La Plagne first appeared on the skiing radar in 1961 when Plagne Centre opened with two drag lifts and four ski slopes. One of many such projects in the early ‘60s, the decision was taken to develop tourism in the area due to a severe decline in the mining and agricultural industries leaving many local people out of work. Michel Bezançon designed the original village which still retains its distinctive ‘60s feel!
Since then the resort has blossomed and now comprises of 11 separate villages: Plagne Centre, Plagne 1800, Aime-La Plagne 2000, Bellecote, Belle Plagne, Plagne Villages, Plagne Soleil, Montalbert, Montchavin, Les Coches and Champagny-en-Vanoise, as well as other even smaller hamlets such as La Roche.
In 2003, the huge Vanoise Express cable car opened linking the La Plagne ski area to Les Arcs via Peisey-Vallandry and creating the Paradiski domain. The 200-capacity lift takes just 4 minutes to cover the 1800m between the two sides of the valley and makes the area one of the largest linked ski areas in Europe. There was a minor setback in the 2007-08 season when there was a fault with the cable meaning the lift was closed for the entire season, but since then, mile-hungry skiers and boarders have been enjoying the benefits of this €15 million investment to the full.
The skiing in La Plagne is an intermediate’s paradise with every area of resort accessible via nice blue and red runs giving you a chance to cover an awful lot of ground. It’s great for new skiiers too with free beginner lifts in every village and some easy blues to practice on, though it’s a bit of a shame that beginners probably won’t get to take full advantage of the extensive skiing on offer. There isn’t a huge range of pisted runs for very advanced skiers, but the off piste opportunities mean the expert skier certainly isn’t neglected – try the North Face down to Vallandry off the glacier or drop off the back of ‘Brown Trouser ridge’ down to Champagny for that powder fix! The couloirs that run down right into the heart of Plagne Centre are a great place to test your skills in a natural half pipe.
Although La Plagne has a bit of a reputation for poor snow conditions, this is not necessarily warranted. During the very poor season in 2010-11, the runs down to all the villages were kept open right into April, with a particular effort being made to keep the run down to the Vanoise Express skiable. The glacier is always snow-sure and provides excellent conditions throughout the season. Huge investment has been made in snow cannons and snow preserving – in 2011 they dismantled the huge half pipe used for the Freestyle World Cup that year and spread the snow across the vital pistes during the very warm spring months!
La Plagne boasts an excellent Snow Park just above Belle Plagne with green, blue and red kickers, rails and an airbag (buy tokens at €3 per go, cheaper in bulk). There’s a BBQ area with huge speakers pumping out Euro tunes which is a great place to gather and watch the park action. In the spring months the pisteurs create a great ‘water ski’ for those willing to risk getting wet which is always entertaining! The park is accessible via a drag lift, or a chair depending on how much of it you wish to ski. There are also a couple of other smaller parks in the satellite villages when conditions allow.
Snowboarding in La Plagne
La Plagne probably doesn’t make it onto most snowboarders “must-do” list and thats a crying shame because La Plagne has an awful lot to offer every level of snowboarder. La Plagne and Les Arcs are two exceptional resorts in their own right, thanks to the Vanoise express that now links the two, you can explore both vast areas at the cost of one lift pass. Both resorts boast top end terrain parks, natural hits and powder runs to make even the most discerning snowboarder smile from ear to ear.
La Plagne Terrain parks
The main terrain park in La Plagne is situated on the Capella piste above Belle Plagne and has something for everyone. There is an easier section, with small jumps and rails for those looking to take their first steps in a freestyle setting, all the way up to gravity defying table-tops and enormous rainbow rails.
Just above Plagne Bellecote can be found the main resort halfpipe and served by its own button lift:
Just above the half-pipe is the resort Boarder Cross, a adrenaline fuelled descent full of banked turns, jumps and speed. Not for the faint-hearted but incredibly good fun!
For snowboarders looking for powder, then fear not, there is more than enough for you here too! The most famous run is the Face Nord, an off-piste mecca full of steep descents and crevasses. This should only be attempted with a local guide as you need to arrange a pick up at the bottom. For those of you looking for something more lift served and accessible, the couloirs behind off the summit of the Grand Rochette back into Belle Plagne can be very rewarding but again, should only be attempted by experts under supervision from local guides.