Our family of four stayed at the Le Centaure apartments for one week, from 6 April 2013. I would wholeheartedly recommend Le Centaure as an excellent place for a family to stay.
We had a great week skiing in La Plagne. We were very lucky as there was a lot of snow but very few people as it was almost the end of the season. There were no queues at any of the lifts and few other skiers on the slopes.
I booked the holiday independently without going through a tour company. This meant that I had freedom to choose our flights, accommodation, transfer, ski school and where to hire ski equipment. In practice booking all this was fairly simple. The details below should help.
The Le Centaure hotel reception staff were very friendly and helpful. I would certainly consider staying at another of the MMV hotels again next time we go to France. If we were to return to La Plagne I would be looking to book at Le Centaure again.
We stayed in a “Two bed plus alcove” apartment. The apartment was perfect for us and had plenty of space. We wanted the separate bedrooms so that our two kids could go to bed at different times without waking each other up. The room may officially sleep 8 but personally I would find it that a bit of a squeeze.
The apartment had two double bedrooms, one of which had an en-suite bathroom. There was an additional bedroom, the “alcove”, with a bunk bed. There is also a separate bathroom, without toilet and then a separate toilet. The lounge area is generously sized and has a big TV and a double sofa bed. The kitchen is large and well equipped, with a table that would just about fit 8.
The room was in good condition and was clean. There was a nice balcony area overlooking the slopes and the lounge area had a flame effect fire. One nice touch was the included mini-pack of kitchen essentials - a small bottle of washing up liquid, one dishwasher tablet per day, washing up cloth, etc.
The hotel has a nice pool with great views of the slopes. We used the pool a couple of times when we took and afternoon off from skiing. The second time we were in the pool we were the only people there. The pool area also contains the spa where I had a very good massage. Note that there are only 4 changing rooms in the pool so it could get busy during high season – but that was never an issue for us.
In the village centre there are a number of restaurants and shops and a bowling alley. For food we can recommend Le Cheyenne Café where we went a couple of times .
There are a few points for this holiday that are worth knowing:
(1) Booking the Hotel – we booked though www.booking.com.
(2) Flight and Transfer - we flew into Geneva using Easyjet. (There are useful flight details here: http://www.smittenbysnow.com/travel-air.cfm) From Geneva we had a private transfer from a company called Alpes Logistique Transport (http://www.alpestransports.com/). Their service was very good, providing a large 8 seater van with snow tyres. This cost 270 Euros each way. This sounds a lot but it was the cheapest quote we had and it is a long car journey. With no traffic the journey is around 2 ½ hours each way.
The cheapest (non-train) option that I found was to go by coach (http://www.bensbus.co.uk/) for £74 (around 90 Euros) per person return. However, the bus times didn’t match our flights well and it takes longer than a private transfer. Hiring a car may be a cheaper option but then you have to pay road tolls, ensure that you have snow tyres/chains and pay for parking at the resort. The train doesn’t seem an easy option for La Plagne (the local station is Aime La Plagne) but it is the cheapest option. You can try here http://www.raileurope.co.uk for details – when I checked it was a 6 hr journey with two changes each way.
(3) Arriving by car. There is an underground car park in Belle Plagne with two levels. There are some bays for Le Centaure immediately below the hotel. To get to these you have to drive to almost the end of the car park. There are a few signs telling you to keep going for Le Centaur. From each level it is only a few steps up or down, to the hotel reception on the 6th floor. We were there at the end of the season and the car park (and the resort as a whole) was only 10% full.
(4) Ski Lessons – we went with a company called Oxygene (http://www.oxygene-ski.com/la-plagne-ski-and-snowboard-school.htm) and they were excellent.
Our first lesson started off by getting the cable car down to Plagne Bellecote to go to the Debutants area with the simple magic carpet lifts. Our youngest child, aged 7, was in a group of 6 children with one ski instructor and a second ski helper. The instructor did the teaching and the helper went at the back helping up any children that needed assistance. Our other child, aged 10, learned with a beginners adult group together with us. By the second day the children were skiing on simple Blue runs. There were two beginners adult groups for different levels and people moved between the two groups as necessary. Our groups were pretty small, on average around 4 or 5 people per instructor and the beginners instruction was extremely good. These lessons cost 190 Euros each for 6 mornings. While we were there we were offered 5 afternoons of ski lessons for our youngest for just 50 Euros, which we took up. However, in practice our youngest only went a couple of times. Being a new skier doing two lessons a day, every day, was simply too much.
On the last day of our lesson all the Oxygene ski school trainees and teachers went for lunch together. So the morning lesson stretched into about 3pm. On this day the children were awarded medals indicating their ski ability.
(Note that there is an ESF ski school “Jardin d’enfants ESF” immediately outside of the hotel but this is for under 6s so we did not use it.)
(5) Ski passes - Oxygene provided the La Plagne lift passes for 145 Euros for adults and 110 Euros for children. This total cost of 510 Euros was much cheaper than buying lift passes separately which would have been about 750 Euros for a family pass. (Note that this lift pass did not cover Les Arcs but that was not an issue for us.)
(6) Hotel Location and Ski Hire - Le Centaure is at the top of the Belle Plagne village. This means that you can ski into the village centre (where the ski school met and the main cable car lift is) but have to walk back up. Alternatively you can ski from certain runs (top of the Arpete lift from Plagne Bellecote) back to the hotel itself. However, we generally found that we ended up in the centre of town so walked back to the hotel.
We were a family of beginners so could not ski down to the town centre at the start of the holiday. Carrying all our ski equipment from the hotel to the town centre on the first day was a long slog – especially as our youngest could not carry her own equipment. So after the first day we left our ski equipment at the Intersport in the town centre where I had hired the equipment. I chose Intersport as it was the closest ski hire shop to the ski school meeting point (bottom of the Tyrolian ski lift) and the cable car. Each day we walked to the centre of town in our shoes and put our ski equipment on in the Intersport, leaving our shoes there. Being able to do this made a big difference for us. Putting on the ski equipment in the Intersport was also easier than doing so in the boot room at the hotel as the boot room was a bit cramped and had few seats.
The Intersport was generally empty and had some nice seats in front of an open fire. The Intersport staff were very helpful and had no problem with us leaving our equipment there. (It may be different during busier parts of the season though.) At the end of the day we could leave your ski equipment at Intersport and go straight to the restaurants in the village centre.
There is a map of the town at the following link – the hotel is at number 23, the ski school meeting point is number 45 and the Intersport is number 10 in the Centre Commercial on page 2:
(7) Getting into town on foot - from our room on the 6th floor, the fastest way to walk into town was to go along the covered walk way from reception (also on the 6th floor) and then get the lift down to ground level. This takes you out opposite a small Spar supermarket. There is another walkway down the side of the Spar. Go down that alley and there is a second lift that takes you down to the centre of the village. (Note that there is a second, much larger Spar, in the centre of the village.)
(8) The ski area from a beginners perspective – we found the ski area to be great for beginners with plenty of beginners Blue runs. La Plagne only has one Green run. However, if that is what green runs are generally like, then even for beginners it is too easy. Additionally, such flat slopes are actually not much fun as it can be hard to get enough speed up to keep going over any rises and you end up pushing yourself along with poles. You can see a map of the pistes here:
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