The resort was designed by Michel Besançon, who had a vision of an ‘integrated resort’. By this he meant a ski in-ski out resort where life in the residences, shops and restaurants was directly linked to life on the mountain. It was to be a pedestrian resort, where freedom of movement was key. The emphasis on the bustle of the town being conducted at the foot of the pistes, the ‘front de neige’, ensured that skiers and pedestrians were all part of the same experience.
The initial success of the resort owed much to local ski champion, Emile Allais, former world champion of the 1937 Winter Olympics held in Chamonix and creator of the Ecole de Ski Français. After retiring from his role as technical director in Courchevel; in 1964 he came to La Plagne as a technical director. Early publicity also played a large part; in 1966 French TV presenter Guy Lux broadcast "Interneiges", a live competition between two French resorts (kind of like It’s a Knockout in the snow), from La Plagne.
Over the years La Plagne grew in both size and stature. Further resorts were created out of the surrounding villages and more lifts were built to link this ever-increasing ski area, each one with its own character and atmosphere. In 1982 the original resort of La Plagne was renamed Plagne Centre, to reflect the fact that La Plagne was now a larger resort encompassing a handful of smaller villages. Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s the resorts of Champagny en Vanoise, Aime la Plagne, Plagne Villages, Plagne Bellecôte, Les Coches, Montalbert, Belle Plagne and Plagne 1800 all opened as ski resorts and began to operate under the La Plagne banner. Plagne Soleil was the last resort to be developed, not opening until 1990.
La Plagne was in the limelight once more in 1992 when Albertville hosted the 16th Winter Olympics. La Plagne built the only Olympic Bobsleigh Piste in France and was one of the highlights of the competition. The bobsleigh is still used for world and European events, as well as being one of La Plagne’s most popular attractions. A number of rides such as the bob-raft, taxi-bob and mini-bob let you feel the speed and excitement of bobsleigh for yourself!
Already a huge ski area, La Plagne joined forces with Les Arcs in 2003 to create the vast Paradiski. This was made possible with the building of the Vanoise Express; the enormous double-decker cable car that links Les Arcs and La Plagne. The opening of the cable car enabled the creation of the Paradiski, an enormous ski area that spans 225km and 132 runs (and that’s just the pisted area!). It can carry 2000 people per hour and takes just 4 minutes to travel between its two stations at Plan Peisey (Les Arcs) and Les Coches (La Plagne). In the year of its opening it was the biggest, longest and fastest cable in the world. It has since been beaten by the 3S gondola in Austria, but nevertheless it is still an impressive ride!