Travel review: Ski, snowboard and super luge in La Plagne
Whether it's a relaxing glide below the glistening tree-line or a high speed hurtle down the slick, bashed piste - this resort in the French Alps has it all.
And it’s not just what it has to offer with skis or a snowboard beneath your feet which makes La Plagne a top class winter destination.
With a flurry of extra-curricular activities, from an Olympic bobsleigh run to stunning restaurants - there really is something for everyone.
It’s been more than 10 years since my dad first took me to the resort and it was there, aged nine, I first donned my skis.
Despite countless falls - where I often went tumbling through the snow head first - I fell in love with skiing and my dad and I have been going to different resorts in Europe almost every year since.
On my return, I was hopeful that I couldn’t possibly fall over any more times than I had back in 2006 and held the impossible dream that I may actually be better than my dad.
This time we stayed in Chalet Bartavelle which was a quick and painless 50 metre walk to the piste and the nearest chairlift.
The cosy and traditional chalet offers a log fire to relax in front of and even a sauna to help unwind and treat those stiffening thighs.
Our gracious hosts, Sam and Jen, went above and beyond to make everyone feel at home - and since the chalet sleeps 15 they did their best to accommodate everyone.
Everyone who’s been skiing knows you can’t really class it as a holiday. It’s hard work and you do so much exercise it means you may as well skip the gym for the rest of the year.
So what better way to start the morning than with some beautiful freshly-baked French baguettes and a fry-up.
After a hard day hitting the slopes, our hosts will have left afternoon tea with treats ranging from lemon drizzle to coffee cake and of course a baguette.
Evening meal was an informal affair with a huge variety of dishes on offer throughout the week. Starting in true French fashion with yet another baguette accompanied with a glass or two of red or white wine.
Each day we were served a delicious, homemade and plentiful three-course meal - and our hosts catered for all allergies and dietary needs.
La Plagne, part of the Paradiski offers 425km of skiing with runs for Bambi-on-ice beginners to the Olympic-standard skiing professsional and it’s an easy trip across to Les Arcs.
Every route has a beautiful backdrop which makes a sensational snap for Instagram or Facebook and there’s spots throughout the resort specially made for that picture-perfect moment.
As for the best ski routes, the Champagny en Vanoise from the Grande Rochette is perfect for cruising the blues and racing the reds. Winding through the trees is simply stunning and the views between the branches are breathtaking.
The Mira, also accessed from the Funiplagne Grande Rochette, is the best place to start the morning with a rapid race down the freshly-bashed blue.
Our ski instructor for the first day boldly claimed he hit 145kph on that run and we all spent the rest of the week trying to get close to that mark - but none of us were quite that quick.
The resort’s ski app, Yuge, also means you can track exactly where you’re going and how quickly you’re doing it - making it fairly competitive between the group of skiers in our chalet willing to risk breaking a few bones for the week’s high-speed top spot. The fastest recorded speed was 120.3km/hour and it was set by, you guessed it, my dad.
If you enjoy a more peaceful run, make your way to the Becoin chair and there’s plenty of pistes to choose from.
Peak times can be busy so it’s best to be the early bird. In the extra 10 minutes others enjoy in bed, you can ensure you’re up, out and ready to start the day exploring as may runs as possible.
If you’re going to head over for the day in Les Arcs, which can be accessed via the Vanoise Express, I’d recommend an early start. Although each journey across takes a maximum of 200 skiers at a time, you’ll still find long queues if you hit it at peak time on the morning. The earlier you get there the better.
When the chairlifts wind to a halt for the day it doesn’t mean the exhilarating fun has to end as La Plagne has a flurry of activities to enjoy.
If topping 100kph on skis wasn’t enough speed for the day then head down to the Olympic bobsleigh run. Be prepared for a bumpy ride as you hurtle down the ‘1.5km ice snake’, which was built for the Albertville Olympic Games in 1992, in what feels like a well-padded bath on ice skates.
For the adrenaline junkies there’s also the option to do the course on the speed luge. It’s described on its official website as ‘1,500 metres of happiness’ and I can confirm I laughed through all 19 turns - you’ll race across the finish line in a matter of minutes but it’s an experience that will last a lifetime.
Another highlight is the super luge, if you’ve managed to stay fairly fall free throughout your trip be prepared to pick up some bruises as you fly down the slopes on a plastic sled with the addition of two metal rods for brakes.
I’d recommend taking your helmet for the 5km course. You’re in charge of speed and steering and the only way I can describe my ride was that of complete panic (and laughter) as I hurtled out of control - accidentally backwards - down the piste.
But if you’re looking for something a bit more relaxing and indulgent, take a trip to the new restaurant, Le 360, which fittingly has a panoramic view of the Plateau du Fornelet.
The restaurant now has Michelin-starred chef Jean-Michel Bourvier at its helm with a range of dishes based on quality local products.
A week of skiing takes its toll so why not lie back and enjoy a massage to help release the tightness of your inevitably burning thighs. Massage Me come to you so you can relax in the comfort of your French home.
Finally, if you’re looking for an extra challenge which could make you an online skiing hero among your friends - try out the swimming pool ski surf.
The challenge, which can be found in both Les Arcs and in La Plagne, consists of a short hill leading up to a shallow swimming pool - which can end in one of two ways.
Ski glory: where you glide blissfully to the solid snow on the other side. Or, ski shame: a very cold plunge which will make the Boxing Day dip on the Yorkshire coast look like child’s play - plus you will be laughed at by the dozens of people watching.
Hence I’d leave it as the last thing to do on the slopes - nobody wants to be putting on soggy salopettes.
A week’s fully hosted ski holiday to the vast La Plagne ski area, part of the 425km of pistes that make up the Paradiski region, costs from £549pp. The price includes return Gatwick flights (Manchester + £20), transfers, 7 nights accommodation in a homely, hosted chalet, with cooked breakfast, home made afternoon cakes and tea, 3 course evening meals with wine (6 nights) and the services of a friendly chalet host.
A week’s stay at the Chalet Bartavelle costs from £639pp. Contact Ski Beat on 01273 855100, www.skibeat.co.ukSki Beat has been organising high quality fully catered ski chalet holidays to the French Alps for over 30 years. This coming winter Ski Beat’s charismatic chalet hosts will welcome guests in over fifty chalets, in nine snow sure resorts.
For ski lessons and super luge, visit the Oxygene ski website.