Since we’ve moved to an alpine village in the Tarentaise Valley, we have not yet taken the time to explore the resort of La Plagne. Last week, we finally did it! We waited for the snow to melt and for Summer to return to cross the great domain using the ski lifts and free shuttle buses. Here is a little account of our excursion… which will give you an idea of the splendid vistas that await you!
Our great day out in the domain of La Plagne
When I say ‘day out,‘ please don’t think this was a day of long and tiring hikes. As this was our first visit to La Plagne, I brought my 5-year-old girl Aimée with me along an itinerary with numerous ski lifts and free shuttles. The goal was to explore the land we can see from our village, Granier, on the other side of the valley!
This excursion took us 5 hours… but we stopped several times to admire the views and take photos!
The highlight of the visit was the view from the Roche de Mio at 2,730m high. On one side, a magnificent view over the Tarentaise Valley, the Beaufortain, and the Mont Blanc. And on the other, the snow-capped peaks of the Vanoise massif (Grande-Casse, Grand-Bec, Péclet-Polset) and, in the distance, the Meije and the Grandes Rousses.
Our discovery itinerary of La Plagne
Here is the itinerary that we used. You can follow it too and discover the vastness of the domain of La Plagne. And if weather permits, you’ll be able to reach the Chiaupe glacier, very close to the Bellecôte summit at 3,000m high!
We left our village Granier in the middle of the morning, and after a stop at the Tourist Office of Aime-la-Plagne to get our ski-lifts passes, we started the drive up via the famous hairpins of La Plagne. We stopped at the hamlet of La Roche.
The chairlift of La Roche (La Roche – Plagne Aime 2000)
I parked the car around 11 am at the huge car park in the hamlet of La Roche. This is the site of a famous bobsleigh circuit built and used for the Winter Olympic Games of Albertville in 1992. The bottom station of the chairlift is reached by crossing a little footbridge spanning the Arc stream.
The chairlift is very practical as it prevents driving up to the station’s centre. It starts at 1,523m high and reaches Plagne Aime 2000 à 2,120m. A nice drop of approximately 600m!
Aimée really loved this type of ski lift. The climb is smooth and peaceful. You can hear the sweet twittering of the birds, the water below, and cowbells ringing in the distance. And a pleasant pine scent that refreshes the senses!
It offers magnificent views over the valley and the town of Aime.
The chairlift takes 6 minutes to reach the station of Plagne Aime 2000.
Plagne Aime 2000
A futuristic vision… or a visual nightmare for some! The modern station of Plagne Aime 2000 (formerly Aime-la-Plagne) is puzzling, to say the least. Here the hand of man designed a property development at a high altitude (approximately 2,000m) on mountain pastures.
Yet, I still have to pinch myself that the hamlet is situated on the same commune as my village (which is visible on the other side of the valley, 800 m below). It’s like being in a completely different world!
At the foot of the gigantic modern chalets (nicknamed Paquebot des neiges) is the bus station from where we took the complimentary shuttle. The bus offers a regular service (every 30 minutes) to Plagne Centre. If you have plenty of time (and have just missed the shuttle), walk down to Plagne Centre by the mountain pastures. It isn’t far at all, and you’ll enjoy beautiful views.
Here we are at the heart of the station. The connection with the Plagne Bellecôte shuttle was about to leave. We didn’t have time to explore Plagne Centre. Anyway, the station’s centre was under work.
The shuttle to Plagne Bellecôte calls at several stops in Plagne 1800, a downhill hamlet. Then it goes up to Plagne Bellecôte, the terminus.
So, since Plagne Aime 2000, Aimée and I have been on two buses to get here. We were curious to discover this hamlet. Here as well, the change of scenery is guaranteed — audacious contemporary architecture. The station can look a bit displaced in Summer. You have to imagine it in Winter when it fits much better in a natural snow-covered environment. The ski runs stretch down to the foot of the buildings, where ski lifts run uphill again. This must be really cool in winter. This is the concept known as “ski-in, ski-out resorts“.
But as we are still at the beginning of the Summer season, the station is not in full swing. For kids, many activities are available: bouncy castles, pony treks, and something that made a great impression on Aimée: walking inside giant bubbles!
Anyway, we didn’t have much time to get distracted. The next step of our excursion was to ride the Roche de Mio télécabine. Its bottom station is located next to an information desk of the Tourist Office of La Grande Plagne.
