking surroundings. La Grande Rochette has its south-facing terrace is a sunseeker's paradise, while Les Inversens, a few metres below Roche de Mio, is the perfect spot for a sundowner - don't have a lot, though, as it's 700m vertical back to Belle Plagne.
You will find terrain ski parks above Belle Plagne, Montchavin-Les Coches and Champagny. Belle Plagne's is the largest, accessed by the Col de Forcle draglift and featuring a boardercross course, pyramids, tables and hips. There's also a half-pipe and devoted mogul piste at Plagne Bellecote.
For a high-altitude resort, there's plenty to do besides skiing. In Belle Plagne there's a fitness center with sauna, Turkish bath, mudwraps and manicures to soothe away your aches and pains, and a four-lane bowling alley. Down in Bellecote there's a heated outdoor pool that you can reach by a tunnel from the changing rooms, while over in Plagne Centre there's a beauty and fitness center- and a cinema, showing English-language movies two times a week. Back outside, thrill-seekers must head for the bobsleigh run, made for the Albertville Winter Olympics. Better yet, put your faith in technology and climb into the self-steering mono bob, a solo 90kmh white-knuckle ride.
Bars and Restaurants
In Plagne Centre, La Metairie is the top choice with log fires, friendly service, a strong wine list and consistently good food. Le Bee Fin, an old Plagne Centre favorite, gets moderately mixed reports -atmosphere great, value for money good, service okay and food varying. Maybe worth the risk, though. Over in Belle Plagne, Papagonne dishes out tasty pizza and pasta dishes, and also does to go, while La Taverne de Maitre Kanter is a Belle Plagne institution, serving local classics like fondue and raclette, plus several Alsatian specialities - easier on the wallet than the waistline. Down in Bellecote, Chalet des Colosses is a great pick for Savoyarde standards, while La Plagne's best eaterie, Soupe au Schuss is hidden deep inside the not so appealing apartment building at Aime La Plagne. Other recommendations include Grizzli in Plagne Villages, Loup Garrou in 1800, La Zacotta in Montchavin and Les Glieres in Champagny.
There are some drinking places worth mentioning like the one at Belle Plagne, Mat's Pub is a somewhat faithful and often jammed recreation of an English pub, while La Cheyenne is a Tex-Mex tortilla-and-tequila bar with waitresses wearing sombreros and cowboy boots. The Saloon is the most famous place in town (a dark Wild West basement hangout with swing doors, pricey drinks, saddle barstools and dancing until late). Bellecote's main watering hole, Show Time, has very little rival and is invariably jammed with a mostly French crowd and has occasional live jazz. Over in Plagne Centre, the King Cafe features a big screen, live bands most nights and eight-pint tabletop beer dispensers for pulling your own drinks, while the Luna Bar stays loud till the wee hours. Other recommendations include the Last One Pub in Montchavin and the Mine in 1800.
Accommodations in La Plagne
This is serious apartment district and there are bargains aplenty to be found during low season (January and after Easter), with big discounts on apartment/hotel and lift pass combinations. Hotels in Belle Plagne include L'Eldorador, a popular 172-room stalwart with adequate rooms, good food and excellent position. But the bestbet in Plagne Centre is the big, Terra Nova, a 120-room three-star place with sauna and covered parking. If you would choose to escape the concrete chaos, the Hotel les Glieres in Champagny is a rustic old two-star in a five-star village, connected into the main ski area by a seven-minute gondola ride.
La Licorne Residence reflects the traditional architectural style of the region and offers comfortable and stylish accommodation. guests can choose from a total of 38 fully equipped apartments including studios and 2- and 3-room apartments. The establishment provides a lobby, lift access and a garage.
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