La Plagne Centre might sound like the well centre but La Plagne is a starburst of self-sufficient conurbations.
Centre might be the original, long, low 60s buildings (which, with their shopping mall, have undergone a neat refurb) and Aime on the hill above it mountain peak-shaped apartment blocks, is the wildest but they’re not strictly at the centre. For that, and for charm, you can’t beat Belle Plagne.
Pistes snake between the chalet-like apartments while at its heart is a like stone and timber traffic-free village with cosy bars and cafes wedged up against a boulangerie and stores stacked with local cheese and sausages.
And easy access to La Plagne’s 225km of runs, the wide open expanses of piste in one direction, the lofty Bellecote glacier, the low, pretty village of Montchavin and Les Arcs in the other.
About La Plagne
Big enough in itself, La Plagne is also part of the world’s second biggest ski area, Paradiski, which takes in Les Arcs, reached via the Vanoise Express, a two-deck cable car that looks like a sci-fi London bus as it swishes across the valley (look through the glass floor panel for a hair-raising perspective).
Together there are 425km of runs plus a of truly good off-piste. La Plagne tops out at 3,250m, Les Arcs not far off, so snow is very reliable. It’s one of those places where lifts form a spider’s, even criss-crossing, so there’s no shortage of transport – and with most chairlifts carrying six or eight people any queues disappear quickly.
You’ve got easy with spectacular panoramas, you’ve got neat villages deep into the forests and you’ve got glaciers in both resorts. A free bus links a number of the centres well into the evening and the gondola between Belle Plagne and Bellecote runs as public transport until late.
The skiing at La Plagne
Phenomenal. It’s not for nothing that La Plagne rates itself the world’s most popular ski resort, with 2.5 million visitors each winter.
The skiing goes on and on and the signposts are important. From Belle Plagne one can jump on the gondola straight up to 2,739m Roche de Mio with runs amidst the craggiest peaks (and lifts to the glacier) or ski down to Bellecote where in one direction the Arpette chair accesses the long, winding runs down to Montchavin or the Les Arcs link while in the other is either the Blanchette or Colosses chair towards Plagne Centre, Plagne Villages, Plagne Soleil and Plagne.
In this direction as with elsewhere there’s always a blue run for the least confident skier along with reds off-piste that won’t scare the pants off you and a black or two.
While the Bellcotte glacier has some decent pistes it’s the gnarly black semi-pisted Rochu and Bellecote blacks that carve their way around the outside that are glorious for experts, steep and full of bumps with a wilderness feel, connecting with the long black Derochoir which funnels you back to civilisation.
If you like runs down amongst the trees, there’s plenty of that at Montchavin at one end of La Plagne at Montalbert at the other and at little Champagny, hidden over the ridge from the Roche de Mio.
Yet for all the places to investigate, for many the big, open pistes that pour down amid the string of ridges that make up the vast area are what makes it special. Freewheeling skiing seemingly without end and in all directions and with wondrous views.
Chocolate orange cake
Ingredients75g/2¾oz cocoa powder6 tbsp just-boiled water2 medium oranges, well-scrubbed, finely grated zest and 2 tbsp juice only225g/8oz unsalted butter, cubed and softened, plus extra for greasing225g/8oz caster sugar4 large free-range eggs225g/8oz self-raising flour1 tsp baking powderFor the candied orange zest½ orange, well-scrubbed25g/1oz caster sugarFor the…
Hairy Bikers’ Black Forest gateau
Rich with fruit, chocolate, and cream, this 70s classic still has a place on our tables. This recipe uses dried sour cherries, but you can substitute good-quality bottled ones. Ingredients225g/8oz butter, softened, plus extra for greasing225g/8oz caster sugar160g/5½oz self-raising flour65g/2¼oz cocoa powder½ tsp baking powder4…