It’s been a particularly good year for snow in the French Alps, the best for six years. Already, Les Arcs has enjoyed over 4 metres of snow, double the snowfall for the whole of last season – and it’s still only mid-February.
Last week I had a great time skiing in Les Arcs with my son. It was the first time we’d been to this resort and were looking forward to the variety that comes with a large ski area. It didn’t disappoint.
Les Arcs was built in the late 1960s and has 200km of pistes over 113 runs. But since the Vanoise Express cable car was completed in 2003 it now forms part of the much larger Paradiski area, connecting Les Arcs and neighbouring Peisey-Vallandry to La Plagne to give 256 pistes and 435km of skiing. During the week we didn’t even ski all of the runs on the Les Arcs side of the valley, far less venture over to La Plagne.
Our week got off to a great start. While some of the highest mountains were draped in cloud at the beginning of the week, the snow was plentiful and in perfect condition. It was cold, bright and sunny. There were two almost cloudless days midweek: great conditions for cruising long runs, both above and below the tree line.
Les Arcs is actually a collection of seven, largely purpose-built resorts set high above the town of Bourg Saint Maurice. We were staying in Plan Peisey, just beside the Vanoise Express, which at 1600m is one of the lowest villages and just below the tree line. While there are some great high-level runs above the newer resorts of Les Arcs 2000 and 1950, we actually preferred the fast red runs through the trees at Peisey-Vallandry. On days where low cloud covers the high peaks, and it’s difficult to discern sky from piste in flat, white light, this is definitely the best place to be. Some may prefer the ‘mountain village’ feel to Les Arcs 1950 but if you want variety and the flexibility to choose between Les Arcs or La Plagne for your day’s skiing, then I think Peisey has the upper hand.
We took the cable car to the highest point in Les Arcs, Aiguille Rouge which stands at 3,226 metres. The peak gives an absolutely stunning panorama across the French and Italian Alps and on a still, clear day this is a place to stop and marvel for a while.
After we soaked in the views we skied down towards the little hamlet of Villaroger, a descent of almost 2km. Not only did we want to try out the longest continuous run in Les Arcs but we wanted to go for afternoon drinks and cake at Chalet Sollier, arguably one of the best mountain restaurants in the entire resort. The hot wine and tarte aux myrtilles (blueberry pie) were definitely worth skiing down for, and the view just divine.
It was a week of two halves though. After the glorious midweek sunshine a low pressure heralded rising temperatures, low cloud and — horror! — drizzly rain. The temperature in Peisey reached 8 degrees by the end of the week and combined with the rain, meant that the deep, powdery snow had become heavy. It’s not much fun skiing in damp cloud either. Along with the return of my son’s fluey virus he’s been battling over the last month, we spent much of the last half of our holiday holed up in our apartment.
Still, we’d had a great trip and these photos bring back memories of great skiing in a fantastic resort. With so much of the Paradiski area still to explore it’d be great to go back.