La Plagne’s geography makes it one of the best resorts for any newbies. Neil Lancefield joins a ski school to find out for himself.

“RELAX!” shouts Laurent, my instructor, as a first attempt at skiing down what must be the gentlest slope in the French Alps involves more of a wobble than a glide.

“It’s just like walking down the street,” he adds, optimistically.

I’d love to take my instructor’s advice and loosen up, but relaxing is tough when you’re attached a pair of skis for the first time.

Deciding my best option is to brace for impact, I tense up even more, causing me to slide off course into bright orange safety netting.

When a group of young French children effortlessly whizz past me as I lie in the snow, I wonder if waiting until my mid-30s to learn to ski was a bad idea.

Family holidays overseas only ever happened in the summer when I was growing up, and I’ve continued that trend into adulthood.

But after enjoying trips to destinations such as Chamonix, Wengen and Zermatt during their quieter summer seasons, I decided it was time to discover what happens when a mountain resort comes to life once the snow falls.

La Plagne is said to be an ideal ski area for beginners, with a reasonably flat plateau providing plenty of wide, gentle slopes, categorised as blue runs.

But as I embark on the first of six morning lessons at Oxygene Ski School, those so-called easy slopes are as out of reach as the black runs. I see danger in every inch of snow.

On day one, our group of eight first timers stick to the baby slope in Plagne Centre, the area’s main hub, and by the end of the lesson, I am mentally exhausted.

There is so much to remember... where to look, what to do with my shins, how to position my back, where to point my hips.

The list feels endless, and it’s hard to imagine I’ll ever remember it all.

“It’s all about balance”, Laurent tells us. I hadn’t realised quite how unbalanced I am.

Upon returning to the sanctity of Ski Beat’s Chalet Florence, even removing my hired boots is a struggle.

To get them off, I have to point my feet at an angle I thought was reserved for ballet dancers wearing pointe shoes.

I’m staying in Plagne 1800, named after its altitude in metres, which is one of a dozen villages dotted around La Plagne’s landscape.

The split bases means the apres ski scene famous in resorts such as St Anton, Val d’Isere and Verbier is lacking.

But Chalet Florence has a log fire, comfy sofas and restaurant-quality food, which means I have little inclination to leave after a day on the slopes.

One of Ski Beat’s largest chalets sleeps up to 19 guests with seven bedrooms in the main building and two more in an annex a short walk away.

The bedrooms are the only private rooms, but a cosy mezzanine space provides the perfect retreat for a couple or small group seeking quiet time away from the open plan living and dining area.

Our hosts Sam and Jen work tirelessly to ensure all guests are taken care of with cooked breakfasts, freshly baked afternoon cakes and superb evening meals with free-flowing wine.

Their hospitality helps me forget the struggle of my first morning skiing.

Day two of ski school sees us continue learning the basics in the beginners’ area of Plagne Centre, but the third day is a game-changer as we leave the village behind and take our first chair lift.

The snow-covered mountains provide a stunning backdrop to the lesson, as Laurent guides us down a series of blue runs in the shadow of Mont Blanc.

As much as I find the view breathtaking, it does feel like I’m trying to ride a bicycle on a busy motorway as I’m constantly overtaken by other skiers who get a bit too close for comfort.

Apprehensive about losing control, I adopt the snow plough position with my skis in a “V” shape.

This gives me stability but is a much slower method of getting down a slope than people with more experience who keep their skis side by side.

“If you don’t go fast enough I’ll push you”, Laurent jokes. At least I hope he’s joking.

He is keen for our group to up its pace. “If you think you’re going too fast, close your eyes.”

It turns out I do have an appetite for skiing fast, as long as I’m on a long, straight slope.

With no need to worry about what to do with my body beyond keeping my elbows on my kneecaps, I put my skies in the parallel position and wear a huge grin across my face as I travel faster than I’ve ever gone without being in a form of motorised transport.

Not everyone in the group feels comfortable keeping up with the pace, and just three of us turn up for day four of ski school.

The absentees could be taking advantage of the many alternative activities available in La Plagne, such as easing tired muscles in a heated outdoor swimming pool, riding down the only bobsleigh track in France or hiking in snowshoes.

The reduction in ski school participants enables Laurent to give us a much more personalised lesson with lots of individual tips.

Our confidence grows enough to attempt to ski down a halfpipe, making me feel like I’m in a music video.

The first few turns go well, but the song in my head abruptly stops when I go too quick for my limited ability and crash face first into the snow, sending my skis flying. “Good wipeout!” Laurent says as he helps get me back on my feet. The way to improve is to make mistakes. You can’t learn to ski if you’re scared.”

We build up our daily mileage throughout the rest of the week, and by the end of the final lesson I’m confident enough to spend the afternoon skiing in the mountains on my own. When I finally make it back to the chalet, I’m again exhausted but treat myself to a large slice of cake.

Ski Beat (01273 855100; offers a week’s fully-hosted ski holiday to La Plagne, part of the 425km of pistes that make up the Paradiski region, from £499pp. Price includes return Gatwick flights (Manchester + £20), transfers, seven nights accommodation with breakfast, afternoon tea, three-course evening meals with wine (six nights) and the services of a friendly chalet host. A week’s stay at the Chalet Florence costs from £599pp.