Visiting the Bellecôte Glacier ice cave in La Plagne wasn’t something I initially planned to do.
You see, the French Alps are known for their stunning scenery and snow-covered slopes—and when I go skiing I tend to stick to them. From the moment the runs first open until my legs can’t go anymore, I’m there. But that’s the thing about taking time off work for a holiday: it forces you to slow down.
I’d been feeling a little rundown when I flew to La Plagne, France for a little winter escape but amid all the excitement of being back on the slopes, I pushed it to the back of my mind. After a few days, however, it began catching up with me. So instead of rising at the crack of dawn and heading for the first run of the day, I decided to take a day off.
After having a long leisurely breakfast overlooking the views of La Plagne, I hopped on a gondola to go for a little adventure. Taking it from Belle Plagne straight to the top of the Bellecôte Glacier.
I have to say, it was weird getting in a gondola, not having to carry skis and skipping the queue (people without skis are prioritised) but enjoyable nonetheless.
Stepping out at the top of Bellecôte Glacier I was met with gorgeous views, an incredibly brisk chill and blankets upon blankets of fresh white snow. The type that has that perfect crunch as it compresses beneath your feet—so perfect I almost stepped back onto the gondola to go and get my skis.
I was contemplating whether to go for a wander or get a hot choccy when I spotted an ice cave in the distance.
Curious as to what this ice cave could be, I bought a ticket and wandered into the abyss.
The entry fee was €5 and for that price, I had no idea what to expect from the Bellecôte Glacier ice cave.
Was it going to be a completely dark cave made out of ice?
Was it going to have a bar inside?
Would I even be able to see anything?
So many questions—but as I turned the corner I found the answers because everything became significantly more visible.
The smooth walls transformed into dips and edges and as my eyes adjusted I could see that the walls were filled with carvings and the excavated spaces had been transformed with sculptures.
I explored the Grottes de Glace in La Plagne for about an hour. You can do it in significantly less time, but I got chatting inside and time flew by! And then I got stuck for about fifteen minutes because I offered to take a solo-travelling lady’s photo, and then I ended up becoming the sculpture photographer for WAY too long because I’m English and awkward and forgot how to say no.
Anyway, after an hour inside, my thoughts began to wonder how the Bellecôte Glacier ice cave came to be. Did they just start carving from the inside out? Who thought of this?
But don’t worry, Google had the answer.
You see, La Plagne is home to 425 km of ski runs in the heart of the Vanoise national park—and due to its location and the fact it’s between 1,250m – 3,250m above sea level, it gets quite a bit of snow.
Bernard Lombolez and Bruno Gardent (helped by 6 strong friends) decided they wanted to do something fun with that snow. And so, since 2005 they’ve been using ice picks (that they forged themselves!) together with ancient techniques to manually dig out the caves and create sculptures within.
Pretty cool, eh!
Literally. Because after a while the chill started to set in, so I decided that there was only one thing that could warm me up: hot chocolate.
As I stepped outside and began my voyage to the bar I noticed that the snow was significantly deeper and beautifully untouched, just to the right.
Now, untouched snow can mean many things. It can mean that it’s just snowed and you’re eager and it’s the crack of dawn and you want to go and carve some fresh lines.
It can mean that you’ve just stumbled across a super-secret spot and AMAGAD ALL the powder OR it can mean that there’s something beneath it like, ya’know a lake, and you probably shouldn’t touch it in case you fall in and freeze to your death or something.
Now as I’m sure you’re all aware, I have an over-active imagination and so I decided that it was probably a lake and I shouldn’t touch it. So instead of running and jumping into it, I decided to make cute little love notes along the edge of the bank.
I used my gloveless finger (because I’m an idiot) and was halfway into my ‘V’ before realising that a friend was using a bottle to write theirs. Smart. As I stepped over to reach the bottle, my leg began to disappear into the snow. Inch by inch my salopettes became submerged and it wasn’t long before I was knee-deep in snow.
After realising how deep the snow was I just couldn’t resist.
I bent down…
And threw myself backwards
So that I could make a snow angel.
As I lay there covered in snow and filled with childish glee, I realised that at some point I was going to have to get up.
But it turns out that getting out of knee-deep snow from a lying down position without ruining your snow angel is pretty damn near impossible.
After way too many giggling fits and falls as I tried to get out of the knee-deep snow before falling, laughing and repeating the cycle again, I walked over to the bar and got myself my favourite type of winter fuel: hot chocolate.
After sitting and admiring the mountainous view for a few minutes, I realised a backdrop like that should not be wasted, so I tried to take some photos worthy of the most curated Instagram feed. But alas, I failed.
So I resumed my position in a deck chair, basking in the sun with a hot chocolate in one hand and a book in the other until I got hungry.
Then I made my way back to Belle Plagne, stopping for a spot of lunch in a little sandwich bar inside the shopping centre, whose name I can’t remember, but it was delicious.
It was the perfect way to relax and unwind and spending a day on the slopes out of my ski boots made me realise that I’ve never actually taken the opportunity to explore the resort villages (outside of the ol’ apres-ski happy hours!) because I’m usually out from the moment the lifts open, to the moment the lifts close and so never saw the point, but it turns out that there’s actually quite a few cool little spots to hang out in!