It may be the last month of the year, but in the valley, December is when the ski lifts are preparing to open and the Christmas holidays are on the horizon.
We can expect sports competitions, opening parties, and there will obviously also be lots of festive celebrations including a visit from a certain Papa Noël. As you are no doubt aware, most things in December revolve around the last two weeks of the month, schools break up and travellers from near and far descend on the valley. There are a plethora of events coming up, from parades to special Christmas menus and New Year's blowouts.
Read on for a look at what we like to do in resort throughout December.
What are the weather & snow conditions like in La Plagne in December?
In recent years, December has brought some of the most consistent snowfall (and some of the best conditions) of the entire season, so now’s the time to start planning those festive breaks. Whilst there will be snow up the mountains, a white Christmas is never a guarantee in the resort itself. However, it's definitely cold with temperatures averaging from -10°C to -2°C, with around 12 days of snowfall. Make sure thermals are on your Christmas list.
La Plagne’s lifts will again start turning mid-month heralding the start of another season. The altitude resorts are always first to open so you’ll want to be in accommodation above 1800 for easy access. In this first week, you can expect the hill to be empty – literally ride down, ride up – zero queues. At this time of year, it’s mostly just locals and saisonnaires out riding. Best of all, the ski schools are non-existent this early in the season. Terrain-wise, expect everything from Roche de Mio down into the Bellecôte bowl and over to Plagne Centre/Aime to be open. The glacier bubble also occasionally runs, though it is rare for this area to be open so early.
What's on in La Plagne in December?
Usually at this time of the year a Christmas market pops up with stalls in small wooden huts, selling wares of all kinds, plus food and drinks. A perfect spot to pick up a last minute gift, or something to take home. You can browse local, handmade gifts, jewellery, soaps and a lot more while you indulge in some vin chaud or a local beer.
Christmas in La Plagne
With so many families visiting the valley for the festive season, there is a real child-like excitement as the big day draws ever closer, and usually there's an opportunity to spot the main man himself meeting and greeting people around the resort. There is normally a chance to meet Papa Noël and when the streets lights are turned on it's hard to ignore that Christmas is nearly here.
To prepare you for your French Christmas, here are a few festive facts that make the French Santa Claus a little different:
- Rather than a red hat, Père Noël wears a red cloak with a hood trimmed in white fur - a small difference easily unnoticed.
- Children do not wake up to presents under the tree on Christmas morning, because traditionally le Père Noël brings toys to good little boys and girls after evening Mass on Christmas Eve.
- Children do not leave milk and cookies for Papa Noël, but at the very least they'll leave him a glass of Calvados or wine.
- Children do not hang stockings, but rather leave their shoes and slippers out and if they have been good Père Noël will fill them with treats.
- Children in France behave around the holidays out of fear of Le Père Fouettard, who follows Père Noël to discipline naughty children.
Whilst La Plagne is full of great après-ski spots, there are always numerous start of season events as the clubs, bars and restaurants across the resort open their doors once more for another year. And, of course, there’s also the inevitable influx of young, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed saisonnaires full of energy and always up for a party. Oh, how that changes as the season progresses! In particular, La Plagne does a great job of catering for families but also has the Snow on Fire Party also known as "The Nuit de Pompon Rouge" if you fancy something a bit livelier.
School holidays Skiing
Christmas and New Year is a popular time for families so the slopes are noticeably busier as soon as the holidays begin. Fortunately, the ski area is so vast, that even in high season you can find quiet slopes and minimal lift queues. Here are our insider's top tips for the school holidays:
- It will be almost impossible to book private lessons over this period, group lessons are the best option. Make sure to get your ski and snowboard lessons booked well in advance to avoid disappointment.
- If you're not in ski school, be an early bird. Arrive at the lifts before they open so that you get up and away before the ski school classes set out around 09:15.
- Ski over lunchtime. The slopes are calmer between 12:00 and 14:00 while the French take a leisurely lunch break. If you can, stop either side of this two-hour window or, better yet, pack something in your backpack so you can eat on the way up on chairlifts. The lunchtime window really is far too good to miss so find ways to make sure you’re on the hill when the rest of France isn’t.
- Pre-book your lunch and avoid the queues. Some restaurants offer a Click & Collect service. It's the best way to avoid the queues and make the most of your time in the mountains.
- Seek out the peripheral areas. Try to avoid the busy main ski areas, in particular the Bellecôte hub of lifts can get agonisingly busy and you’ll find similar bottlenecks on the main lifts around Plagne Centre. If you can, try and avoid these areas after 10:00, otherwise, be prepared for a long wait. Other lifts to avoid are the Bergerie below Plagne Soleil and Plagne Villages and the Arpette in Bellecôte. In previous years, these two lifts have jostled for the unenviable crown of the ‘Season’s Busiest Lift’ in the whole of the La Plagne domain. Also, they’re both very popular with ski schools so the runs they serve tend to get very congested. In particular, the Écartée (off Bergerie) and Arpette (off the lift of the same name) can get ridiculously busy. In the main, the best advice is to try and head for the lower traffic areas – places like Champagny, Montalbert and, to a degree, Montchavin. You tend to find far fewer people in each, though Montchavin can get busy with the traffic between La Plagne and Les Arcs.
- Get off-piste. Competent off-piste skiers can book a local mountain guide and explore the vast off-piste areas in the valley or even go touring to find complete solitude in the backcountry.
Things to Do
Christmas is synonymous with school holidays. As hundreds of children and their families descend on the pistes, the valley puts on a show for them. There are lots of activities to keep the little ones entertained on and off the mountain.
For more ideas on what to do check out our Activities and Things to Do pages.
Bars & Clubs
If, like a lot of people, you like to follow several hours of exercise with several hours of drinking, especially during the festive season, you can hit up any of a number of local après-ski sessions. Down at the bottom of the slopes you'll find a range of eateries and bars offering great music, delicious food and happy hours. For late-night entertainment, the clubs hold special nights on most days of the week.
New Year's Eve
Always a big night full of revellers popping Champagne corks. The restaurants will be busy, so it would be best to make a reservation to ensure you can get a table, and many of the bars and clubs are ticket-only, so if there's somewhere you plan to see the New Year in, make sure you've planned ahead.