Travel: La Plagne ski resort, French Alps

Ski taxi in La Plagne, French Alps. Pic: Comp
Ski taxi in La Plagne, French Alps. Pic: Comp
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I take a deep breath and close my eyes for a moment. I can do this, I repeat to myself over and over in my head as I stand poised at the top of what seems like the biggest mountain imaginable, my knees bent, my heart racing.

I open my eyes and see the situation for what it is - in reality I’m at the top of a beginners’ slope, which is no more than a couple of hundred metres of slight incline, and there are two-year-old children whizzing past me sporting massive smiles, their oozing confidence almost visible in their wake.

And I finally do it, I finally make my first ever descent down a ski slope. And I survive.

I am making my skiing debut in the bustling resort of La Plagne, in the alpine valley of the Tarentaise, in the heart of the French Alps.

After flying in to Geneva, my group and I make a two-hour taxi transfer to the region, a beautiful, picturesque journey through spectacular mountain valleys and villages.

When we arrive at La Plagne, it is like stepping into the pages of a brochure. The snow is glistening, the towering mountains marking a fairy tale boundary all around us.

Our first afternoon in the resort - which has been providing alpine entertainment since its creation in 1961 - sees us ease ourselves in gently, first with a hearty lunch at one of La Plagne’s many fantastic restaurants. We need the calories, after all.

Our post-lunch activity is one which we perhaps did not need to load up on carbs for - and the sled dogs tasked with providing us with a fantastic ride around the snowy valley probably agree.

With two of us in each sled, as well as the musher, the power in the dogs’ legs is incredible as they pull us up hills, round bends, through deep snow, during our wonderful 30-minute winter wonderland adventure.

Picking up quite a bit of speed on the downhill stretches, this ride is exhilarating and relaxing in equal measure.

After a long day, we retire to our hotel, the snug four-star Le Cocoon.

With just seven rooms, it feels like our very own alpine retreat, and we spend a relaxing evening in the outdoor jacuzzi before sampling some traditional French fare in the atmospheric restaurant.

After a peaceful mountain sleep, we are refreshed for the day’s activities - which today see us embark on our first ever skiing lesson.

We are measured up and kitted out by the super friendly team at ski school Oxygene Ski. We at least look the part, even if we don’t feel it.

Our ski instructor for the day is Laurent, the epitome of ski instructor chic.

As with most of the Oxygene team, he has been skiing since the age of two, so I feel pretty comfortable entrusting my life to him - especially after some Dutch courage in the form of the local brew.

To begin with, it seems like the hardest thing in the world to even attempt to stand on the skis, fear of the unknown in a bitter battle with the image of cool I am desperately trying to portray.

But within just a matter of minutes, I am skiing down the practice slopes, executing a ‘snow plough’ stop and even managing to smile - or grimace, at the very least.

At the end of our morning session, our group are negotiating chair lifts, manoeuvring ourselves round corners, and allowing ourselves to stand up straight and relax while picking up speed whizzing down the slopes.

The feeling of the cold wind in my face as I fly past fellow skiers is utterly exhilarating, I can feel my heart racing and the grimace is most definitely a full-blown smile now.

It’s remarkable to think I’d never even held a ski until three hours ago.

After our morning session, we are in much need of some fuel, and we take a leisurely lunch with Laurent and another instructor, Bertrand.

The wine flows as we chat and laugh about our morning’s activities, and they hint about what’s to follow in the afternoon.

However, many clues are dropped, I could not have prepared myself for what was to follow.

Assured that our wine intake was not going to be an issue, we are led back to the slopes, where we are greeted by some other members of the Oxygene team.

Each of us are paired with a ski instructor, and ushered into a ‘taxi ski chair’, designed for non-skiers or those who fancy enjoying the slopes without doing any of the hard work.

Our instructors-turned-chauffeurs manoeuvre us onto the chair lifts, and whisk us down blue and red slopes - the kind of courses we could only dream of being let loose on after just a morning’s tuition.

Half terrifying, half thrilling, the taxi ski experience is better than any ride at Alton Towers.

After a couple more drinks during a stop-off at a high altitude bar - with the most stunning views imaginable - we set off again.

This time I’m paired up with Laurent, who changes my terrifying to thrilling ratio dramatically.

For the most part, I am clinging to the chair for dear life, my eyes closed, praying I get out of the experience alive, as he laughs like a seemingly mad man at my fear.

As I become braver - or more curious - I open my eyes as he executes some off-piste jumps, and I’ve got to admit, despite the obvious fear of imminent death, the feeling of excitement, euphoria and invigoration is one I’ll be hard pressed to ever find again.

I suddenly have an urge to be good enough to speed down a red slope all by myself, jumping, whizzing round corners, weaving in and out of other skiers....but for now I’m transfixed in this moment, which still alternates between petrifying and thrilling with each second that passes.

And now I get it - I finally get why thousands of people pack into these resorts year after year, saving every penny to make sure they can spend as much time on the slopes as possible.

I think I might have just caught the ski bug.

Travel facts

Book a spring skiing trip to La Plagne (+33 (0)479 097979; from £443 per room, including seven nights hotel accommodation with breakfast. Learn to ski with Oxygene Ski (, with group lessons starting from £134 pp (five mornings), while private tuition starts at £40pp, per hour. A seven-day ski pass costs £212 pp. Other activities: Moonlight ski ( £61pp), Superluge Derby (£19 pp) and Dog Sledding (£66 pp), and Sit Ski (£75 pp). Head to La Plagne in April for the new Subli’Cimes Festival (5-16 April), with exciting family-friendly activities taking place on six different peaks. Flights extra – from £75 pp return with EasyJet (Edinburgh-Geneva).