There are two different techniques – classic and skating. Classic is the easiest for beginners; you simply place your skis in two parallel groves, push off and glide around the trails. Skating is more energetic and a slightly harder skill to grasp; you push your feet out to either side as though you are ice skating and use your poles simultaneously to gain momentum.
You can hire the comfortable boots and lightweight skis and poles fairly inexpensively from most sports shops and book a group or private lesson to learn the basics from most ski schools or private instructors. For those used to downhill skis, at first you feel precariously balanced and downhill sections are definitely more exciting on narrow skis with no edges! The skis are lighter and slimmer than downhill skis and the boots are much softer and more comfortable.
The tranquility of cross country (also known as Nordic) skiing is perfect for anyone who enjoys peace and quiet, or finds the downhill pistes too crowded or too steep. It is a great form of aerobic exercise and one can be as energetic or slow as one likes, while the relaxed pace makes it a more tranquil way to enjoy the surroundings!
Cross Country Skiing (Ski de Fond) in La Plagne
Once you have grasped the essentials, head off for the tranquil cross country trails that criss cross the Paradiski area. La Plagne is very popular with cross-country skiers as there is a variety of specialised tracks around the resort; the majority of the cross country pistes are free of charge unless you want to cheat and get the odd lift here and there! The only one that is not free is the Champagny track - the longest and hardest track in resort that runs around the mountain from Les Bauches in the Montchavin/Les Coches area to Plagne Bellecôte. It bypasses just above the village of Les Coches, deep in the forest, and is a beautiful and peaceful track. At an altitude of just over 2000 metres, good snow cover is guaranteed. There is shorter circuit above Plagne Soleil which is right in the midst of the downhill ski area and is graded as easy. Also an ‘easy’ route is the longer, slightly more downhill track from La Roche, below Plagne 1800, to just above Montalbert. There are a couple more areas in Montalbert that are specifically for learner cross-country skiers and are just small circuits to practise on.
If you have a car whilst staying in La Plagne and wish to have a trip out for an afternoon’s cross-country skiing, then you can visit the beautiful Vallee de Bellecôte which separates La Plagne from Les Arcs. Drive as far as you can up the valley and right at the very end you come to the Nordic area of Peisey-Nancroix. Here, you will find 44kms of cross country ski trails, a club house and café where you can hire equipment. The area has been affected by a number of massive avalanches with snow falling from the North Face of the Bellecôte glacier and the villages up there are no longer inhabited all year round because of this. The destruction caused by the avalanches is very clear, with areas flattened trees stretching for several hundred metres. It is of course, well secured and is a very interesting and beautiful place to visit. In the Nordic area, a pass is required in order to use the trails, the profit from which goes towards their daily upkeep. Prices can be found at the bottom of this page >>
Once you have grasped the essentials, head off for one of the many tranquil cross country trails that criss cross the Paradiski. In Arc 1600 – there is a loop starting at Courbaton, the top of the funicular; Arc 1800 – another starts from the top of the Jardin Alpin chairlift; and Arc 2000 – the trail begins near the ESF 2000 office. Each trail is about 5km long and is free to use. There is also a longer trail of 15kms available down in Bourg St Maurice which can be accessed via the funicular from Arc 1600. For some truly spectacular cross country skiing though, you need to head down the valley to the Nordic area of Peisey-Nancroix, where there are 44kms of well kept trails. Situated on a vast plateau at the entrance of the Vanoise National Park, this beautiful setting also has paths for walkers, snowshoe trails and toboggan routes. In order to use the trails here, you must first purchase a pass from the centre office before setting out, the profit from which goes towards the daily trail upkeep. Prices are as follows: