With a top lift on a snow-sure glacier at 3,250m and pistes that go all the way down to 1,250m, La Plagne is part of the giant Paradiski area, along with Les Arcs and Peisey-Vallandry. The three resorts together have 425km of runs best suited to lower intermediates and families, served by 129 lifts.
Rather than having one resort base to stay in, La Plagne is made up of no less than 11 separate “villages” scattered across a giant and largely gentle plateau alongside a steep mountain, making it important to be aware of location when booking a holiday here.
Stay on track with the essential facts from the resort below, and scroll down for our insider guide to a day on the pistes, expert ratings and advice. For further La Plagne inspiration, see our guides to the resort’s best accommodation, restaurants and après ski.
Inside the resort
With its 11 spread-out base villages, La Plagne lacks a single identity and character. Four of the options to stay in are traditional farming villages – rustic Champagny en Vanoise to the south of La Plagne, Plagne Montalbert on the western edge of the ski area, Montchavin La Plagne at the northern edge of the area and La Plagne Vallée bordering the Isère and villages perched on the slopes of the Versant du Soleil.
The rest are purpose-built ski resorts at different altitudes. La Plagne Montchavin les Coches is modern but traditional in style. Plagne Centre is the main hub of the resort. Below Plagne Centre is Plagne 1800, while above are Plagne Aime 2000, Plagne Soleil and Plagne Village, over a ridge from the final two, Plagne Bellecôte and Belle Plagne.
One unusual extra-curricular attraction in La Plagne is a 1,500m long Olympic bobsleigh run with 19 bends. Rides down it are available in a four-seater bob raft that reaches speeds of about 80kph, a single-seater speed luge (riders lie on their back and travel down feet first at up to 90kph, surrounded by a protective cage), or a four-seater racing bob with a professional racing driver at speeds of up to 120kph.
The volume of apartments and tour operator-catered chalets on offer makes La Plagne a sensible choice for families. However, its popularity with them means the slopes can be crowded during high season, and particularly over February half term.
The fragmented nature of La Plagne limits nightlife opportunities, and a large percentage of family guests means the resort isn’t famed for its après. Belle Plagne is the liveliest of the villages, where the Wild West-themed Le Saloon stays open till 5am.
La Plagne has 225km of marked pistes of its own, including plenty of wide and gentle runs. The rest of the Paradiski area is equally intermediate friendly, but while Paradiski is extensive it is not as well linked by lift and piste as the big name, big area rivals the Trois Vallées and Val d’Isère/Tignes. While the ski area is not ideal for experts, there are still plenty of black and red runs, and long, steep off piste descents to lure daredevils.
La Plagne also has Europe’s longest snow-cross course – the Funslope, a long track with jumps and steep banked curves. And the resort also hosts a quirky festival at the end of each winter called Subli’Cimes, which stretches across the resort’s five spectacular summits, free to anyone who has a valid lift pass.
On the slopes
Much of La Plagne’s local ski area is on a gentle plateau made up of wide, undemanding slopes way above the tree line. As these descend into the forest on the south and north faces, they become steeper.
Towering over this largely beginner and intermediate playground is the 3,417m summit of Bellecôte, the starting point for some challenging, long off-piste descents. The spectacular Vanoise Express cable car links La Plagne to Les Arcs, spanning a valley 1,800m wide and 380m deep; the two resorts together form the enormous 425km Paradiski area.
La Plagne’s most distant outpost is the traditional village of Champagny en Vanoise. It’s possible to travel from here across half a dozen valleys to the outskirts of Villaroger at the far end of the Les Arcs area. However, it entails a frustratingly long time spent on lifts. If on a week’s holiday it makes sense to mainly concentrate on the substantial amount of slopes La Plagne has to offer and make a one-day foray to Les Arcs.
Beginners and intermediates will get the most out of the ski area by staying in one of the higher accommodation centres, such as Belle Plagne and Plagne Centre, with best access to the plethora of easy blue runs. While many of the key lifts in the area are fast, the layout of the ski area does not lend itself to those who enjoy covering miles of piste in the same way as Méribel (in the Trois Vallées) and Tignes/Val d’Isère, and queues at peak times can be frustrating.
Experts may want to head immediately for the 2,700m Roche de Mio and its more challenging runs and the Bellecôte Glacier beyond for black pistes and good off-piste opportunities. The south face has the easier terrain, a warm-up for the stomach-churning traverses and narrow couloirs of the north face. It’s essential to hire an off-piste mountain guide to do these runs.
The terrain park in Belle Plagne has two separate zones for different levels of skill. Le Petit Park, reached by the Col de Forcle button lift, is for novices, while Le Grand Park, at the top of Belle Plagne, has four routes with around 20 rails and tables as well as an airbag and a snow-cross course. There are two further snow-cross courses at Les Coches and Champagny, and Europe’s longest snow-cross – the Funslope – in Plagne Bellecôte.
A Paradiski app, Yuge, provides information on where the queues are and anticipated waiting times, as well as a digital piste map, weather forecasts, ski itineraries and tracking information.
Who should go?
La Plagne is largely a beginner and intermediate playground with a vast amount of terrain to cover thanks to the link with Les Arcs. Families flock to the resort thanks to the variety of accommodation, most of which is ski-in/ski-out and the number of activities available off the slopes to suit all ages including a Deep Nature spa at Belle Plagne and overnight stays in a luxury converted snow groomer. It is possible to easily reach La Plagne by train, in less than nine hours. Aime la Plagne station is a 20-40 minutes bus ride away, depending on which village you stay in.
Know before you go
British Embassy/Consulate: (00 33 1 44 51 31 00; ukinfrance.fco.gov.uk)
Ambulance (samu): dial 15
Police: dial 17
Fire (pompiers): dial 18
Emergency services from mobile phone: dial 112
Tourist office: See la-plagne.com, the website for the La Plagne Tourist Board, for weather reports, lift status, webcams, traffic details and local event listings. Pick up maps, leaflets and other information from the office in Plagne Centre.
Telephone code: from abroad, dial 00 33, then leave off the zero at the start of the 10-figure number.
Time difference: +1 hour
Local laws & etiquette
- When greeting people, formal titles (Monsieur, Madame and Mademoiselle) are used much more in French than in English.
- The laws of vouvoiement (which version of “you” to use) take years to master. If in doubt – except when talking to children or animals – always use the formal vous form (second person plural) rather than the more casual tu.
- When driving, it’s compulsory to keep fluorescent bibs and a hazard triangle in the car in case of breakdown. Since 2021, it’s also compulsory to have snow chains in your car or winter tyres from the beginning of November until March.