I’m trying to remember at what age our children started losing interest in coming on holiday with us.
Inter-railing to exciting cities, or weeks in the sun-soaked clublands of Zante and Ayia Napa seemed much more tempting to my son Will and daughter Grace in their late-teens, when the thought of spending leisure time with their parents left them reaching for the tequila shots.
We wondered if skiing would tempt them back to a holiday with the old fogies. Now France has reopened to British tourists, there’s been an avalanche of bookings – but there are still holidays available for those who don’t want to miss this year’s season.
We first introduced them to skiing when they were seven and eight. Back then, they didn’t care about the accommodation, the food or entertainment, so absorbed were they in the prospect of snow-ploughing down any slope they could tackle, and enjoying chips, crepes and hot chocolate on the mountain at lunchtime.
But how would they feel holidaying with their parents, at 20 and 21?
Indifferent, was the immediate knee-jerk reaction, until a suggestion of skiing prompted them to pause TikTok and jump at the offer. They’re both single, love sports and get on well, so it seemed an ideal chance to reconnect.
This is how we came to be in Belle Plagne – shortly before the first lockdown in 2020, when no masks or health passes were required.
It was a resort we’d visited as a family years ago, when, as little ones swamped in oversized salopettes and brightly coloured ski jackets, the kids were duly enrolled in ski school, but had more fun in the afternoons with us, taking on easier blues before progressing, with great gusto and zero fear, to the reds.
Belle Plagne is among 11 self-sufficient base villages which make up La Plagne, in the south-eastern region of Savoie in the western Alps and dominated by Mont Blanc.
Each village is its own ski-in ski-out mini-resort. If you don’t want the hassle of carrying skis to buses to get to the lifts, as we didn’t when the kids were little, La Plagne is ideal.
With six resorts at high altitude of 1800m and above – Plagne Aime 2000, Belle Plagne, Plagne Soleil, Plagne Bellecote, Plagne Centre and Plagne 1800 – the season can run to the end of April and it’s an intermediate’s paradise.
Its vast terrain and lift network enable you to ski to a variety of villages, while the Vanoise Express cable car connects to Les Arcs, forming the vast ‘Paradiski’ ski area with La Plagne, incorporating a total of 425km of slopes and 264 pistes.
As an inter-generational group, our holiday expectations were flipped on their head a little. Eleven years ago, there were times when we grown-ups yearned to escape for a bit of serious apres ski to sample the Savoie beers and local wine.
Now, we’d rather enjoy a leisurely raclette with a bottle of local red quaffed in front of a fire before bed, turning in just as the kids get ready to go out.
One of our family friends from home quipped that grown-up kids only go on holiday with their parents for the free drinks, but in a French ski resort where the price of a beer ranges from about €5-€9, we weren’t going to be funding their bar crawls.
On the slopes, I felt we would be more in sync. We had a family lesson on the first morning to get our ski legs back. It had been some years since the children had skied, whereas I’d been for many years, rather confident in my ability, trying to ignore my advancing age and diminishing fitness levels.
Within an hour, Will and Grace had found their ski legs. By lunchtime they were waiting for us at the foot of each slope we tackled.
That pretty much set the tone for the skiing, except that the kids began to assume a carer-like presence around me, ensuring I negotiated each chair lift successfully. They even started to high-five me at the bottom of each slope I skied without mishaps. Oh, the humiliation.
We had one white-out day when we couldn’t ski. While once we may have nudged ourselves away from a family-orientated spa, fearing that our young children would disrupt the peaceful ambience by practicing their dive-bombing skills in the pool, now they’re older the four of us were able to venture to the adults-only section of the Deep Nature Bains and Spa La Plagne in Belle Plagne.
New attractions have also sprung up to tune into the wellbeing zeitgeist. In nearby Montchavin-Les-Coches, you can take up ski sophrology, reputedly a fresh, more serene approach to learning to ski, which encourages you to be at one with nature and fuel positivity (wish I’d known about that earlier).
And what about the social reconnection on a ski trip? As parents, we may be too old for the late-night circuit, but as a family we still found some cool hangouts to down apple cider and take in a party vibe on the mountain.
Catching the double decker Vanoise Express cable car to Les Arcs one day, we skied down to La Folie Douce, a hipster party addition to the chain of French mountain restaurants, complete with house DJs, singers, acrobats and dancers. It was like upmarket Ibiza, but colder.
You won’t find anything like this in Belle Plagne, but there were several less showy but equally eclectic apres ski bars in the village acceptable to the four of us. And they both had happy hours, with beers starting from around three Euros. A true bonus.
I hope we are all skiing together a decade from now, even if by then my children have their own families and I am once again negotiating snowploughs – with the next generation.
Belle Plagne skiing