Skiing in La Plagne
La Plagne offers skiers a choice of either a big ski area (La Plagne) or a truly massive one (Paradiski). It’s also one of the most weather-proof resorts with high north-facing, snowsure central bowls around Plagne Centre and Belle Plagne; even higher terrain on the Bellecote glacier; plenty of sunny south-facing runs around Champagny en Vanoise, and good treelined skiing around Plagne Montalbert and Montchavin-Les Coches.
La Plagne Ski Area
Plagne Montalbert and La Roche
Starting on the right of the map, to the west, the pretty, gentle, tree-lined slopes of Montalbert and la Roche are often underused and are a great option in flat light and high winds. The runs mostly face north so generally hold their snow well but there can be some slush or ice as you approach Montalbert at just 1350m or La Roche which is only 50m higher. The bubble up from Montalbert reaches the top of Le Formelet (1970m) in about 10 minutes, from where you can ski back down to Montalbert on a choice of red or blue runs, take a long treelined blue piste (Cornegidouille) to La Roche, or ski to the Envers lift (via blue, red or off-piste runs) which is the quickest and most direct route into Plagne Aime 2000 and the rest of La Plagne’s skiing.
Plagne Aime 2000 (Aime La Plagne) and Becoin (Biolley)
Plagne Aime 2000 is a misleading name for La Plagne’s highest village at 2100m above sea level. It used to be called Aime la Plagne which made a bit more sense. Above it is Becoin (the area that used to be called Le Biolley) – a great skiing area for advanced skiers, but to reach it you first have to get to Plagne Centre then take the Becoin lift, and if you want to go higher still, the Cretes lift as well. From there you can choose from four ‘Natur’ black runs (and several unmarked off-piste trails) which all descend into the valley separating Plagne Aime 2000 from Le Formelet. All of them justify their black grading, at least in sections, although the longest one, Etroits, is little more than a traverse in places. You return via the Envers piste. Alternatively from the top of Becoin and Cretes you can descend into the main bowl above Plagne Centre (see below)
Main Bowl: Les Verdons and La Grande Rochette north face
Les Verdons and La Grande Rochette (2505m) are the peaks forming the main north-facing bowl above Plagne Centre, Plagne Soleil and Plagne Villages. (As Plagne 1800 is just below Plagne Centre, the bowl is above it too but there is no direct access to it from Plagne 1800; instead you have to go via Plagne Centre, Plagne Aime 2000 or Plagne Soleil.) At the top of the bowl skiers have a choice of ungroomed black runs (Rochette, Frisbee, Grand Pente) which are all quite steep at the top but quickly flatten out; or meandering blue runs; or the red Carina piste – a sculpted motorway which used to race down between the two peaks all the way to the Plagne Centre but now ends abruptly at mid mountain, near the top of the Colorado chair, to make way for a Luge run, although there are blue runs on either side of this. There is also some gentle off-piste around here known as the Grand Canyons: it’s like a mix of freestyle and freeride, with lots of gullies that can be turned into jumps and natural half-pipes. Experts wanting tougher challenges should keep an eye out for off-piste couloirs between the cliffs near the top when they ascend the Verdons Nord and Funiplagne lifts, but be careful, these can be very dangerous and if in any doubt, take a guide and let him/her decide what is safe for you to do.
Champagny (Les Verdons, la Grande Rochette south face)
The high ridge line between these peaks also allows you to drop down onto the south-facing slopes of Champagny. Most of the red and blue pistes are not too steep but watch out for the top section of Kamikaze which would be a black piste in most resorts. The runs are piste-bashed regularly, so generally they are in good condition higher up, but get slushy as you approach Champagny. It’s a descent of approximately 1250m, so you may want to take a break. Splendid views strtech across the valley towards Courchevel. When conditions are right (generally straight after a fresh dump of powder but a guide will give you more accurate advice) this area has some wonderful off-piste to skier’s right of the Mont de la Guerre (2290m) peak. If you like moguls, the black Bosses (‘Bumps’) run has a steep start and is left ungroomed so it lives up its name.
