By Catherine Cooper
With 425km of downhill slopes, 18 ‘fun zones’ including toboggan runs and snow parks, and plenty of family-friendly accommodation and activities, La Plagne and Les Arcs are obvious choices for a family holiday. But a mountain holiday is about much more than just skiing, and when you’re active all day, it’s important to eat well.
So I was excited to learn that a new branch of La Folie Douce was opening in Les Arcs. Set in an idyllic spot in Arc 1800, the restaurant is piste-side with a fabulous view, but can also be reached by non-skiers via the free-of-charge-for-pedestrians Villards gondola, so they can easily join the rest of the family for lunch.
"Children under eight are taken to the tipis on a quad bike. After an informal cheese fondue, the dogs go wild with excitement as their harnesses are brought out and they’re attached to the sledge to take you back down to the village."
While La Folie Douce is perhaps best known for its wild après-ski parties, lunchtime is a much calmer affair in its three restaurants sharing a huge terrace. We ate at the relaxed, hip but upmarket La Fruitière with its huge glass wall overlooking the pistes, serving everything from oysters and lobster gratin to cheeseburgers and pigeon with foie gras. Unusually for the French Alps, it also offers vegetarian and vegan dishes. There’s an impressive table of cheeses from local farms, and many ingredients are from the surrounding area. The room is light-filled and décor is industrial chic, with dairy theming such as walls filled with milk bottles. You’re even given a numbered milk churn to store your gloves and goggles.
For those with younger children or those who don’t want to spend too long away from the slopes over lunch, La Folie Douce’s self-service La Petite Cuisine offers a wide range of simpler dishes such as pasta, pizza and tartiflette, while The Butcher Shop has burgers, sandwiches, waffles and fresh juices at very reasonable prices.
Another not-to-be-missed food experience over in La Plagne is the Tipi Evening in Montchavin Les Coches. Suitable for ages six and up, it begins with a short snowshoe trek up through the forest, during which you get a spectacular view across the valley to the lights of the resorts of Les Arcs. Arriving at the tipi camp, you'll find a fire blazing and lots of vin chaud (with soft drinks for kids), plus time to play with the incredibly friendly samoyeds – Russian mountain dogs.
The walk up is designed for beginners and is not challenging, though children under eight are taken to the tipis on a quad bike. After an informal cheese fondue, the dogs go wild with excitement as their harnesses are brought out and they’re attached to the sledge to take you back down to the village.
Other fun places to eat for families in the area include Le Forperet in Plagne Montalbert, where the owner Roland makes his own cheese for his famous tartiflette, which has to be ordered 24 hours in advance, and where children can meet the animals in the restaurant’s adjoining mini-farm. The Finnish kota huts (private wooden chalets with a grill over an open fire where you can cook your own meat) at Hôtel Le Cocoon in Plagne 1800 are also cool.
We stayed in Montchavin Les Coches, one of the smaller resorts in La Plagne. It’s ideal for families, with a pedestrianised centre, regular free activities for children and a visit from Père Noel at Christmas. With no large hotels or major tour operators based here, it’s very quiet in the evenings, so everyone can get some much-needed sleep. Many people come back year after year for its personal, family atmosphere and a handful of cosy bars and restaurants but access to all the facilities and experiences of the vast Paradiski area.
Read more about family ski holidays in Europe.