03 Mar La Plagne, France: A complete ski resort guide
225km of piste, 11 villages, 6 mountains, two linked ski areas and one amazing view of Mont Blanc? That’ll be La Plagne. This gem of a French alpine ski resort is not only a stunner, it’s a snowsports-lovers paradise. My guide will show you how to make the most of it.
I know, I say this every year.
I’ve fallen in love with another ski resort.
But honestly, none have given me the chills (in a good way) like La Plagne since I first tried skiing almost ten years ago. And that’s not to say that the places I’ve had the privilege of visiting in the past few years haven’t be brilliant, because they have. There’s just something special about this place that I’ve not felt elsewhere.
With Mont Blanc imposing on the skyline, wonderfully diverse mountain geography and more French restaurants and cafes than you can shake a stick at, you’ll already got a great destination. But add in glorious wide, sweeping runs, a speedy lift network and bountiful viewpoints and you start to get the feeling this is something else. The cherry on the cake was the fantastic snow France has been enveloped in this season, and weather conditions we were blessed with. After weeks of exceptionally heavy snow the clouds parted and blue skies filled the horizon for most of the week.
La Plagne is great on paper, but it’s even better in real life. In this guide, I’m going to share my tips and tricks for exploring this resort as well as my absolute favourites from my week away. Oh, and if you need any more persuasion I’ve recommend a quick look at 8 photos that will make you fall in love with La Plagne.
How to get to La Plagne
La Plagne is best reached from either Geneva, Grenoble or Chambery airports. Transfers are about two and a half hours from Geneva and Grenoble, and a little less from Chambery – although flights here are more scarce.
As always, I’d recommend booking airport transfers as part of your package. It’s easier and it’ll make sure the transport of your snow kit is looked after (they’ll be expecting boot bags and board bags).
There’s a fun alternative if you’re travelling to La Plagne from the UK. Moutiers, the railway hub of the French Alps, is about 45 minutes drive away (not much more than 20km or so as the crow flies). This means you can find overnight rail packages from London, with easy onward connections to La Plagne and a host of other nearby resorts.
Skiing in La Plagne
La Plagne is part of the huge Paradiski area that comprises both La Plagne and Les Arcs. The two resorts are connected by the impressively speedy Vanoise Express gondola.
You can choose to buy either the Paradiski lift pass that covers the whole area, or a local pass for La Plagne or Les Arcs. If you go for a six day local pass, you’ll get one day’s access to the other resort so that you’ve got a chance to explore.
I’m an intermediate skier and opted for the Paradiski lift pass, and spent two full days of our trip skiing in Les Arcs. As it was only an extra €30, so seemed good value for money. But if I’m completely honest, there was enough to keep me occupied in La Plagne alone that I think I would have been happy with the local pass. Serious skiers and boarders will definitely want the Paradiski option, but don’t fear running out of places to explore as an intermediate in either local area.
A note on lifts
La Plagne has the sort of lift network you’d expect from a major resort. There’s plenty of them, they run pretty fast, and apart from the Vanoise Express, Roche de Mio gondola and the Colossus (a chair lift that’s invaluable making your way across the mountain to get home), there’s very little queuing. Drag lifts are few and far between and not used to access any major ski areas. You also won’t find any dated or precarious lifts (we affectionately refer to these as James Bond lifts after the kitsch classic, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) that’ll slow you down or put your nerves on edge.
Skiing for beginners in La Plagne
Some of my friends I travelled with had early ski experiences here, and I can see there’s some good reasons to choose this resort for your first or second trip.
- There’s a good range of ski-in, ski-out accommodation that’ll make things easier if you’re not used to handling skis or a board.
- Ski schools seem to abound in the resort so you’ll have no trouble finding something that suits you.
- There’s plenty of gentle, friendly blue runs that I would have loved honing my skills on when I was learning.
- You won’t be limited to skiing in one area, so even if you’re a newbie you should be able to explore a reasonable area with your instructor.
- There are very few drag lifts, every beginner’s nightmare. Enough said.
Skiing for intermediates in La Plagne
Honestly, this resort is a dream.
With 225km kilometers of piste and 102 blue and red runs (actually, most are blue but of varying difficulty), there’s so much to cruise around. You can explore the quieter, lower pistes arount Montalbert, Montchavin and Champagny-en-Vanoise to escape the crowds. Head to Roche de Mio (my favourite) for long, sweeping runs down into the resort villages with breathtaking views on the way. Perfect your technique on meandering blues from the Col de Verdon back into Plagne Centre.
Whether you love tree-lined beauties, clocking up the miles or seeking stunning viewpoints, it feels like you can have it all here, without too much repetition. If you’re looking for somewhere to enjoy exploring all week long (without too much repetition), at a steady, sociable pace, I’ve really not been anywhere better.
Skiing for experts in La Plagne
I’ll admit I’m no expert (except at seeking out the best on-piste pizza). But helpfully some of the folks I travelled with are pretty ambitious and gave the resorts more challenging features a go.
You’ve got a generous handful of black runs as well as some ungroomed pistes if you want to get some practice in on some more tricky runs. The glacier is a great spot for more advanced skiers and boarders as you’ll be able to give most, if not all, the pistes up here a go, making the journey worth the while.
