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Cruising the blue runs in La Plagne in 2019

Enjoy the best blues in resort

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Stuart Hamilton | La Plagne Reporter | Published: 13 Mar 2019

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Cruising the blue runs in La Plagne in 2019

Together with Les Arcs, La Plagne forms just over half of the massive Paradiski, the world’s fourth biggest ski area and also the most visited. As you’d expect from a ski area this huge, there’s every type of run for every level of rider.

Personally, I’ve always been of the opinion that most skiers and snowboarders lie somewhere within the slightly hazy range of ‘intermediate’ riders – competent enough to handle pretty much all terrain but not particularly fussed for hunting out challenging black or red runs. Most riders prefer a more leisurely pace, on terrain they can handle with relative ease, hence the reason blue (intermediate) runs tend to be the most popular in the majority of resorts. If that’s you, read on as La Plagne has a wealth of terrain you’ll enjoy.

La Plagne really is an intermediate’s paradise with a total of 74 blues scattered all around the area (in comparison there are 9 greens, 33 reds and just 18 black runs). It doesn’t really matter which lift you take, at the top there will almost always be a blue option (or, more commonly, a number of options) to get back down. This means that even timid intermediate riders can still make their way around the area, getting a real sense of traveling as they cross from one sector to another.

Here’s our pick of the best blue runs and routes in and around La Plagne.

Levasset blue (Bellecôte/Belle Plagne/Champagny)

Levasset blue (Bellecôte/Belle Plagne/Champagny)

This lengthy blue starts at the top of Roche de Mio on the main side of the mountain above Bellecôte and traverses across into the Champagny-en-Vanoise sector, covering a total distance of some 5.2km (3.2 miles). The run starts at 2716m and ends at 1834m giving a total vertical of 882m, all within spectacular scenery. Levasset is graded blue and, save for a couple of slightly steeper pitches near the start and also near the Carella chair, it mainly consists of wide-open, confidence-building terrain which is a joy to ride no matter what level you happen to be. More accomplished riders can really gun it down this huge motorway piste while even early intermediates will appreciate the sense of space and mellow gradient.

The run ends at the foot of the Borseliers chair at the top of the Les Bois red run. If your skills are up to it, you could continue down Les Bois to Champagny at 1250m – a huge vertical drop of almost 1500m. Alternatively, you can do as most people and take the Borseliers followed by Rossa and the short blue Tome run to link back to the Carella chair. This high-speed chairlift will whisk you back up to the starting point at Roche de Mio in around 9 minutes, giving you the chance to repeat the whole circuit again. As far as blue pistes go, this must be one of the best and longest in any resort and, due to the slightly remote path it takes, it also has an almost backcountry feel which will thrill early less experienced riders – those maybe not so used to exploring off the beaten track. You’re never actually far from a lift (or amenities) though it does feel like it sometimes. For a preview of the Levasset run check this snow report.

Mont Blanc (Montchavin)

Mont Blanc (Montchavin)

No list of Paradiski blue runs could possibly be complete without mention of the Mont Blanc piste in La Plagne. This meandering blue starts high above Montchavin and Les Coches at 2284m and drops almost a kilometer over a huge 7km distance (4.3 miles) – all the time with spectacular views over to the towering Mt Blanc across the Isère valley. The run starts high on a plateau above Montchavin near the Bijolin chair. From the main La Plagne resorts, access is via the Arpette chair out of Bellecôte before linking to the Replat rope tow (just a simple rope which pulls you over the flat section between the top of Arpette and the Montchavin area). Once across, you’re faced with a wide open area split vaguely into runs though, really, it’s quite hard to tell as this is ride-anywhere terrain.

A word of warning, the Mont Blanc is one distinct run from top to bottom though you may well find yourself straying onto other blue runs accidentally as the pistes through the trees are a bit like a rabbit warren and crisscross one another frequently. Depending on your skill level, you might want to avoid dropping onto one of the reds or blacks that slice through the winding blue tracks. As a general rule, the steeper (and hence tougher) runs tend to follow the fall-line much more than the zig-zagging, traversing blues so they should be relatively easy to spot and avoid. The Mont Blanc run terminates at the base station of Montchavin where you can take eponymous chair followed by the Pierres Blanches and Dos Rond lifts to complete the circuit and do the whole run again. Bliss.

