Is La Plagne in France the best family ski resort on Earth? 


Speaking for myself, the best part of a ski holiday is not hurtling down the slopes. It’s not even sauntering into the bar in the evening for some well-deserved après – although admittedly, both are darn good.

No: what I really love are the ski-lifts. Sounds silly, I know. But it is in those moments, soaring above the mountains, that one can find those rare moments of peace.

Picture the scene. Your turn comes up for the lift at the bottom of the mountain, surrounded by the colour and chaos of other skiers. There is the hubbub of voices in many languages and the whirr and clank of the mechanical winch.

A panoramic view of La Plagne, a vast ski resort made up of 11 villages

A stunning image of a section of the La Plagne ski domain, with a skier in the foreground testing his mettle on an off-piste section

A stunning image of a section of the La Plagne ski domain, with a skier in the foreground testing his mettle on an off-piste section

Jake describes how one of his favourite parts of a ski holiday is riding the chairlifts. Pictured is a general view of La Plagne

Jake describes how one of his favourite parts of a ski holiday is riding the chairlifts. Pictured is a general view of La Plagne

This image shows the village of Belle Plagne, which sits at an altitude of 6,725ft (2,050 metres)

This image shows the village of Belle Plagne, which sits at an altitude of 6,725ft (2,050 metres)

Aime-La Plagne, which sits at an altitude of 2,100 metres (6,889ft)

Aime-La Plagne, which sits at an altitude of 2,100 metres (6,889ft)

You plump on and lower the safety bar across your lap. You take the weight off your skis by balancing them on the little foot-rest. You feel warm from the exercise but cold from the snow.

Then, little by little, you ascend into the air. With your head de-cobwebbed by the adrenaline on the piste, the noise and busyness of the resort fades away and the majestic mountain range opens up silently on either side.

Paradise, no? In fact, on this occasion I mean it literally: this was a week with the family at a cluster of Alpine resorts known collectively as Paradiski.

Jake says that under expert guidance from the ESF, 'the family transformed from novices to intermediate skiers within a couple of days'

Jake says that under expert guidance from the ESF, ‘the family transformed from novices to intermediate skiers within a couple of days’

A beautiful image of Belle Plagne, nestled amid a set of mesmerising peaks

A beautiful image of Belle Plagne, nestled amid a set of mesmerising peaks

This stunning twilight image shows how La Plagne's villages are scattered across a jaw-dropping slice of the Alps

This stunning twilight image shows how La Plagne’s villages are scattered across a jaw-dropping slice of the Alps

La Plagne, one of the most popular ski resorts on Earth, has 2.5million visitors each season. Pictured is Plagne 1800

La Plagne, one of the most popular ski resorts on Earth, has 2.5million visitors each season. Pictured is Plagne 1800 

I speak of a region of the Tarentaise Valley of the French Alps that includes Les Arcs, Peisey-Vallandry and La Plagne, linked by a double-decker cable car called the Vanoise Express.

On offer are 264 miles of pistes – over 50 per cent of which are green or blue runs – serviced by 160 lovely, lovely lifts, with myriad hotels, bars and apartments to match.

We opted for La Plagne, one of the most popular ski resorts on Earth, with upwards of 2.5million visitors enjoying its 11 resort villages. In April, at the very end of the ski season, I nabbed a cheeky week with my wife and my three children, aged 12, 10 and 10 (twins), at the hexagon-shaped Araucaria Hotel, which is situated on the very edge of the pistes at Plagne Centre, which lies at 6,463ft (1,970 metres).

In this most popular of ski resorts, writes Jake, there was no shortage of innovative companies offering services to make our holiday go exceptionally smoothly

In this most popular of ski resorts, writes Jake, there was no shortage of innovative companies offering services to make our holiday go exceptionally smoothly 

The cable car at Paradiski soars over the majestic French Alps as it takes skiers to the pistes

The cable car at Paradiski soars over the majestic French Alps as it takes skiers to the pistes 

The lovely, hexagon-shaped Araucaria Hotel is situated on the very edge of the pistes

The lovely, hexagon-shaped Araucaria Hotel is situated on the very edge of the pistes 

From beginning to end, the hotel was fab. The rooms were quirky yet comfortable, the food top-notch and the lift would take you conveniently down to the ski room to get kitted up before slipping straight onto the slopes.

In addition, there was a drinks fridge, pick-and-mix station and pool table available 24/7 – perfect for children of a certain age.

In this most popular of ski resorts, there was no shortage of innovative companies offering services to make our holiday go exceptionally smoothly.

