So we had been skiing in Italy with family and friends for the previous two years and had had a great time… This season we decided to try France. We had been to France before as an adult group but this was our first time with children. How would it go?
We booked a self-catering apartment in the centre of Belle Plagne, the highest resort in the La Plagne ski area, through Crystal Ski (https://www.crystalski.co.uk). We chose self-catering for the flexibility it afforded us and Belle Plagne as it was very late in the season so we wanted to be as high up as possible to give us the best chance of decent skiing.
The trip didn’t start well – we were delayed at Birmingham Airport and then had to fly to Grenoble Airport rather than Chambery, meaning a slightly longer transfer to resort (not helpful with three children in tow, one of whom gets very travel sick!). Licorne is one of five blocks making up the Les Constellations self-catering complex, accessed somewhat bizarrely through a large underground car park! The layout is confusing and it took several days for us to find our way around! Location-wise it was perfect – central, ski-to-door and, being so high up, the apartments all have stunning views of the mountains.
The apartments themselves were simple but functional and were perfect for what we needed. We didn’t plan to eat in much, except breakfast and the odd lunch, so weren’t worried by the basic kitchen and utensils. Our apartment was fine for two adults and an 11-year old.
Belle Plagne itself is not the prettiest ski resort I have been to but it has everything you would expect – a few restaurants and bars, a supermarket, ski schools and several ski hire shops. Picking up our pre-booked equipment was quick and easy – the Skiset shop was just outside the apartments. In fact, Belle Plagne is so compact that nothing is very far away.
Ski school was somewhat more hassle… The girls had been put in the wrong group (beginners) and it took a lot of to-ing and fro-ing to sort it out. On day 2 they were moved to the afternoon session as there was no space in the morning group. Normally this would have been fine but as it was the last week of the season, it meant we all spent the afternoons skiing on pistes which were far from their best!
The skiing itself around La Plagne is varied and there are plenty of runs for all abilities (particularly if you buy a Paradiski lift pass, rather than a La Plagne one). Our favourite was the Arpette run – mainly because of the lovely bar half-way down! The hot chocolate was delicious and the Vin Chaud was warming… Not to mention the stunning views from the sun terrace!
In the mornings, we didn’t always ski as the youngest in the party was only five and could only manage the nursery slopes, so we had to find other things to do. A trip in the gondola to the Ice Grotto on the glacier is well worth a trip. It costs €5 per person (free for under 6’s) and is only a short walk from the top of the gondola. The children (and adults) enjoyed looking at the intricate underground ice sculptures, followed by a hot chocolate at the café.
As it was the end of the season, there were activities at the top of some of the runs, such as inflatable obstacle courses, airbag runs, DJ’s, etc which the children enjoyed.
Food-wise, it was mainly typical ski resort meals of pizza and pasta, although dishes such as raclette (a Swiss dish where a block of cheese is heated and the melted cheese scraped off onto diners’ plates, usually eaten with potatoes) and tartiflette (a local dish of potatoes, reblochon cheese, lardons and onions) were also on most menus. As most children seem to like both pizza and pasta meals, you can’t go wrong in Belle Plagne. Every restaurant we went in also offered a children’s menu for under 10s or under 12s at around €10-€12 for a main and a dessert. The portion sizes were generous, even for my ever-hungry 11 year old!
I’m not sure it’s somewhere I would have chosen pre-children as the nightlife is somewhat limited, but as a family ski destination, Belle Plagne is great.