Tunnel (Bellecôte/Belle Plagne)

Tunnel (Bellecôte/Belle Plagne)

No prizes for guessing what this run involves. As the name suggests, the Tunnel run features (can you guess what it is yet...) a tunnel cut through the mountainside above Belle Plagne. There are a number of ways to access this run, depending on your start point. From Champagny, the quickest route is via the Carella chair up to Roche de Mio. From Belle Plagne or Bellecôte, probably the easiest way is via the Roche de Mio gondola which will take you directly to the start point. If accessing from the Montchavin side, it’s easiest (and quickest) to take the Crozats chair then drop onto the short Marmottes red run followed by the Inversens chair up to Roche de Mio. However you access, getting onto the run itself involves the same process: from Roche de Mio, start down the Levasset blue before heading right just after the Inversens restaurant. As you look down the hill, the Tunnel run (blue) is to the left while Inversens (red) is to the right – so be sure to head left.

The Tunnel run is another of La Plagne’s long, meandering blues (almost 2km or 1.2 miles) which passes through a wonderful long bowl before seemingly terminating below a rocky face at the end of the valley. Look closer, though, and you’ll see the run funnels riders into a long tunnel (named the “Equalizer” for reasons best known to the resort). Snowboarders and slower skiers should note that you might need to schuss or unclip to get all the way through as the entrance is often congested, meaning you may need to kill your speed as you enter. The Tunnel – which features a few surprises we’ll leave you to discover for yourself – drops you out on the other side of the ridge where you can join Laines (blue) to head back to Belle Plagne or the Arpette (also blue) to head down to Bellecôte. Repeating the ride again is easy by taking the Roche de Mio gondola back up again to the top (accessible from either Belle Plagne or Bellecôte).

Arpette (Bellecôte/Belle Plagne)

 Arpette (Bellecôte/Belle Plagne)

The Arpette is a forever popular blue piste situated just above Bellecôte, served by a high-speed chair of the same name. Multiple blue options fan out from the summit including Dunes, Laines and the Arpette piste itself. You’ll also find La Plagne’s Fun Slope here – the largest in Europe – located just to the right of the chair as you look down the hill. All these runs are easily within the abilities of early intermediates though they do get slightly steeper just after Belle Plagne as the run turns down towards Bellecôte. In a worst case scenario, just sideslip this section as the rest is very mellow. The biggest drawback of the runs off Arpette is the Arpette chair itself. Unfortunately, popular runs result in inevitable lift lines and, despite this being a high-speed chair, during the busiest weeks of the season you could well find yourself queuing here for upwards of 20 minutes. Definitely one to be done at lunchtime when the cafes become busier than the runs.

Pollux (Plagne Centre)

 Pollux (Plagne Centre)

Pollux is a gem of a blue run located just above Plagne Centre, served by the Colorado chair. Perennially popular, this run features banks and natural quarters that feel almost as though they were sculpted by a park shaper. The run provides a variety of terrain not seen in most blue routes and can be enjoyed by all levels of rider. Unfortunately, Pollux’s popularity is its major problem and the Colorado chair can get seriously clogged during peak times as it also serves a dedicated beginner area located just to the left as you look downhill from the top. Nonetheless, if you’re after interesting terrain and hidden routes in a natural setting, this could be the piste for you. Other options cascade off the top of Colorado including the Arnica and Capella blues – the latter of which gives access into the Plagne Villages sector.

Golf (Aime 2000)

 Golf (Aime 2000)

Aime 2000 must be one of the very few resorts in the world where you start the day at the top of the hill and ride down to the lifts. There are multiple pistes right on the doorstep flowing down to either Centre or the Adrets link over to Montalbert. Coming out of the back of the building, the first run you’ll likely see is the Golf piste. If you’re looking for a mellow, wide open space to practise your skills, few areas could rival this run – and it has the bonus of having unbroken views across to the Mont Blanc massif. Also, as this run is located in Aime 2000, it tends to stay pretty quiet with most riders using it more as an access point to Cornegidouille blue piste down to the Montalbert link or La Roche. In particular, the right side of the run stays very quiet and has a very gentle gradient to help build your confidence. In truth, there’s nothing particularly challenging about the Golf run but it is the perfect spot to hone skills on a large mellow vista with an incredible backdrop.