The four-star establishment was perfect for children, with a family-friendly theme throughout, writes Jake

The four-star establishment was perfect for children, with a family-friendly theme throughout, writes Jake

Making a splash with the little ones: Pictured here is the Araucaria Hotel's treasure island children's pool

Making a splash with the little ones: Pictured here is the Araucaria Hotel’s treasure island children’s pool

The Araucaria Hotel's amazing children's playroom, which is festooned with toys, games and funky seating areas

The Araucaria Hotel’s amazing children’s playroom, which is festooned with toys, games and funky seating areas

La Plagne offers a dazzling array of activities, including exhilarating sledging runs (pictured)

La Plagne offers a dazzling array of activities, including exhilarating sledging runs (pictured)

Foremost of these was Oxygène, a firm that offers an excellent ski school – which we sampled – as well as advanced ski kit hire.

I say ‘advanced’ because the ‘chalet fitting’ service was so simple. You divulge your sizes in advance and then, when you arrive at the hotel, a bag for each member of your party was at your hotel waiting for you.

Kitted out in our snug, well-fitting costumes, we took to the slopes. We were novices, having only skied once before, and took advantage of a few private lessons to give us the basic skills we needed.

The Araucaria Hotel's Nuxe spa, where guests can 'discover unique sensations to recharge the body and mind'

The Araucaria Hotel’s Nuxe spa, where guests can ‘discover unique sensations to recharge the body and mind’ 

The Nuxe spa's enticing swimming pool, which is heated to a soothing 28C

The Nuxe spa’s enticing swimming pool, which is heated to a soothing 28C

Jake and his family had only skied a few times but found great lessons to suit all levels

Jake and his family had only skied a few times but found great lessons to suit all levels

The instructor, Sylvan, who worked for ESF, one of the most prominent, English-speaking ski schools in France, was a suntanned wizard of the slopes with dyed blond hair, a laid-back sense of humour and a wiry frame.

Amazingly enough, under his tutelage, the whole family transformed from novices to intermediate skiers within a couple of days. We ended each day in a state of exhaustion and exhilaration as we arrived back at the hotel for dinner.

From then on, we went to ski school with Oxygène in the mornings, and explored the mountains on skis in the afternoons. It was daunting at first being released into the snow without an instructor, but it soon became second nature.

With a map of the resort at hand, we were easily able to take advantage of the many slopes that web the mountain and gain a feeling of travelling across the range on skis – not simply going up and down the same slopes.

The Araucaria Hotel & Spa, pictured, occupies a prime spot at Plagne Centre

The Araucaria Hotel & Spa, pictured, occupies a prime spot at Plagne Centre

The Araucaria's swanky bar, which is both chic and cosy in equal measure

The Araucaria’s swanky bar, which is both chic and cosy in equal measure

Jake was impressed with the food on offer at the Araucaria. Pictured is the breakfast buffet

Jake was impressed with the food on offer at the Araucaria. Pictured is the breakfast buffet

Some of the pistes offered novelty features like disco tunnels and ramps, while others were simply broad, friendly descents that were accessible to everyone.

This was April – right at the end of the season – and the advantage was immediately apparent. The slopes were not crowded, and it was easy to feel that you mastered the pistes without worrying about overcrowding.

As temperatures were warmer than they were in midwinter, however, there was some slush to contend with, especially later in the day. I found it particularly hard to ski through slush, and ended up providing entertainment for the children by falling over and slipping down on my backside.

The Vanoise Express cable car links La Plagne with Les Arcs. It can carry up to 200 people at a speed of 27mph

The Vanoise Express cable car links La Plagne with Les Arcs. It can carry up to 200 people at a speed of 27mph

The Vanoise Express crossing takes three minutes and 50 seconds. The highest point of the journey is 1,246ft above the ground

The Vanoise Express crossing takes three minutes and 50 seconds. The highest point of the journey is 1,246ft above the ground

Jake and his brood sampled the Spa Bains de Belle-Plagne, which features bubble saunas and an aerated swimming pool

Jake and his brood sampled the Spa Bains de Belle-Plagne, which features bubble saunas and an aerated swimming pool

One evening, we sampled the Spa Bains de Belle-Plagne, a rooftop spa against the backdrop of the mountains. We roasted ourselves in saunas with bubble windows onto the snow, then swam in the aerated swimming pool.

We even cooled down in the piles of snow that had accumulated beside the walls, before plunging back into the saunas again. The following day, we were even more ready for the slopes.

There you have it: Paradise. It may have been the very end of the season, but La Plagne was a fantastic place for a family skiing holiday. And I’m still feeling the peace of those ski lifts.



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