|Location||Les Arcs & La Plagne, France|
|Top elevation||3250m (3 above 3000)|
|Skiable area||425km of runs|
|Runs||237 (easy 136, intermediate 66, difficult 35) + "Nature" runs|
|Longest run||10 km (2100 m vertical drop)|
|Lift system||171 (1 funicular, 15 cable cars/gondolas, 62 chair lifts, 93 surface lifts)|
Les Arcs is a ski resort located in Savoie, France, in the Tarentaise Valley town of Bourg-Saint-Maurice. Initially created by Robert Blanc and Roger Godino, it is a part of the huge Paradiski system which is under ownership by Compagnie des Alpes, a French-listed company owning several other ski resorts as well as theme parks.
- 1 The skiing
- 2 History
- 3 Resort areas
- 4 Off-piste opportunities
- 5 Mountain biking
- 6 References
- 7 External links
The five areas—Bourg-Saint-Maurice, Arc 1600, Arc 1800, Arc 1950 and Arc 2000—are situated at an altitude spanning from 810 to 3225 metres, although skiing is mostly possible above 1200 metres. The ski area consists of 106 runs, 54 lifts and 200 kilometres of descent. The highest peak in the resort is the Aiguille Rouge (Red Needle) from where is a 7 km long piste with 2026 metres in vertical drop down to the Village Villaroger. Since the opening of the Vanoise Express cable car in December 2003, Les Arcs has become part of the Paradiski group of ski-connected resorts, which also includes the La Plagne area. Paradiski in total has 425 km of pistes.
Les Arcs has the reputation of being one of the original French "mega-resorts". All of them have a convenient, large and varied network of pistes. Les Arcs has the specificity of a unique "avant-garde" modernist architecture labelled as "heritage of the 20th century". Most of its resorts are built following this modernist architecture, with the exception of latest—Arc 1950—which is built following the traditional architecture in the Alps and also with a more defined village ambience.
The ski domain provides a mixture of open runs (especially above Arc 2000) and wooded runs (around the outlying villages of Peisey and Villaroger in particular). Its terrain park has a good reputation, with green, red and black jumps and rails. It is also good for snowboarders, with few drag lifts. The ski lifts have been gradually updated so virtually all critical lifts are modern, fast and comfortable.
Modelled on the accelerated progress of the Sophringham Method, Les Arcs' ESF ski school teaches ski evolutif; students are taught parallel turns from the beginning, but on very short skis (that get progressively longer through the first week). Les Arcs is regarded as having excellent beginner ski areas in each resort, although absolute beginners have little to progress to; away from the nursery slopes things get trickier. Les Arcs is also regarded by many as the home of snowboarding in Europe. Local instructor Régis Rolland popularized the snowboard in France with the Apocalypse Snow series of films made in the resort in the early 1980s.
The ski area of Arc 2000 and 1950 consists of a broad valley, with these two resorts at the bottom of its broader part. One of the sides of the valley is the ridge with the area's highest point, the Aiguille Rouge. The other side is a ridge to Arc 1600, 1800 and Peisey-Vallandry, which hold a wide range of runs. There are also a lot of relatively safe off-piste possibilities available in addition to those where you would require a mountain guide.
The current world records in speed skiing was set in Les Arcs with Italian Simone Origone at 251.4 km/h (156.2 mph) and Swedish Sanna Tidstrand at 242.59 km/h (150.74 mph), both in April 2006. The amateur record at Les Arcs is held by Frenchman Stephane Teteblanche at a fairly ponderous 85km/h. The course is sometimes open for the public but with restrictions in altitude, snow preparations, equipment, etc., to limit the speed.
Creation of les Arcs
- 1968 : Arc 1600 resort opening.
- 1974 : Arc 1800 resort opening with the inauguration of the Hotel du Golf.
- 1979 : Arc 2000 resort opening with the Club Med.
- 2003 : Inauguration of the first tourist residences in Arc 1950. The village was completed 2008.