Blanchets onto Ours (Bellecôte/Belle Plagne)

Blanchets onto Ours (Bellecôte/Belle Plagne)

Good luck trying to work out when Blanchets becomes any of the other multitudes of runs that emanate from its base but, chances are, at some point you’ll likely stumble onto the Ours run without even realizing. The blue Blanchets run starts with a dogleg right before dropping onto a long section which requires you to straight line in order to build enough speed to get over the subsequent flat. It’s not for everyone but if you’re into riding quickly without fear of injury (the straight is always pancake-flat), you probably will enjoy this. Do note, though, that you need to gather a good bit of speed on the top section to make it all the way across the flat, otherwise, you’ll be unclipping/schussing

The Blanchets run is served by the Les Blanchets chair out of Bellecôte (typically the quietest of the many busy lifts in this area). At the top, you can take Quillis to drop over into Champagny and join the lower section of the Levasset blue (listed above) or take Blanchets or Roc du Diable (to your right at the top). Ours begins near the crossing point under the chair on your way down, then slowly winds its way down towards Bellecôte. Another option exists to your right at the crossing point which will take you down and through Belle Plagne (on the imaginatively named Belle Plagne piste, also blue). Actually, pretty much every run in this bowl is rated blue, meaning multiple different options each time you ride back down.

Bozelet (Champagny)

 Bozelet (Champagny)

There are so many aspects to skiing and snowboarding – so much ‘other good stuff’ – that it’s rarely just solely about the riding. For a start, just being in the mountains surrounded by incredible scenery is often enough in itself to form lasting memories. If runs with a view are your thing, then Bozelet is a must. The run flows off the Les Verdons summit (accessed by taking either via the Verdons Sud or Nord chairs). The views at the summit are spectacular over the Isère valley and Mont Blanc to the north or Courchevel, Les Trois Vallées and Grande Casse to the south. I remember reading somewhere that the view is rated among the top ten in the world and, it seems most people would agree judging by the crowds that are usually gathered at the top. Genuinely, the scenery is absolutely breathtaking.

The Bozelet run into the Champagny sector also is far from shabby, snaking its way along the ridgeline towards Mont de la Guerre before dropping left and providing an easier incline. Going right takes you to the Mont de la Guerre red – a run with probably the best views anywhere in the entire resort. However, this is an article about blues so we’ll stick left and stay on Bozelet which stays more on the Verdons/Rochette side and traverses in the direction of the Geisha run. The run terminates at the base of Verdons Sud where you’ll have options to take the chair back up and repeat – or head over to the Borseliers chair where you can explore more of the Champagny sector. Honestly, no matter where you’re located within the La Plagne domain, do this run – especially on a clear day. The views will remain with you forever.

Montalbert

 Montalbert

If you figure out how to get down to Montalbert, sticking only to the Montalbert blue, please feel free to tell me. Despite countless efforts, I still don’t think I’ve made it top to bottom without getting distracted and ending up on another piste. There are a couple of reds here that you might want to avoid – presuming it’s strictly blue runs you’re after – but, regardless, there are multiple blue options to explore which avoid these steeper pitches. As a general rule, the reds tend to be on skier’s right as you’re heading down. The rest of the blues flow as undulating pathways through the trees – including the Lutins and Gentil which feature intricately carved elves and goblins at the sides of the runs – sure to delight young and old alike.

La Plagne is one of the very few resorts where you can make your way around the entire area, purely on blue pistes. Honestly, this article could be five times longer and we’d still have barely scratched the surface in terms of putting together the highlights. The preponderance of blues in La Plagne makes the resort perfect for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities to get out and properly explore the entire area without fear of getting stuck on intimidating challenges beyond their ability. And, should you eventually tire of the local possibilities, there’s always another entirely separate ski area to explore on the other side of the Vanoise Express. Together with its nearby neighbour, Les Arcs, Paradiski offers limitless opportunities. 

Two resorts for the price of one? With multiple blues offered by each? Can’t say fairer than that.

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Stuart Hamilton is the Creative Director of Snow-GuruSnowboard-App and Ski-App - a range of Android skiing and snowboarding apps aimed at improving your time in the mountains. He also runs iRide Ski and Snowboard app, available for both Apple iOS and Android.