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|Resort: La Plagne (Belle Plagne)
Country: France (Savoie Region)
Date: 6/1/2007 - 13/1/2007
Our holiday: Five people all together; three total beginners (including myself) and two with roughly five weeks experience each. All snowboarding.
Website : www.la-plagne.com, www.paradiski.com
Basics : Located in the Savoie region of the Alps, La Plagne is part of the Paradiski domain that also includes Les Arcs. It's accessible from Grenoble, Lyon (where our group flew to), Geneva and Turin. The coach from Lyon took roughly three and a half hours but that included dropping off travellers at several different hotels and apartments before we recahced Belle Plagne.
Lift system : Made up of several 'villages' La Plagne is a huge area that is really easy to navigate. Because the majority of our group were beginners, we didn't relish using draglifts but we needn't have feared - most of the lifts in La Plagne are chairlifts and cable cars. The cable car to Roche de Mio and onto the glacier are particularly good thanks to impressive views. The ski pass is a magnetic card (â‚¬3 deposit) that activates the gates as you pass though. If you can, wear them on your left though, as this is the side the scanners are on. In one week you can easily do loads of runs without ever going near a draglift andunless you can board already, I doubt you'll do more than a quarter of the blue runs - I didn't!
The terrain : Being novices, we didn't know what to expect but there was a massive selection of runs to choose from. Most of La Plagne is based around blues that vary from 'pleasant' close to the major urban areas, through to 'exciting' further up the mountains. Ice was a problem during our stay and some of the blues were quite hairy in places but we never felt in danger. There's a good number of red runs and a few blacks. Many of the blues above Plagne Centre and Plagne Bellecote feature too many flat sections that are okay for skiers but not so good for boarders. Speed seeems to be the key word and keeping momentum will see you crack most runs without having to step out of your bindings. If you are a total beginner then the long green run at Plagne Centre is a great training area.
The snow : The reds we did were full of moguls and some harsh rocks and became icy quickly. The blues carried a lot of ice on steep sections. We were told this was down to low snow levels in the run up to Xmas and a lot of people compacting it through the week. Still, the flat bits were okay to fall on and there was loads of off-piste that acted as a good crash barrier for some (me!!) and provided some good fun for the more experineced riders in our group.
Off-piste : Plenty to go at but we had a high avalanche risk at the time (4/5) so some areas were a bit sketchy. Would love to give it a go with more experience the next time I visit.
The resort : Our group stayed in Belle Plagne 2050m, which is one of the highest villages and the closest to the Glacier. I'm not well versed in alpine architecture but it was definitely the result of a post-Bauhaus design course! It looks okay and has loads of little alleyways to give it that quaint look, but if stairs aren't your thing then you may be better suited to Plagne Centre or Plagne Bellecote. It was quiet though and thankfully, the French don't seem to have chavs... well, at least in the Alps they don't! There are a few pubs, loads of ski/board shops, a couple of SPAR shops and some decent restauraunts. It's easy to get to Plagne Bellecote â€“ there are a few short runs and the Bellecote cable car that take you there in minutes â€“ but to get to Plagne Centre you have to either board or ski over, or catch the bus, that departs every 30 minutes (it's free). We didn't access Aime La Plagne, Plagne Villages, Plagne 1800 or Plagne Montalbert simply because we had so much boarding on our doorstep.
Food : The restaurants in Belle Plagne were cosy and had a prety good selection of food, although there's a distinct absence of chicken for some reason! Don't worry though, it's not all horse! Everywhere does fondue and raqculette but all meal portions seem to be a bit sparse if you're a big eater. Le Clocke was the best (awesome pasta) but did wierd pizza with a fried egg and bolognese sauce on top... nice but strange to look at!
Accommodation : We stayed at Pierre & Vacances Andromeda building in a 4/6 person apartment. It wasn't the Ritz but we just needed somewhere to crash on a night. The kitchen did us proud (cottage pie for five was our best achievement) and the two bathrooms were a blessing to speed up get ready on a night. There was a double bed upstairs, two bunks in the entrance room and one sofa turned into a double. There was also another sofa so you could have slept 7, but it would have been a squeeze. It was clean, warm and we could ski to our door. We also had the SPAR opposite (great for beer runs) and the ski shop outside the door. The balcony served as our board storage area but there was a drying room downstairs for guests.
Costs: We booked our holiday through Crystal about four weeks before flying, therefore getting a late deal price of Â£180 each. This included accomodation, transfers and flights with British Airways from Birmingham to Lyon. We had to pay Â£15 extra for each board bag but BA never checked how many boards were in so between the five of us we only had to take three board bags - result! Ski passes were â‚¬192, which works out about Â£130. Expect to pay â‚¬4-5 for a beer (the same for a coffee or a lemonade), â‚¬20-25 for a main course,
Conclusion: As a first resort La Plagne is brilliant. It's got more runs than you can shake a binding at, isn't too spread out that you feel lost as soon as you step from your door and is varied to suit many abilities. Okay, it's expensive at times but you can do it on the cheap by staying in and drinking the local brew at home rather than in the pub. Crystal Ski did us proud and I'd recommend them to anyone looking for a good tour operator and although the the snow conditions were a bit ropey towards the end of our stay, never once did my smile fade. La Plagne is definitely going to be my next destination.... roll On March 2007!!!
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