Traditionally La Plagne has always been earmarked as a family resort. A decent amount of green and blue runs, fairly cheap, masses of self-catering accommodation and a resort centre that easily caters for the non-skier. So it came as a surprise when a group of us, all of us avid explorers, looking for the untouched white stuff, were invited there for an off piste skiing trip. With powder as good as it’s been this season we thought it’d be rude not to.
I’ve enjoyed heli skiing in various resorts around Europe and the US and if I were to create my powder hunter bucket list, I doubt at that point La Plagne would have made the cut. In my mind La Plagne was all about cruisy blue runs, mid morning hot chocolate stops and long lunches on the terrace. But our guide Pierre ensured us that because La Plagne only exploits its pisted runs it’s home to some of the planet’s most awesome off piste skiing.
Our base for the weekend was VIP Ski’s Summit View in the centre of La Plagne. Directly above a parade of shops, the chalets are perfectly located for the early morning bread run; you don’t even need to get out of your slippers. A detailed demonstration of how to use our avalanche transceivers and we set off with Pierre to find out what La Plagne had to offer. Early January can be pretty unpredictable in the mountains and even in a resort as high as La Plagne, the pisted runs caused our snowboards to scream and slide as we searched for powder.
Surprisingly it wasn’t long before we came across some. The area under and to the left (looking up) of the Roche de Mio chairlift and the bowl under La Tougne provided us with some introductory off piste with gentle slopes. And it was untouched. Crisp, white, fluffy stuff, protected by fir trees, the type of tree runs usually reserved for US resorts. And so the day continued, the off piste terrain endless and so obvious we were all surprised it hadn’t been skied out. But I suppose that’s the joy of off piste skiing in a family resort.
After an epic morning’s skiing, we were ready to warm our hands and toes by the fire and headed to La Refuge, one of the oldest restaurants in La Plagne; grilled meats are one of their speciality dishes and each table has a copper hood suspended above it so you can grill your own meat to taste at the table. In the afternoon we headed to the North Face of the Bellcote, which rivals anything you might find at La Grave with the steepness of the couloirs posing a challenge to even the most experienced freerider.
By the end of day one we were more than ready to head back to the comfort of our apartment. The Summit View Chalets offer a combination of stylish comfort and cutting edge décor at 2000m altitude with an unbeatable on-piste location. The suites sleep seven to 12 and are the epitome of sophistication, with huge open plan living and dining areas and lovely views across the Grand Rochette Mountain. There are luxurious soft furnishings, original works of art and Bose sound systems. Add to that your very own wake up call each morning with a steaming mug of tea and this place is really hard to leave, even for the stunning off piste.
But we did, and the next day we covered off the long Mont de la Guerre, which descends all the way to Champagny and offers lots of variants for off piste novices. For the even more adventurous it’s possible to ski down to the villages of Lachenal and beyond with a return by taxi to Champagny. And just when we thought there was no more off piste to exploit we found Le Boilley. The Morbleu black is a great beginners introduction to off piste as it’s not normally pisted on its upper sections. This is also the case with Les Etroits, which leads to a large bowl that can keep powder fresh many days after the last fall. By the second day we were beat and would normally have been celebrating the powder in a remote mountain hut with a glass of red and a fondue if we were lucky. Instead we were treated to a champagne reception, six course meal, with wines picked for each – another perk at Summit View. So would I go back to La Plagne? Of course. What’s not to love, some of the best, untouched off-piste in Europe and ski in ski out luxury apartments. But sssshhh don’t tell everyone!
VIP SKI prices for seven nights start from £969 per person based on 2 sharing to £1,999. Flights, transfers and VIP SKI’s impeccable chalet service are all included. Call 0333 257 5177 or visit www.vip-chalets.com for more information. Ski hire and lift passes can be arranged through VIP SKI – Ski and boot hire starts from £83 (bronze level – beginner) to £129 (platinum level – advanced). Snowboard and boot hire costs £96. Helmet hire is £10. Oxygene Ski delivers and collects ski equipment at the beginning and end of the week and insurance is included in the cost. A six-day Paradiski lift pass costs £236.
Top tips from Snowangel
Bobraft: 19 Bends down the 1500m Olympic Bobsleigh track costs £33 per person for an 8-man bobraft. Visit www.la-plagne.com for more information.
Sledge Run: A 4km toboggan descent followed by an aperitif costs £18 per person. Visit www.la-plagne.com for more information.
A great lunch stop is Le “Dou du Praz” Home to igloo village and dog sledding, close to Plagne Soleil.