The Tarentaise Valley in France is home to some of the best and most family-friendly ski resorts in the Alps. They’re popular with Brits for a good reason: extensive skiing, reasonable prices and great nursery areas for learning as well as challenging off-piste. But how do you choose between a ski resort situated in an enormous ski area — for example Belle Plagne in the Paradiski, or a small, quaint resort such as La Rosiére? Ski specialists Esprit Ski give us the lowdown.
At first glance, you’d pick the resort with the most skiing, wouldn’t you? Maybe not — bigger is not always better and quality as opposed to quantity is often the best route. This is a hard argument in the case of La Plagne and La Rosiére though, because both have exceptional skiing.
If you have older children who will want to put in the miles, the Paradiski area offers more than enough to keep them busy, and can be a great place to explore together. You’d be doing well to cover the 425km of pistes shared between La Plagne and Les Arcs during a week.
But if your teens don’t want to ski with their parents, La Rosiére is smaller to let them go off alone on a couple of runs — just arrange to meet for a hot chocolate in the Plan du Repos, a self-service restaurant in the heart of the slopes. La Rosiére has the added benefit of shared slopes with La Thuile in Italy (called the Espace San Bernardo), so you can adventure to a whole different country rather than different resort — what fun!
La Plagne is higher than La Rosiére, and with a wider choice of slopes and different orientations, it’s likely to be more snow-sure than its smaller counterpart. But if you like sunny lunches, La Rosiére is virtually unbeatable, with its south-facing orientation offer stunning views of the Isère valley to Les Arcs and beyond. Drop over the pass into La Thuile and you have the added benefit of mountain lunches in Italy — proper spag bol, anyone?
Belle Plagne, at 2050m, rarely suffers a bad snow day, and the ski-in, ski-out location of Esprit’s chalet-hotel right on the slopes means you don’t have to walk a step. La Plagne is stark and purpose-built, however, though dip below the treeline and you’ll find some Alpine charm — and good skiing for bad-weather days.
Gone are the days when you’re forced to put your kids into ski school where the instructor barely speaks any English. The big schools in La Plagne and La Rosiére are the ESF (Ecole du Ski Francais), Evolution2 and Oxygène — plus New Generation operate in the area, too. With the current proliferation of ski instructor booking apps that include user feedback, including SkiBro, Ongosa and Maison Sport, instructors can’t afford to offer indifferent service that some were known for in the past. These are also a useful way to book if you get to resort and find you quite fancy a lesson after all. To sum up? On this point, we can’t compare, both resorts will be as good as each other.
La Plagne is pretty unbeatable for both — there are a variety of free lifts dotted around the area, so if your kids are taking their very first turns on snow, there will be no need to even buy them a ski pass. For experts, La Plagne offers few true steep blacks (there are two long ones from the glacier to the Chalet chairlift below Col de la Chiaupe) but the off-piste is fantastic. And if you want to ski powder in a safer environment, the glacier is no longer pisted so head up there and learn to ski all conditions.
La Rosiére has easily accessible beginner areas by the main village and Les Eucherts, where many of the Esprit Ski chalets are located; with the blue runs above brilliant for children and beginners to start to progress. If you’re looking for off-piste, but don’t want to shell out on a guide, La Rosiére has an excellent ungroomed but avalanche-patrolled area called Snowzone, or grab a guide and head off the beaten track — there’s plenty to be found
La Rosiére is also an attractive village, with traditional stone buildings and a quiet centre. It’s one of the friendliest ski resorts in the Tarentaise, with a real family atmosphere. Prices are can sometimes be lower for an après-ski beer or your meal out on the chalet staff’s night off. But there’s a fair bit of traffic in resort, so you will have to keep a close eye on the kids. Non-skiing activities include bowling, swimming, ice-skating and paragliding — and there’s also a brilliant kid’s disco at various key points during the season.
Although Belle Plagne has been purpose built, the buildings are chalet-style and not unattractive — just super convenient. There’s also a free bus system around the core villages in the area (including Plagne Centre, Plagne Aim and Plagne Soleil) which gives further options for exploration after skiing. There is bowling and snow-tubing, a variety of cinemas and brilliant toboggan runs at Plagne Centre and Bellecôte — and don’t forget the Olympic Bobsleigh run, a 1.5km run that is floodlit and a great after-skiing activity. But unlike the compact nature of La Rosiére, all this activity involves a little travel time.
Resort height: 2050m; Top height: 3250m; Pistes: 425km; Transfer times: 2.5hr from Geneva; 1.45hr from Chambery
Resort height: 1850m; Top height: 2610m; Pistes: 160km; Transfer times: 2.5hr from Geneva; 2hr from Chambery