Belle Plagne-Plagne Bellecote bowl
This is the other main bowl, and it is also has a high base elevation of about 1950m and predominantly north-facing slopes guaranteeing good snow. Its borders are the Roche de Mio (see below), Arpette (which is the gateway to Montchavin and Les Coches), the ridgeline between the Roche de Mio and Col de Force (cross this and you in the south-facing Champagny sector) and the ridgeline that separates Plagne Bellecote from Plagne Soleil and Plagne Village, which is accessed by the Colosses lift. For a beginner or a very timid intermediate the bowl is perfect, because there are plenty of easy blue runs in all directions. For everyone else, this is mostly an area to ski through fast but there is one good red (Sources) and some off piste under the bubble lift between the Roche de Milo and Belle Plagne which can be nice but it’s not always safe to ski or easy to reach without crossing rocks.
Roche de Mio
The summit of Roche de Mio (2700m) is a crossroads reached by four major lifts: the 2-way Bellecote bubble coming down then up from the Bellecote glacier; the Inversens chair, the Carella chair, and the Roche de Milo bubble which starts from just above Plagne Bellecote but has a stop in Belle Plagne. And there are great pistes running under or close to all these lifts except the Bellecote bubble. There is no piste here: if you want to get to the glacier from Roche de Milo, you either ride the Bellecote lift down to Col de La Chiaupe from where it starts to ascend again; or brave the big cliffs and steep powder and pick your way down off-piste through the rocks towards the Chalet de Bellecote lift. Whether you should do this or not depends on both your ability and the prevailing snow conditions, so it’s not recommended unless you are with a guide. Safer adventures can be found alongside the Inverses red piste (but don’t stray too close to the rocks), or on the Mio black piste, the start of which is genuinely steep although the rest it flattens out quickly, and there is freeriding to both sides.
Bellecote and Les Bauches
The top list on the Belelcotee glacier reaches over 3000m, and from the top you can now descend entirely on marked runs all the way to Montchavin nearly 2000m below, although some of the pistes will be ungroomed ‘natur’ runs, so don’t expect smooth motorways. The pistes generally face west and are not very steep: the red, Le Diversoir, used to be a blue, but it’s now ungroomed and it can be icy, so it’s not for novices. The higher blacks (Rochu, Bellecote and Chiaupea) all have sections which justify their grading, and there is good, but unofficial (and therefore not always safe) between-the-pistes freeriding around Rochu. At the bottom, the Derochoir (“rockslide”) run has always been a popular route connecting Bellecote and Roche de Milo with Les Coches but it only became a piste as late as 2012. It is not steep but it’s rarely groomed, so expect moguls. There are also three deservedly famous off-piste descents starting from Bellecote: the south facing Cul du Nont glacier; the banks of Friolin, leading back down into the valley of Les Bauches; and the awesome north face itself, leading to the Nordic ski area above Nancroix, in the valley between La Plagne and Les Arcs. None should be attempted without a mountain guide.
Montchavin and Les Coches
This is another tree-lined area similar to Plagne Montalbert. Too many skiers race through it on their way to or from Les Arcs because the connecting Vanoise Express lift is situated here but it’s a great area for anyone who likes skiing in trees, with blue, red and black pistes to choose from. At the top around the Carroley, Crozats and Dos Rond lifts is an open bowl criss-crossed by blue runs, with some gentle off-piste to the side. More adventurous off-piste can be found by picking a route down from the top of Arpette through firstly the rocks and then the trees until you reach the old nordic ski track that circles the whole mountain from Plagne Bellecote to the top of the Plan Bois lift above Les Coches.
La Plagne is a big ski area but remember there are many more runs available to skiers with a Paradiski pass in Les Arcs.
Beginner Skiing in La Plagne
La Plagne is an excellent place to learn: all of the villages have their own nursery slopes and quick learners will swiftly develop a taste for exploring as they will be able to move across the mountain very easily.
There are lots of gentle motorway blues in the central bowls above Plagne Centre (especially around Plagne Soleil) and around Belle Plagne. The woods above Les Coches are steeper but there are gentle blue runs that slowly wind their way down the mountain. And above the woods there is a lovely bowl for beginners around the Dos Rond, Sala and Crozats lifts.
Plagne Montalbert has three nursery slope or ‘zone debutant’ areas: one in the village, one half way up in the woods at the top of the Grangette drag lift, and one at the top of Le Formelet, and you can navigate between them on blue runs. The slopes in the village are free for beginners to use and the other ones are covered by a low cost pass.
