News from the snow
Les Arcs France
One of the most fashionable of the French purpose-built resort complexes that were originated in the late '60s. Les Arcs has its own unique design of curving apartment block complexes which seem to hug the mountainside and, timber clad, seem more in keeping with their natural environment than most. The Arcs are car free, with covered walkways between buildings and doorstep skiing throughout. The resort has a reputation for being at the cutting edge of snow sports and is famous for pioneered the Ski Evolutif tuition method of tuition for beginners who learn parallel skiing. It was also a mecca for mono-ski in the early '80s and of course 'boarding as well as other 'sports nouveau'. There is a famous flying kilometre speed skiing course where world records have been set. There are four 'Arcs', at 1600, 1800, 1950 and 2000 metres each with its own reputation. At different times the Arcs have had various names but at present 1600, 1800 and 2000 are known simply by their numbers. 1600 is known as the 'family' resort with 1800 the main centre with most of the facilities and night life. Arc 2000 was originally the sporting mecca with little there besides first rate sports facilities for those who needed a fully equipped gym to work out in after a full day on the slopes. All have grown to become more multi-function however. Arc 1950 - Le Village is the newest development, and a pioneering model for europe brought over by North American developer Intrawest. The concept is for a high quality, purpose designed resort with all facilities available on your doorstep., Very like the traditional French purpose built resort the other Arcs are examples of but with greater attention to architecture, 21st century comforts and quality of service and product. The resort has one of the world's largest ski areas, linked to the villages of Villaroger, Vallandry and Plan Peisey, there is also a funicular railway down to Bourg Saint Maurice from where you can easily reach La Rosière on the other side of the valley with its lift link over to La Thuile in Italy. In 2003 the resort was lift linked by the spectacular Vanoise Express double decker cable car to another neighbour, La Plagne, to create the Paradiski area of 425km of trails.
There are four 'Arcs', at 1600, 1800, 1950 and 2000 metres. Les Arcs pioneered the Ski Evolutif tuition method, slope-side accommodation, speed skiing and 'nouveau' winter sports.
The terrain will suit all levels of skier with Arc 1600 based in thickly wooded terrain, surrounded by largely gentle trails through the trees, and both 1800 and 2000 located at the treeline with wide open sunny slopes above. All of the centres have gently sloping meadows directly beside them for the first few runs. Intermediates, as with all 'super ski areas' can perhaps get the maximum enjoyment of all, being able to tackle most of the slopes. Most will even cope with the red down from the imposing Aiguille Rouge, the highest point of the ski area where the cable car broadcasts a recorded announcement (one you're ascending) advising that the terrain is not safe for inexperienced skiers.
Much of the terrain is long fast motorway cruising, although there is more variety than at many comparable resorts. Experts have plenty to keep them happy including extensive off-piste terrain. The legendary 7km (4.5) mile long black from the top of the Aiguille Rouge down to Villaroger is one of the world's longest and covers the world's biggest vertical for a run of this grading, a full 2000 metres.
Plenty other challenges including mogul runs like the Dou d'Homme. The increasingly frequented off-piste route from La Plagne to Les Arcs is a great excursion returning via the Nancroix forest.
The Vanoise Express cable car, which departs from Peisey Vallandry, takes 200 people at a time (120 on the lower deck, 80 on the upper one) over to La Plagne and the joint Paradiski area in just four minutes.
For cross-country skiers there are three 5km long loops, one by each resort.
At Arc 1800 Les Pommes de Pin Nursery in the La Nova residence in Arc 1800 is open from 8.45am to 5.45pm. Children can book in for three hour morning or afternoon sessions with lunch at either end an add-on if required. Full day and full week reservations are also accepted. The Pommes de Pin has indoor and sunny outdoor play areas and its own restaurant and sleeping areas. Children aged three and over take place in sliding and snow games outdoors and activities including trampolining, crafts workshops and ball pool fun indoors.
In Arc 1950 le Cariboo's Club accepts children aged three months to six years.
In Arc 2000 the crèche for children aged two to six is open daily with ski lessons available on request. Otherwise kids from three years up can also join ski classes with the French national course of lessons and testing on offer, some of the courses also providing rental equipment. Children under six don't pay for lift tickets when skiing with a paying adult.
The hotel du Golf has a piano bar and the most sophisticated end of the 1800 market. The cinemas in the resort show English language films several times a week.
At Arc 2000 there's another night club, KL92 but the Red Rock Cafe is perhaps more the focus of evening activities, serving a good choice of cocktails and with live music often performed.
The resort is very 'boarder friendly with a combination of value accommodation, great terrain for all styles and abilities and as many chairs and gondolas as surface lifts (rare for a French resort). The terrain park Appacalypse above Arc 1600, which is also open to skiers, has a wide variety of features including diverse humps and mounds which making it an attractive and interesting site where everyone can find something to suit their taste and level. There are also tables, hips, a funbox, a pyramid, big and small gaps.