Opening Photo: Jesus Fernandez
Probably as a result of being sandwiched between more famous neighbours, La Plagne is often overlooked by British riders. Which is a shame because this resort, nestled in the Tarantaise valley next to Les Arcs, Tignes and Val d’Isère, boasts many of the advantages of its better-known siblings without a lot of the disadvantages. Think of it as Solange Knowles to Val d’Isère’s Beyoncé. Developed from five high alpine communes during the skiing boom of the 60s, La Plagne now consists of 11 separate villages, each with their own distinct characteristics.
- Highest Point: 3,175m
- Descent: 1,925m
- No. lifts: 128
While the original hamlets like Plagne 1800 or Montalbert have retained their chocolate-box wooden chalet look, the village of Plagne Centre suffered badly from the mania for concrete that shaped (or rather mis-shaped) Tignes in the mid-60s. Thankfully recent additions like Belle Plagne and Plagne Soleil have seen the return of more tasteful, traditional architecture. These separate villages are connected by the massive 225 kilometres of slopes, serviced by more than 80 lifts.
Add to this the fact that the vast terrain and excellent park of Les Arcs is just a short gondola ride away (across the double-decker Vanoise Express cable car, opened in 2003/4) and you can see why they claim the area offers something for everyone.
The Parks – 3/5
Having suffered from a classic case of “French-snowpark-istis” (poorly laid-out obstacles tended by some local rudeboy more interested in smoking le shit than shaping) La Plagne has really pulled its finger out in the last few years. These days there’s a sizeable park above the village of Belle Plagne serviced by a fast drag lift.
“It may not have as many steeps as, Chamonix, but you don’t need to be up at the crack of dawn to claim first tracks“
A beginner area at the top of the run features three small kickers and a selection of boxes. The main park has a selection of good rails of varying shapes and sizes. Following this you have the choice of a 20ft ‘red’ kicker or a cannon rail, and then the choice of a further two kickers back to back. Each tabletop boasts two takeoffs, giving you four lines in total, ranging from small blue one to sizeable (25 foot plus) black booters. The features are generally well maintained, and the crew who gather round the free-to-use park BBQ are friendly and welcoming.
Interestingly, while their parks haven’t always been this good, La Plagne has always had great pipes. The biggest is a 22-foot superpipe, down the hill from the park towards Bellecotte. When it’s shaped properly, it’s a beast!