Ski Schools & Ski Lessons in La Plagne
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Intermediate Skiing in La Plagne
La Plagne is a great resort for intermediates, particularly if they use the link to Les Arcs.
La Plagne’s does not have green runs, so its blue runs tend to be gentle with some parts almost flat. If intermediates want a challenge they should choose red runs.
Most of the red runs are graded correctly. Watch out for Kamikaze from Grand Rochette down to Champagny however: the first two sections are seriously steep for a red run. (You can skip half of the steep part if you join the run from Les Verdons.) Harakiri or the wonderfully long Mont de la Guerre are usually better options for nervous intermediates.
On the glacier most intermediate swill be able to manage the red Deversoif red run – it used to be graded blue. Confident intermediates will be able to manage the red Combe run coming down from the glacier followed by the blue Frete, followed by the black Derochoir, which is not steep but can have moguls and some bare patches/slush/ice. They can then take blue and red runs all the way down to Montchavin for a very impressive total vertical of 2000m.
The top of Roche de Mio is intermediate heaven, Inversens, Sources and Tunnel are all long runs that most intermediates will enjoy. Stay clear of the black run Mio however unless you’re feeling very confident: the top of it is very steep and the rest is nearly flat.
The blue and red runs in the trees above Montchavin/Les Coches and Plagne Montalbert are all very intermediate friendly. Many of the reds have blues criss-crossing them less experienced intermediates should start on the blue runs and when the red run crosses them, decide if they want to take the steeper path.
Confident intermediates will also like the red runs Emile Allais and Andre Martzolf down to La Roche.
Most of La Plagne’s black runs deserve their grading at least in places so approach with care. (See the Advanced skiing section for more details.) If having completed all of La Plagne’s red and blue runs you simply want more of the same then take the Vanoise Express over to Les Arcs.
Advanced & Expert Skiing in La Plagne
La Plagne’s main appeal to expert skiers is its off-piste. But even sticking to the marked runs there are scattered challenges: most of the blacks and some reds have genuinely steep sections, its Naturides often have big moguls, and for a test of stamina you can descend over 2000m on piste without stopping.
We cover the off-piste in more detail in our separate La Plagne Off-Piste section. But even if you don’t want to stray far from the official trails, there are challenges.
For long black runs, head towards the Bellecote glacier. Chiaupe deserves its black run status at least in places, as do Rochu and Bellecote if they are open (they are often closed and simply used as gateways to Bellecote’s legendary off-piste). Combe, Deversoir and Lanche Ronde are gentle reds. If you’re fit enough, you can keep descending down the mountain all the way to Montchavin without stopping, a vertical of over 2000m. Once you’re below the Chalet de Bellecote chair, there is nothing steep, so the main challenge is likely to come from moguls on Derochoir (another black), poor snow conditions and sheer exhaustion.
Roche de Mio
The red Inversens and the black Crozats pistes are not particularly steep, and when taken together without interruption are an excellent pipe-opener for La Plagne-based advanced skiers heading over to greater challenges in Les Arcs. Crozats can have poor snow conditions which probably explains its black status. If you enjoyed Crozats, you can dally a little longer in the area, by stopping at Bauches and taking a small detour to take in the Malatray black naturide as well which is similar but steeper.
Roche de Mio is also the starting point of the black Mio piste which takes you over to the the Champagny side of La Plagne. The first section of this is short but genuinely steep and it can be icy (it’s west-facing) and sometimes moguled too. If you’re fresh off the lift from Plagne Bellecote or Belle Plagne and it’s your first run of the day, you might be grateful that there is a blue run alternative. The rest of Mio is very gentle however.
Montachavin, Les Coches and Dos Rond
This wooded area immediately above Montchavin and Les Coches and below Dos Rond faces north-east, and holds its snow well. Although it’s mostly an intermediates’ playground, the two black runs, Les Murs and Perlees both have testing sections.
In poor visibility, the whole area is a popular destination because of its tree cover. But don’t ignore it in good weather, particularly mid to late morning, when it’s at its best and usually gloriously uncrowded as long as you keep away from the main routes to the Vanoise Express. As well as the blacks mentioned above, the red runs snaking through the woods also have their challenges and are usually deserted enough to be skied fast (but watch out for ski schools). If you enjoy the experience, you can repeat it after lunch by taking the Vanoise Express over to Plan Peisey and skiing the black Ecureuils and its neighbouring reds, which are west and north west facing and at their best in the afternoon, when they are almost a mirror image of the slopes around Les Coches that you skied in the morning.
