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.

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. I tense up even more, causing me to slide off course into bright orange safety netting.

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.

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.

I'm staying at Ski Beat's Chalet Florence in Plagne 1800 – named after its altitude in metres – which is one of a dozen villages dotted around La Plagne's landscape.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

A wrong turn leads me to a slope much steeper than those I've been used to, and I'm slightly horrified when I spot the signs either side of the piste 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.

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

I even find an apres ski party in full swing at La Bergerie snack bar, with people dancing on tables as a DJ, singer and saxophonist on a balcony entertain the crowd below.

When I finally make it back to the chalet, I'm again exhausted.

But this time it's due to being physically drained from a full day's skiing, rather than struggling to remember the basics of how to ski.

I serve myself a large slice of cake and throw another log on the fire. This is the kind of relaxing I need no tuition for.

How to plan your trip...

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.