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

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

I’d love to take my instructor Laurent’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.

But 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.

On day one, our group of eight first timers at Oxygene Ski School 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.

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.

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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.

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, I’m apprehensive about losing control so 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.

So 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.

“The way to improve is to make mistakes. You can’t learn to ski if you’re scared,” Laurent says as he helps get me back on my feet.

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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.

Navigating my way up chair lifts and down slopes is extremely satisfying, and I’m overcome by a huge sense of independence as I reach my destination – the Vanoise Express cable car station – after 90 relatively incident-free minutes.

But then a wrong turn leads me to a slope much steeper than those I’ve been used to, and I’m slightly horrified when signs indicate indicate I’m on a red run, rather than the blue I was aiming for.

With my only other option being a long uphill walk carrying my skies, I tentatively set off.

Using a stop-start technique Laurent taught me, I inch my way down and remarkably stay upright all the way to the bottom.

Thinking back to how I felt during my first lesson, I can’t believe I’ve survived part of a red run.

I won’t be winning a medal at the Winter Olympics, but I now feel like a proper skier.

Ski Beat (01273 855100, offers a week’s fully-hosted ski holiday to La Plagne from £499pp.

Price includes return flights, transfers, seven nights accommodation with breakfast, afternoon tea, three-course evening meals with wine (six nights) and the services of a chalet host.