Thanks to a successful collaboration in the early 60s between Roger Godino, developer and constructor in mountain tourism, and Robert Blanc, born in the area and a ski instructor and high mountain guide, Les Arcs took shape with the help of well-known engineers, architects and town planners sharing the same creative spirit.
Three fundamental rules were followed in order to create a functional and aesthetic construction in keeping with the tourist development of that time:
- Respect for the area and the natural surroundings,
- The conservation of existing old mountain chalets which were not to be copied for more authenticity,
- The use of local material.
Les Arcs is completely integrated into the mountain setting and distinguished by an exterior architecture avoiding buildings overlooking one another and by an interior open-plan concept (open kitchen, large picture windows, and raised balconies) which paved the way for a new style of living.
20th century label
In 1999, the Ministry for the Arts and Communications introduced new policies in favour of the architectural and urban heritage of the 20th century: protection, public awareness and restoration. Living proof of modernity working hand in hand with the mountains and nature, Les Arcs town planning is being studied by the Grenoble School of Architecture.
Charlotte Perriand worked with Le Corbusier for ten years. She worked as part of the Les Arcs design team including Roger Godino, Robert Blanc, Gaston Regairaz, Guy Rey-Millet and Bernard Taillefer. An exhibition will shortly be dedicated to her work at the Beaubourg National Arts and Culture Centre.
Arc 1600 (also Arc Pierre Blanche)
At 1600 metres, this is the lowest of the resort areas and is linked directly to the Bourg Saint Maurice TGV train station by the 'Arc en Ciel' funicular railway. The journey time is approximately 7 minutes and many trains also call at two intermediate stations, serving the villages of Montrigron and Les Granges. It is connected to the other villages by regular free shuttle buses and ski lifts. Arc 1600 was the first area to be built on and is referred to as "Arc Pierre Blanche." Arc 1600 now has 30 shops, hotels and meeting rooms to offer its guests.
Arc 1800 is the biggest of the resort areas and consists of 4 'villages' known as 'Charvet', 'Villards', 'Charmettoger' and 'Chantel'. It has around 100 shops, shuttle services, hotels, meeting rooms, a two-screen cinema and an ice rink. There is a good selection of restaurants catering to most tastes including Casa Mia, voted resort restaurant of the year 2003 in a worldwide competition. The village has previously hosted the snowboarding and dance music Snowbombing event.
The village is at a convenient position on the mountain, just above the resort of Arc 1600, and given its altitude comfortably above the snow line for the entire winter. The "TransArc" gondola reaches the top of the Arc 2000 valley quickly (queues notwithstanding), and there is a good selection of ski lifts, such as the six-seater Vagere, to take you to the various parts of the mountain.
Arc 1800 occasionally has the benefit of better weather conditions, given the topography of the mountain. When heavy snow falls at Arc 2000, it can be closed down and can also be at the mercy of heavy winds funnelling down to the valley. This is not a problem for Arc 1800, which is also west facing and thus benefits from sunshine in the afternoon. Above Arc 1800 are the apartments of Les Alpages du Chantel. The residence houses 182 apartments in two 3–5 storey chalet-style residences that offer a ski-in, ski-out experience. Also on site is a local shop and a locally themed restaurant, Les Alpages.
This area is linked to the La Plagne resort by the Vanoise Express cable car, departing from the village of Peisey.
Arc 1950 (Le Village) is a recent five-star alpine village development by the Canadian ski resort developer Intrawest, which also developed such resorts as Whistler and Mont Tremblant in Canada. It's situated at ~2000m, offering almost guaranteed skiing during the winter, and is linked to Arc 2000 by a free pedestrian accessible gondola Cabriolet. The architecture of Arc 1950 is striking as it clearly moves away from the standard concrete blocks of the mega resorts of the period. Instead it is lavishly fitted out and heavily influenced by the local Alpine history and architecture. 1950 has several commercial, apartment and hotel buildings of different sizes, colours and shapes. It has a wide variety of shops and, for a mountain resort, a huge variety of eateries including Italian, Mexican, French, Savoyarde, creperie and American restaurants. It also has pubs, wine bars, lounges and a nightclub. In 2012 the village was completed with the opening of a 1,000 m2 Deep Nature Spa, offering treatments and many relaxation rooms. The village is completely "ski in–ski out" and the hotels and apartments have by far the highest standard and comfort level in Les Arcs. In fact even compared to the vast majority of the French ski resorts (1950 was voted "the best place to stay in the Alps by Ski Club of Great Britain 2007). Intrawest sold the lodging operation in October 2009 to Pierre & Vacances which is creating a new "Premium" brand with Arc 1950 taking a lead. In addition Radisson Blu have Arc 1950 as their Premium ski resort.
