Last week the Wandering Kiwis joined the throngs of booted and suited French families milling about in the light and airy Gare du Lyon, ready to catch a train to the mountains for a ski holiday.
The double decker TGV speeds away from Paris on its four-and-a-half-hour journey to the picturesque Haute Savoie region and slowly, slowly the snowy peaks of the French Alps get closer.
This is the third time I have travelled to the snow by rail and the second time back in the La Plagne ski area. In fact this is where I had my first European ski experience – and was hooked!
Now we return with our five-year-old daughter, ready to give her the opportunity to be one of those little kids flying down the slopes without fear. Not like her mother – I learned to ski as an adult and it has been a physical and mental challenge to achieve even a basic level of competence. I had an amazing time skiing in the Hochkonig region of Austria last month (by myself) but it is a wonderful thing to do as a family.
Belle Plagne is the highest resort here and we found it to be very convenient to everything – shops, supermarket, ski hire and restaurants are on the doorstep and it is only a 50 metre walk to the ski school meeting point.
These are purpose built ski resorts but created with alpine-style charm and all the more convenient for being designed. The pistes at La Plagne (and Les Arcs across the valley) are particularly well suited to beginner and intermediate skiers.
The school holidays are an expensive time to ski but Belle Plagne has a big selection of self-catering apartments that are very affordable. Together with the money we saved by travelling by train, this made for a surprisingly affordable ski holiday at a peak time.
There were queues for the lower ski lifts but the school holidays is also a fun time to be in the mountains. The Ecole Ski France ski instructors were certainly making an effort to ensure everyone had a good time. They put on a ski demonstration event one evening and a few of them displayed a multi-talented side by playing a few sets as a covers band.
After two days in the ski baby garden, my daughter was on the lifts and on the real pistes! She was comfortable heading down the mountain, turning and stopping by day four. In fact she was complaining that her skis were too slow!
On Thursday afternoon she was able to ski with us and skiing as a family made me feel pretty emotional! We took the big gondola right up the mountain and made our way down, stopping to play in the gorgeous white powder and enjoying the ‘magic tunnel’.
At the end of the week we regretfully departed the lovely Haute Savoie and as we settled into our seats on the train Wandering Kiwi Jr was very disappointed to hear that we wouldn’t be going skiing again for another whole year!
By Natasha von Geldern
Many thanks to Voyages-SNCF for hosting us on our train to the snow. Fares from London to Aime la Plagne start at £109 standard class return per adult on day services. Child fares start at £99 return, also in standard class. Just try comparing that to flights at peak time! You can call the team on 0844 848 5848 or call into the Voyages-sncf Travel Centre at 193 Piccadilly, London W1J 9EU.