News from the snow
Les Coches France
Montchavin and les Coches are neighbouring hamlets, often marketed as a single place - Montchavin - Les Coches. They are certainly easy to ski between, but Les Coches is 200 vertical metres further up the mountain so it's a bit of a walk if you're not on the ski lift or the free ski bus. Montchavin is one of the few traditional villages in the area and both centres are designed with traditional alpine wooden chalet style buildings, so are certainly amongst the most attractive and most genuine of the French resorts. The villages are part of the huge La Plagne ski area which has ten or so bases (depending on where you divide it up), seven of them are relatively close together purpose-built altitude centres, the other Plagne Montalbert is, like Montchavin - Les Coches - somewhat separate to the rest. The villages became a key part of a great pass with the opening of the Vanoise Express cable car - the world's largest, a 200 person double decker - which links the giant La Plagne ski area with neighbouring giant Les Arcs across the valley. The cable car access point is by Montchavin - Les Coches. The resulting ski area, Paradiski, is one of the world's biggest with more than 400km of piste. There is even a fourth dimension to extend the amazing ski potential these villages offer still further. The Savoy Olympic Ski pass is valid for a day in many famous ski areas in the region, together offering more than 1,500km (about 1,000 miles) of ski runs.
Designed in the style of a traditional Tarentaise village and located above Montchavin, Les Coches is well linked to the huge La Plagne ski area since 1982. Also on the Savoie Olympic pass covering Les Arcs and the Trois Vallées.
All of the skiing above the altitude villages is also above the tree-line and most of it below their level is below it - on trails cut through the forests down to Plagne Montalbert and Montchavin Les Coches. The runs down to Champagny are over the back of the snowbowl. The vast majority of the skiing appeals to recreational skiers, more than the 'die-hard' variety who will find a more limited number of blacks than at some of the other top resorts. For those with a bit of realism who don't need the machismo image that they aren't actually a part of in order to enjoy their annual skiing week though, La Plagne can't be bettered.
Experts will be happy anyway, especially if they sign up with one of the ski schools to tackle the under-rated off-piste or attempt the sheer near 2000m vertical down from the north face of the Bellecôte glacier, one of the world's longest and toughest runs . Beginners also have some good nursery slopes, a huge choice of tuition deals and a free surface lift by every village of La Plagne.
La Plagne's commitment to winter sports has long been evident with its own Club des Sports established in 1962 to encourage domestic talent. Famous Club members include Eric Labourex, five times Freestyle World Cup circuit winner) and most recently Jean Luc Crétier, winner of the Men's downhill at the Nagano Olympics. There are no less than 11 different Ecole de Ski Français operations in business from the different villages. Each offers a wide variety of tuition options but also individual schools have unique ideas. The ESF in Montchavin for example has a guided off-piste 'Ski total' course whilst Plagne Bellecôte's school has carving-ski courses.
At Aime la Plagne the 'Modern stages' package introduces students to the different modern methods of sliding as well as offering advice on improving technique and powder skiing. Apart from the ESF there are yet more choices the Oxygène school operating out of Plagne Centre or Eric Laboureix's 'El Pro' school. Evolution 2, based in Montchavin limits class sizes to 8 participants.
Good skiers may wish to participate in the popular free night-time (floodlit) parallel slalom races at Champagny on Tuesday evenings during the Christmas and February holidays. There are cups for winners and prizes for competitors. Finally cross-country skiers have about 90km (57 miles) of loipes to enjoy.
There's a Games room operational Monday to Friday for older children. The supervised facility has pinball, table football, darts, board games, books and a Play Station.
Other child friendly activities include the board game rental service, ice rink and the cinema. Special children's snow shoeing expeditions are organised.
In Les Coches Allo Pizza offers a delivery service, L'Origan pizzeria and creperie is another high value, family-friendly choice. For more traditional local food visit La Poze and La Taverne du Monchu.
In Montchavin three pizzerias are La Boule de Neige (which offers a delivery service), La Ferme du Yeti (which is also a creperie) and La Zaccota. Le Moulin a Poivre has a take away service.
In Montchavin La Taverne is popular through the evening with the discotheque l'Oxygene opening later on for those with the energy.
In Les Coches the Last One Pub, La Poze music bar and Le Roctambule are all normally busy.
A unique evening activity is the resort's Olympic bobsleigh run, a shuttle bus is provided once a week from Montchavin. Here you can try the bob-raft (a covered bobsleigh for four with no pilot), the taxi-bob (a competition bobsleigh for three people and a pilot) and the mono-bob (descend on your own, riding in a semi-horizontal position).
There's also ice skating on an 800 sq m rink just above Les Coches some evenings; a cinema in Montchavin with two or three screenings daily and occasionally in the original version (ie not dubbed into French); as well as evening snowshoe hikes and dog sleigh rides.
There are four snow parks in the area, including one at Montchavin-l.es Coches, at the top of the local area and next to the Vanoise Express arrivals point. The Park has a permanent boardercross, a beginners' zone and lots of rails, including rainbow rails as well as table tops and a variety of kickers for all ability levels.
In common with the other La Plagne parks, the Montchavin - les Coches Park has a sound system and a supervisor.