You’ve also got ski schools offering back country ski tuition if you fancy get to grips with off piste. The guys were shattered but happy after returning from an afternoon pushing themselves with the help of a chirpy instructor.
After a week exploring the pistes of La Plagne, I had some firm favourites. First thing in the morning, head to Plagne Centre and take the Colorado and Verdon lifts up to the top of the Col du Verdon. From here you can happily ski all the way all the way back down into town on cruising blues that will get you warmed up for the day ahead. There’s panoramas aplenty, including cracking views from the viewing platform at the top of the Col. It catches the sun at this time of day, so it’s a good deal prettier and warmer than in the afternoon shadows.
As the day moves on, make your way to the Roche de Mio to make the most of the late afternoon sunshine. If you’ve got plenty of energy return to Plagne Bellecôte along the fast and furious Les Sources. Or take it easy on tired legs on the Levasset, a gentle blue with great views across to Courcheval.
Where to stay in La Plagne
With eleven different villages to choose from, you could be forgiven for finding it hard to decide where to stay. Thankfully, skiing around the resort gives you a chance to find all of them and get a feel for why they’re great.
If you want great access to the lift network
Ambitious skiers and boarders will love Plagne Centre, Aime-La Plagne, Belle Plagne and Plagne Bellecôte for ski-in, ski-out accommodation and a good selection of lifts on your doorstep.
If you’d like somewhere more traditional
Plagne 1800 (where I stayed) is actually an old mining village, with 100 plus years of heritage. There’s a couple of charming chalet restaurants like Le Loup Blanc where you can get your fill of timber-clad alpine decor and cow bells. Montchavin is also a traditional delight, with the oldest chalets I spotted in the resort and a lovely little cobbled main street with restaurants, delis and a boulangerie.
If you want to ski Les Arcs plenty
You’ll want easy access to the Vanoise Express gondola. Montchavin and Plagne Bellecôte are your best bets.
If you’d like somewhere quieter
Lower altitude is what you’re looking for. Montchavin and Montalbert are good shouts, well below the treeline and rather peaceful. Champagny-en-Vanoise is a good bet for more experienced skiers. Over the other side of the mountain, it’s home to some wonderfully quiet and pretty pistes. You’ll just have to cover some decent ground on your way to and from the main ski areas of La Plagne so you’ll have to plan to make your lifts home each day.
If you want the best views from your bedroom window
Belle Plagne and Plagne Soleil are slap bang in the middle of the piste. And I suspect there’s a pretty darned good view from the higher balconies in Plagne Centre, Aime-La Plagne and Plagne Bellecôte of you are facing south (-ish, by which I mean facing up the piste).
If you want to party
Plagne Centre and Aime-La Plagne have a decent handful of bars. If you like live music and a few beers, Les Mines in Plagne 1800 had a great atmosphere early and late. Cunningly their live acts play après around 5/6pm and again later in the evening – so it doesn’t matter if you’re an early bird or a night owl. On the piste, La Bergerie, on the return into Plagne Centre was fabled for it’s après, but after my friends gave it a go one afternoon suggested it was mostly expensive drinks and not much more. We consoled ourselves with another visit to Les Mines…
What to do off the piste in La Plagne
Aside from the more obvious (but nonetheless welcome) attractions of the bars, cafes and restaurants of La Plagne, there are a few unique gems that you might want to check out.
- Olympic bobsleigh run. La Plagne was host to a number of events during the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics, including the luge events. If you fancy having having a go at this adrenaline-rush of an off-piste activity, you can book packages across a wide range of price points. The best value we came across was €45 for a piloted ride in a four-man bob, through to an eye-watering €295 to ride tandem with a former Olympian (pretty tempting if not quite within our budget).
- The Colorado Luge. For a somewhat more reasonable €7, hire a sledge and head to the top of the Colorado lift for the fantastically entertaining luge. I didn’t get round to giving it a go, but my two of my lovely friends did and had an absolute whale of a time. Hilarious, family-friendly good fun on the piste. It’s top of my list for another trip to La Plagne.
- Walking trails. La Plagne is heaving with groomed walking trails that weave their way between the pistes and villages. All you need is a map and friendly advice from the tourist office, no snow-shoes needed.
My stay in La Plagne
We travelled to La Plagne in February 2018 with Alpine Elements, and stayed in Chalet Piccard in Plagne 1800. I was staying with nine lovely friends and friends of friends, almost filling a chalet apartment.
Was it a good choice? I couldn’t have picked any better, and I’m so glad it was to our shortlist. The chalet was comfy and cosy, our apartment building had a large sauna (a big win after a long day on the slopes) and our host was fantastic – whipping up wonderful three course meals every evening. It was a short walk to the slopes and a Skiset hire shop was almost immediately opposite our apartment. Plagne 1800 is nice little village – not super lively, but still in the thick of things.
It was my first stay with Alpine Elements and not only would I thoroughly recommend them, and book with again. Not only were the team in La Plagne great, there were the little touches that made our stay – like bacon sandwiches ready for us to take away on our early morning departure.
Don’t forget, you can check out more photos from my trip in 8 photos that will make you fall in love with La Plagne
So that’s your lot. Have I persuaded you to give La Plagne a for your next ski trip? Or are you already a convert?
I’d love to hear your thoughts – especially if you’ve visited before – in the comments below.