The télécabine of the Roche de Mio
The bottom station of the télécabine lies at 1,940m in the centre of Plagne Bellecôte. The ride comprises two sections linked by an intermediate station at Belle Plagne.
The first ascent flies over the mountain pastures between Plagne Bellecôte and Belle Plagne. The intermediate station at Belle Plagne (2,086m) is recognisable by its little belfry that gives it a picturesque air.
We could have stopped there to discover Belle Plagne (the télécabine doors open to allow us to get out in case). The télécabine goes inside the station very slowly along the embarkation/disembarkation tracks. And suddenly, the launcher powerfully releases our cabin. The ascent to the Roche de Mio truly begins now!
The pretty Belle Plagne
Belle Plagne was built at the beginning of the 1980s. Observing it from the télécabine makes sense that it doesn’t look like the other hamlets of the station (Plagne Aime 2000, Plagne Bellecôte, Plagne Centre). Look how pretty this station is (hence its name of “Belle Plagne“!) The use of traditional materials from the Tarentaise Valley (stone, wood and lauze) was intended for a better fit and to blend with the surrounding area. The intermediate station was opened in 1982 in the centre of the property development.
The ascent to the Roche de Mio
I’ve seen photos taken from the télécabine in Winter, and I must say that the Summer ride is much more impressive!
Five-year-old Aimée showed no fear of heights. As for me, it went much better than anticipated. Who knows, our eyes are maybe used to mountain landscapes now?
From the station of Belle Plagne, the ride gradually takes a very steep ascent. After flying over the mountain pastures (the snow front in Winter), the landscape suddenly becomes tormented. Bleak rocky ledges are surmounted easily by our cabin (which I must say was creaking – to add more emotion!)
Then after crossing a rocky ridge (crête des Bourtes) we come down a plateau before ascending again until the Roche de Mio. This is where we see a marmot (for the first time this year!) that stares at us lazily. For sure, they must be used to this mechanical gondola going back and forth!
The télécabine takes 15 min and 40 seconds to cover 3,700m in a drop of 791m until the top station. This is enough time to enjoy the landscape, observe the marmots… and even get a few scares!
The Roche de Mio and its breathtaking panorama
The arrival at the Roche de Mio is not very glamorous. Don’t expect to find a picturesque station. The light grey corrugated iron structure with vertical brown stripes resembles some shed. Don’t take much notice of it and focus on the views!
As its name indicates, the télécabine of the Roche de Mio gives access to the eponymous summit.
But just before reaching it, walk towards the side, looking over the Tarentaise Valley / Mont Blanc. You’ll find a mountain restaurant and a few picnic tables.
Then go round the station to the right. A complete change of scenery. In front of you rises the snow-capped peaks of the Vanoise. To the left, a rather steep track (170m) climbs to the summit at 2,729m high.
The orientation table at the summit of the Roche de Mio
At the summit, an orientation table tells you all you need to know about the visible peaks and mountains. The panoramic view is the most dramatic of all the views we’ve enjoyed during the excursion.
Naming the mountains
Ok, let’s take an inventory of all the places I’ve seen from there on that fine July day:
- Tarentaise Valley and Bourg-Saint-Maurice,
- the main summits of the Beaufortain, including the Roignais (2,995m) and the emblematic Pierra Menta (2,714m)
- Mont Blanc massif (4,810m on its Italian side)
- Graian Alps, which mark the border between France and Italy
- Grand Combin (4,314 m, in Switzerland)
- Mont Pourri (3,779 m; the weather was awful on the peak, hence its name of “Decayed mount”!)
- Bellecôte Summit (3,417 m) very close to us
- Grande Motte (3,653 m)
- Savoie’s highest peak is the northern and bleak side of the Grande Casse (3,855 m). I was used to seeing the mountain from another angle on my walks in the valley of Pralognan-la-Vanoise.
- Grand Bec (3,398 m)
- Glaciers de la Vanoise (above 3,000 m)
- Péclet-Polset and their vast glaciers (3,561 m)
- Meije (3,983 m) and the Ecrins massif
- Saulire of the Courchevel domain (2,738 m), also accessible by ski lifts in Summer. The peak is more or less at the same height as us!