A majority of owners at 1950 are part of the Arc 1950 Owners' Association.
Arc 1950 and 2000 have virtually the same access to the mountain. Given the altitude this is the most snow safe part (also in terms of quality of the snow) of Les Arcs and also presents numerous "powder" opportunities after a snowfall.
With a cable to 1950 and free shuttle buses to all of the other villages, Les Arcs' highest station has more than adequate transport links. It has a wide selection of shops, a cinema screen and meeting facilities. Being the highest it often has the best snow, although the nursery slopes above 2000 have a reputation for being crowded, and there aren't so many tree-lined pistes for when the weather gets bad. The Varet gondola is a quick way to get up to the higher parts of the resort and there is also a new selection of six-seater chairlifts including Arcabulle, Bois de l'ors and Marmottes to quickly ship you to the different sides of the mountain. Arc 2000 is well known for hosting speed skiing (not for the fainthearted) and other events over the course of the season.
At the other end, across the valley from Sainte-Foy-Tarentaise, are the villages of Le Pre and Villaroger. A continuous run with 2100 metres vertical drop links Aiguille Rouge to Le Pre, Villaroger and although rather low at 1200 Villaroger can be reached for most of the season given artificial snow and it is north facing. Administratively these villages are not part of the Les Arcs ski domain, but are seamlessly linked. Their ski area is largely wooded, but with some open slopes above. This can provide especially good skiing when fresh snow has fallen or a welcome relief when the weather is windy or bad. Three lifts take skiers back from Villaroger into the 2000 bowl. In high winds, the top lift may be shut, making this side inaccessible except to those on the Villaroger side.
Within the Tarentaise Valley you find the biggest concentration of world-class ski resorts in the world. Most well known neighbour systems are Espace Killy (Val d'Isère and Tignes), Les Trois Vallées (Courchevel, Meribel, Val Thorens, Sainte Foy and La Rosiere (which connects to the Italian resort of La Thuile). A weekly lift ticket in Les Arcs/Paradiski gives you a choice to ski one day in each of the other systems mentioned either for free or for a reduced rate of 15 euros. There were once plans to interlink all systems and resorts to create the—by far—largest ski area in the world. However that vision was ended with the creation of the Vanoise National Park.
The piste network in Les Arcs is fairly dense, and off-piste opportunities are numerous. With a guide, though, some big adventures are possible. Particularly recommended are off the back of the Aiguille Rouge down to Villaroger, or off the back of the Bellecote glacier (from La Plagne) down to Nancroix valley, just below Peisey, which is linked by free shuttle bus. It is advised that both routes be only attempted with a guide and appropriate avalanche equipment. Off-piste routes from Tignes to the Les Arcs area are also possible. You find very good descriptions of the possibilities in the book "Les clés de Paradiski" by Didier Givois (in French but with summaries in English).
Pickup for Heliskiing by Jet Systems can be arranged between Arc 1950 and Arc 2000. Heliskiing is banned in France, and so the destination will be Italy or Switzerland. The aircraft used is the Eurocopter Ecureuil.
Mountain biking is becoming an ever more popular activity in summer with parts of the lift network opening throughout the months of July and August. There are around 10 marked VTT routes detailed on the summer piste map. Several mountain bike holiday companies operate in the area. Arc 1950 has also hosted Tour de France.
- 1992 Winter Olympics official report. pp. 96–99.
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