The main bowl above Plagne Centre, Plagne Villages and Plagne Aime 2000
The top halves of Frisbee, Rochette and Grande Pente are all steep. They are also all Naturides so they can be moguled too.
From Le Biolley / Becoin down to the Envers/Adrets lift station
Becoin is the new name for the sector above Plagne Aime 2000. (When Plagne Aime 200 was called Aime La Plagne this was called Biolley).
The blacks off the back leading to the Envers and Adrets lift station are probably the steepest pistes in La Plagne. Coqs and Morbleu are probably the steepest, Etroits the most varied (easy wide flat blue sections then a narrow black section then a traverse). Parsembleu is the easiest to check out before attempting – just ride the Envers lift up and see if you fancy it.
See the Roche de Mio section for a description of Mio.
Kamikaze down from Grande Rochette is graded red but its first two sections are steep enough to be graded black in most resorts. If you join the run from Les Verdons you will skip the first of these steep sections but not the second.
Bosses means ‘bumps’ or ‘moguls’ and that is exactly what the black Bosses run delivers. It also has a steep start.
Crete Cote is difficult rather than steep. Check it out from 1800 lift to see if it’s your cup of tea. If it’s not, the Emile Alliais and Andre Martzolf reds which start from about the same place are really nice red runs and often uncrowded.
Plagne Montalbert and Le Formelet
There are no black runs here but the north-facing red runs from le Formelet down to Montalbert through the trees are all testing if taken fast. Make sure you’re in control however, and watch out for ski schools. Normally these slopes have very few people on them but they get busier at the end of the day (when skiers based in Montalbert return home) or in poor light conditions when they attract skiers from all over La Plagne.
Off-Piste Skiing & Freeriding in La Plagne
La Plagne is seldom described as an off-piste mecca and it lacks the kudos of nearby Val d’Isere and Tignes. But Bellecote has challenges that more than match theirs, and La Plagne’s powder tends to stay untracked for longer.
Thanks to its black runs and Naturides, La Plagne has scattered challenges for advanced skiers who prefer to stay on marked runs but for most expert skiers, its off-piste is the real draw. Bellecote has some of the best off-piste skiing in the world. The most easily accessible is the west face above the bottom of the Chalet de Bellecote lift and close to Rochu. Riding the Chalet de Bellecote lift is a good way way to survey what is available. There is also some freeriding lower down on either side of the Derochoir black run.
For the more adventurous, the next step is Friolin, which is best explored with a guide. From the Traversee chair, take the Bellecote back run and stay skier’s right at the top. A five-minute walk opens up the vast tracts of Friolin with an open bowl at the top and woods at the bottom.
The north face of Bellecote (‘La face nord de Bellecôte‘) is formed by a 6km ridge line. There are over 20 recognised routes down, many of which are classified as extreme. Do not even think about going here without a guide because it’s all too easy to stray onto an itinerary which is way above your abilities. If you’re the only one in your party interested in off-piste skiing, contact the various ESF offices (details on our La Plagne Ski Schools and Mountain Guides page) because they organise group expeditions which individuals can join on a pay-per-person basis.
The classic Petite Face Nord is one of the most easily accessible routes down the north face, but don’t be fooled by its name: it is still a 2000m descent. In contrast the beautiful but treacherous Gros Glacier includes abseiling, walking and a system of fantastically narrow couloirs. Most of the routes join in the middle of the valley and lead down to the Nordic ski circuit near the village of Lanches (which means ‘avalanches’ so be warned) in the Nancroix valley below Les Arcs. A bus or taxi takes you to Lonzagne bucket lift and you return to La Plagne via the Vanoise Express.
There are also routes down the south face of Bellecote (technically you’re on the Glacier de la Chiaupe rather than on Bellecote) which depart from near the top of Glacier chair lift and end in or close to Champagny le Haut about 1750m below, from where you take a bus or taxi to Champagny en Vanoise. Again taking a guide is strongly recommended because it’s easy to get lost and stray into very dangerous territory. And it’s predominantly south-facing so the quality and depth of the snow cover changes fast.