- Grandes Rousses massif (3,465 m)
- Cheval Noir (2,832 m)
- Lauzière massif (2,829 m)
- Mont Charvin and the Aravis chain (2,409 m)
Photos from the top
Then for Aimée, apart from mont Blanc, what she really liked was…
Of course, all of this didn’t make much sense to Aimée. And I didn’t want to impose a geographic lecture on her. At least she can recognise Mont Blanc; I’m happy about that! Only when we came back home did I study my photos to find the names of the mountains.
Returning to the télécabine, Aimée wished to continue the voyage with the red cabins. Let me explain. The white cabins go down to Plagne Bellecôte whilst the red ones climb even higher towards the perpetual snow…
The télécabine of Bellecôte
In fact, the télécabine of Bellecôte serves as an extension to the Roche de Mio télécabine. Summer allows you to reach the glacier within 12 minutes and 11 seconds. This is the highest point of the domain of La Plagne that we, tourists, can access without effort.
The ride starts with a dizzying descent towards the intermediate station of the Chiaupe Pass (col de la Chiaupe, 2529m). Then the climb becomes much steeper and longer. The télécabine crosses a sharp rocky ridge.
The arrival station is located at 3.030m high, 400m below the summit of Bellecôte.
Exiting the station, it’s not hard to consider how long and arduous our last Winter was. For Aimée and me, it is like going back to Winter. Fortunately, we had put on our walking shoes. We walk a few metres on the snow towards a rocky spur. The view is fantastic but thick clouds already cover parts of the neighbouring peaks. I’ll wait for August to come back to the glacier. Apparently, there is an ice cave to visit, and a track climbs one hundred metres to an orientation table.
As for now, we won’t delay on the site. Despite our jumpers (the wind is cold) and the mysterious, dramatic landscape, we choose to walk back to the télécabine station.
Coming back to La Roche
And to end our adventure in La Plagne, we follow exactly the same itinerary back to the car park in La Roche.
One would think that having not walked much, we were in good condition at the end of the day. Yet we were tired. One is not always aware of how tiring the ski lifts, the shuttle rides and the many small walks from one point to the other can be, and our legs were weighing us down towards the end of the day, without mentioning the invigorating mountain air.
But once in the car, one drives down from La Plagne with stars in their eyes. Memories of breathtaking vistas. The glorious summit of Mont Blanc overlooking the Alps. The fantastic opportunity to have been onto a glacier over 3,000 metres high. Seeing the snow-capped peaks of the Vanoise.
As for Aimée, she will remember the ski lifts that she is thrilled with and beats an amusement park! With English as her mother tongue, she now knows all the French terms to identify them: un télésiège (a chairlift), une télécabine (a gondola)… I only have to bring her to un téléphérique (a cable car) and un funiculaire (a funicular) to complete her vocabulary!
Summer in La Plagne: practical info
Learn more about the free inter-station shuttle buses we took in La Plagne (see the dates and times here). The frequency of the buses is often 30 minutes. Having said this, if you’ve just missed it, take the opportunity to explore the hamlet, have a drink on a terrace or get an ice cream!
To use the ski lifts (chairlifts and télécabines) you have several options: buy a one-way ticket, day pass, week pass (7 days) or a Season pass (July and August). More info (fees and where to buy). Remember to check before taking a ski lift. Some are closed on certain days (Saturday and Sunday) between 12.15 pm and 1.45 pm. Download the timetable of ski lifts open for Summer 2018
Before getting to the domain, I advise checking the weather Live with these webcams.
If you have any questions about staying in La Plagne, visit the Tourist Office of La Grande Plagne dedicated to the Summer season.
Other links on French Moments to find out more about the region of Savoie:
- The Tarentaise Valley
- The département of Savoie
- The Mont-Blanc
- The town of Aime-la-Plagne
- The village of Granier
I want to say thank you to the Tourist Office of La Grande Plagne for their welcome and all the advice and help they’ve given me to prepare for this excursion. Visit them during your stay at La Plagne (many info desks are open throughout the domain in Summer, check it out!)
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Wow ! Still so much of France to explore. Great photography, as usual, Pierre.
Merci beaucoup Denis, you’re very kind! Yes, so much things to see in France… it’s hard to make a choice but the Alps, well, I guess they are a must-to-see 🙂
WOWOWOW what a beautiful place! Thank you for sharing – definitely adding to the next trip list!
Thank you! I hope you can visit the mountains of La Plagne one day! 🙂