Still good snow in France

24th March 2011, by Chris Gill

Adequately snowy Plagne Centre, Wed 23 March

Adequately snowy Plagne Centre, Wed 23 March

Editor Watts and I have just had a great couple of days with a bunch of tour operators in Paradiski – ie Les Arcs and La Plagne. No, we didn’t get any fresh snow. But yes, we did get some excellent skiing, both on and off-piste. I have to report that I did hit two stones on the piste, which are the first I have encountered this season, but in general the pistes were in fine shape. As for the off-piste, there was still soft snow to be found on shady slopes high above both resorts.

We first had a day in Les Arcs, cruising the pistes and finding some heavily skied but worthwhile off-piste from the Grand Col. After a late lunch I detached myself from the group to make a leisurely descent from the high point of the Aiguille Rouge, riding the cable car at about 4.30pm and taking pix on the way down – a reminder of how irritating it was a couple of weeks ago in Austria to have the skiing day truncated by lift closures at 4pm – a real negative feature of Austrian skiing as spring arrives.

Mont Blanc (and La Rosière) seen from the slopes just above Arc 2000

Then it was off to La Plagne for another rewarding day, starting with a quick tour of the pistes down to the increasingly attractive satellite of Montalbert, and then some worthwhile off-piste above Plagne Centre before lunch at Grande Rochette.

Our group about to tackle part of the huge off-piste bowl below Verdons. Shady La Plagne is to the right, sunny Champagny to the left, as you might guess.

In the afternoon we headed up to the Bellecôte glacier and on the way down off-piste found probably the best snow of the trip. A serious queue for the gondola back to Roche de Mio was jumped thanks to the presence of our ESF moniteur Thierry, who then led us on lovely off-piste route down the top half of the mountain. But we first had to negotiate one of Europe’s busiest pistes, pictured here for your amusement. Such pictures never quite convey the seriousness of the crowding; it was as bad as any I have experienced.

The hideously busy blue run from Roche de Mio in the late afternoon. I snowploughed most of it, constantly looking around for danger.

Like all the other trips I have done this year, this one was more enjoyable than you would dare to hope, given the lack of recent snowfall. Provided you have learnt how to cope with heavy snow on the sunnier slopes in the afternoon, high altitude resorts at least are offering great skiing.

We were accommodated very comfortably by Pierre & Vacances in Arc 1950 and Lagrange Prestige in Plagne 1800 – both ski to the door properties with all mod cons. Thanks also to Mountain Heaven, Karibuni, Wake Up &Ski, Ski 2 Freedom and Alp Line for hospitality in various forms.

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