Whilst Bellecote is undoubtedly the highlight, La Plagne’s off-piste is not just a one trick pony. On the way to the Bellecote, there are great off-piste routes down from Roche de Mio in almost all directions, but there are also cliffs and dead-ends, so take care.
There is great lift-accessed between-the-trees-skiing on both wings of the resort, above Les Coches and Montalbert. On the Les Coches side, one of the most popular runs comes down from Arpette, first on open bowls, then through the gap between the rocks, and lastly through the tightly packed trees until you reach the old Nordic ski track, which, if you turn right on it, will take you to the top of the Plan Bois lift. If there is excellent snow cover, and you have a guide, there are even more extensive itineraries which lead beyond the confines of the lift system to the small village of Macot at 800m, from where you can take a taxi back.
The black runs on Biolley accessed from the Becoin chairlift (and in one case the Cretes drag lift as well) which head towards the Envers/Adrets lift station between Le Formelet and Plagne Aime 2000, are all genuinely steep, but if you look around you can see alternative freeride routes beyond the piste markers in the same area.
In the main bowl above Plagne Centre there are also couloirs down from La Grande Rochette and Les Verdons which you can inspect when you ride the lifts up, but be warned: most are for experts only and they are not always skiable. A better bet is the terrain close to the Frisbee and Rochette runs.
The black run Mio has freeriding on both sides of its initial steep section. Further down you can exit on skiers’ right to take the off-piste route over the ridge and down to Belle Plagne. The entry point is quite hard to find so check it first from the Roche de Mio gondola lift, and be aware that if there is not enough snow cover you may not be able to cross the rocky ridge line.
In addition to the routes from the Bellecote glacier, there is more off-piste on the Champagny side. After a recent snowfall there is usually nice powder near the top of the Mont de la Guerre red run (keep to skiers’ right).
And of course, all this amounts to just half of the freeride and backcountry opportunities available in Paradiski. Across the Nancroix valley in Les Arcs, there is plenty more off-piste, including several more uninterrupted 2000m descents, and they are all easily accessed from La Plagne via the Vanoise Express.
La Plagne Mountain Restaurants
As most of La Plagne’s villages are ski-in/ski-out, the mountain restaurants have to compete with resort restaurants for lunch-time traffic.
La Plagne is one of the best resorts in France for affordable mountain restaurants. As most of the villages are ski-in/ski-out, their restaurants are very convenient for lunch. Try Le Refuge, Chaudron in Plagne Centre, Le Petit Chaperon Rouge in Plagne 1800 or Le Matafan in Belle Plagne. The Friolin is another cracker, situated at the end of the Les Crozats red.
Le Verdons Sud is the place to eat on the Champagny side.
On a sunny quiet day the simple Glacier restaurant at the top of the Bellecote bubble is a nice place to chill out and admire the view. On a busy day its small kitchen can get overwhelmed however. And it’s not a place to linger when the weather closes in because almost all the seating is outside.
Close to les Coches, Sauget (+33 (0)4 79 07 83 51) near the top of the Montchavin chairlift is always popular but fills up fast on busy days so booking ahead is recommended. Le Cristal des Neiges (+33 (0)6 11 02 05 38) by the Lac Noir gondola also attrcts repeat visitors.
For a mountain restaurants with an apres-ski vibe, try La Bergerie near the lift of the same name which is just above Plagne Villages and Plagne Soleil (and so skiers in Plagne Centre and Plagne 1800 can also ski back to their accommodation from it on easy blue runs without taking any more lifts). It has live music starting around lunch time and continuing until the lifts close, and often you will see people trying to dance in ski boots. It has a bar and a self-service cafe as well as a smarter table-service restaurant. The portions in the restaurant are large so if you want something good but are on a tight budget, consider sharing.
The ultra-modern glass and metal box architecture of the 360 cafe-bar-restaurant on the top of Le Formelet, on the way to Plagne Montalbert, divides opinions, but no one doubts the quality of the views from its terrace. It also has music playing and a relaxed vibe so is a nice place for Montalbert based skiers to hang out before skiing home, or for others to come to for refreshments when skiing in the area. There are also nice bars in Montalbert itself close to the main lift.
Le Bonnet is a burger restaurant just above Plagne Bellecote (and so not far below Belle Plagne) which plays music from lunchtimes onwards.