You’ll know La Plagne as one of the most popular skiing resorts in France. What you might not realise, though, is that it was once just a simple collection of villages with local traditions. In fact, the area has a wealth of history, making it so much more than just a winter sports facility.
Retracing La Plagne’s Foundation
It may be hard to believe, but before becoming a popular snow-sport destination with catered chalets, La Plagne heavily depended on agriculture and mining as a source of income. It wasn’t until the sixties that these industries started to fade and the local towns grouped together to create a skiing resort.
You can retrace this long and complex history by visiting any of the towns. In Aime, the Musée de Pierre Borrione lets you travel from the Baroque period back to the Gallo-Roman era. Or if you’re interested in the local religious beliefs, the crypt and ambulatory have a great exhibition, while the Basilica of St. Martin is filled with architectural and sculptural relics.
You can also take a walking tour in either Longefoy or Champagny-en-Vanoise. The first will take you past a bread oven and mills, which date back to seventeenth century. During the second stroll, you can visit the prolific Church of Saint-Sigismond.
Development during the Early Nineteenth Century
In the 1800s, the area flourished thanks to the vast amounts of silver discovered in the mines. These underground pits were not only a great source of income for the local community, but also played an important role during the Second World War. They became hide-outs for the French Resistance and allowed these anti-collaborationists to safely test their weaponry without being heard. They were also used as hidey-holes for munitions provided by British troops.
The current ski resort was founded in 1961 by Michel Besançon. At first, it didn’t have a huge number of ski pistes and catered chalets. La Plagne consisted of only four lifts and basic runs. However, the inspired vision of a ski-in–ski-out resort that connected mountain life with the shops, restaurants and residences created a fantastic skiing experience, which continued to attract more and more snow enthusiasts.
With the construction of further lifts and accommodation, including catered chalets, La Plagne grew into a full-fledged ski area. Expanding from a small centre, it grew to encompass an array of small villages during the 1970s and 80s. Most recently, Plagne Soleil became the latest area to be added to the skiing map.
Though the size of the resort stabilised, its popularity continued to increase. In 1992, it hosted the Winter Olympics and became home to the only Bobsleigh Piste in the country. The run is also open to the public and is still used for major competitions today. And if that isn’t enough to win you over, La Plagne also teamed up with Les Arcs and founded the huge 225km Paradiski area. Thanks to the Vanoise Express, 2000 people can travel from Les Arcs to La Plagne every four minutes and can access 132 runs. It’s brilliant fun!
Belinda Smythson works for Ski Amis, a specialist ski travel agency and booking service that has been helping avid skiers craft their perfect winter holiday for over a quarter of a century. If you're looking for catered chalets, La Plagne is an ideal destination. Ski Amis can provide chalets in the Three Valleys, Paradiski, Espace Killy or Chamonix Valley, and we are the go-to company for winter sports fans searching for the holiday of a lifetime.