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LA PLAGNE REVISITED - Jane Peel, La Plagne
Monday January 16, 2017 - Email this article to a friend

PlanetSKI was last in the French resort in December hoping for a pre-Christmas off piste adventure. There was no off piste. Would a January trip prove more successful?

Snow, snow and more snow.

The French Alps was desperate for it and so was I.

I wanted it to test the claim that La Plagne had some of the best and least skied out backcountry in France.

It did not start well. 

In fact, there was little doubt in my mind, as I took my first turns on 8th January, that even the groomed runs were generally in a worse condition than they had been in mid December.

The heavy traffic over the busy Christmas and New Year period - despite the best snow-making efforts - had played its part.

La Plagne Jan 2017Conditions not great














The pistes had a very thin covering of snow, were hard packed with numerous icy patches, not to mention occasional stones and bare earth poking through.

Even above 3,000 metres on the Bellecôte glacier where we had found some great corduroy in December, the skiing was at best average.

So it was with little optimism that we arranged to meet up on the Wednesday with our guide from Oxygène Ski School, having been warned that there was "still no snow".

Then, on Tuesday, the snow began to fall. 

Chalet FlorenceA little snow outside Chalet Florence









PIC - Chalet from Tuesday




It wasn't much - no more than 5 or 6cm outside Chalet Florence in Plagne 1800 where we were staying with the UK tour operator, Ski Beat.

By Wednesday morning it had stopped snowing and the sun had come out.

We ate a hearty breakfast prepared by our exceptional chalet hosts, Steve & Becky, but had no expectations that we would find any soft snow to work it off.

Breakfast at Chalet FlorenceBreakfast at Chalet Florence













Becky & Steve, hosts, Chalet FlorenceChalet hosts Becky & Steve













Laurent Gras had other ideas. 

He has spent 18 winters in La Plagne and knows the area like the back of his hand.

After checking our transceivers were working, he mentioned a "short hike" (I've heard that one before), and proceeded to lead us on 3 beautiful off-piste routes with masses of untracked snow.

Laurent Gras, Oxygene Ski SchoolLaurent Gras













Yes, it was only about 10 to 15 cm deep at best and there were some rocks to negotiate (not always successfully), but it was fresh powder.

Fresh tracksFresh tracks













Fresh tracks, La PlagneFresh tracks













Fresh tracks La PlagneFresh tracks













Most of the morning's skiing was in the shade where the snow was best, and only once did a group of snowboarders beat us to the virgin snow.

That's what happens when you're too slow up the hike. 

Guilty as charged.

Going up Slow going up













The experience was as amazing as it was unexpected.

Even Laurent was excited. 

It was his first off piste of the season and his first hike.

"I'm so happy," he said at least twice in the course of the morning.

Laurent Gras, La PlagneA happy Laurent













He explained that the risk of avalanche was low since there was still little snow, but that would change at the end of the week with heavy falls forecast. 

The unstable base would then make it very unsafe to venture off piste in many areas.

The long-awaited winter storm came in late the following day, pounding La Plagne with 50cm-plus of snow, bringing high winds and closed lifts. 

Snowstorm in La PlagneThe snowstorm arrives













Snow, Plagne 1800Lots of snow at last













It turns out that we had unwittingly chosen the best  - probably the only - day of the week to head away from the marked runs.

While one morning was not really enough to test the claim that this is an off piste paradise,  I am inclined to believe it.

After that, it was back to the pistes - thankfully now in much better nick than earlier in the week.

The 425km of mainly intermediate slopes across the Paradiski area, which includes Les Arcs, is still the biggest draw for guests, according to Ski Beat. 

The company has 15 chalets in La Plagne and 13 in Les Arcs.

"It's the abundance of blues, beginner areas, easy progress and the variety of skiing," the company's Sales and Marketing Director, Laura Hazell says.

Laura Hazell, Ski BeatLaura Hazell













"It's not just open mountains, there are tree-lined runs too and the piste maintenance is pretty good."

Laura says that, despite the poor conditions in December and early January, bookings have been going well for Ski Beat, which prides itself on offering a "home-from-home" chalet service.

I'll hazard a guess that the phones have been ringing off their hooks since winter finally arrived in the French Alps.

Winter arrives in La PlagneWinter arrives














Unfortunately, that was also when I had to leave La Plagne.

Will I be back?  Too right, I will.

Leaving La PlagneHeading home, planning to return















You can read PlanetSKI's article from December here.

Ski Beat (UK 01273 855 100; has a week's stay at the Chalet Florence from £482 per person, based on two sharing a room, including return flights from Gatwick or Manchester, transfers and the services of a chalet host to prepare cooked breakfasts, home-made afternoon tea and three course evening meals with wine, (6 nights).

For information on Oxygène Ski School, visit the website.

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.

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