- Highest Point: 3,226m
- Descent: 2,026m
- No. lifts: 128
- Lift Pass: 1 Day - €60 / 6 Days - €269
As part of the Paradiski area with over 425 km of pistes, there is some incredible terrain accessible from the four villages of Les Arcs – 1600, 1800, 1950 and 2000 – and the cheaper town of Bourg St Maurice. This resort can get really busy in holiday periods, but it largely manages to soak up the crowds with the sheer number of pistes catering for groups of all abilities. The other side of the massive Vanoise Express Lift, built in 2003, links the area to La Plagne. Although it’s a bit of a trek this can access a lot of great freeriding areas once you have exhausted the huge playground of Les Arcs.
All the villages are relatively separate and have fairly distinct identities: 1600 has quieter chalets nestled in the trees, 1800 is the livelier party place, 2000 is isolated and ugly but has the best access to great terrain. 1950, built by Intrawest (the company that owns Whistler and Stratton Mountain) is expensive but modern and by far the prettiest, with a 60-metre high waterfall as a backdrop. Les Arcs can provide fairly cheap self-catering holidays, with some great pistes, a decent park and some amazing freeriding. Which explains why it still remains one of the most popular destinations with British tourists.
Last season they did quite a bit of work to 1600 - the Mont Blanc chair was replaced with a spanking new 6 seater, which cut the journey times down by a half, and they carried out various piste improvements.
The Parks - 4/5
The Apocalypse Park has undergone some recent renovation, with an extension of the draglift and creation of an underpass providing the main access to the intermediate and beginner kicker- and rail lines. This has allowed a safe new drop-in area to the side of the lift, meaning that speed is no longer an issue for the line of three advanced black kickers. To the right of these is a line of three or four red intermediate kickers, perfectly shaped to allow more airtime for practising rotations. Next to these are smaller blue beginner kickers and two lines of boxes, rainbows and rails.
"Though it’s not huge, it’s one of the better parks in the French Alps"
There is a stair set jib section just in front of the chill out zone, and an air bag at the bottom of the park. Overall the park provides a great balance, with the progression from beginner to intermediate to advanced features well-judged. It’s well shaped (there are rarely speed issues) and well maintained, and though it’s not huge, it’s one of the better parks in the French Alps.
The Powder - 4/5
There is a massive variety of off-piste available in Les Arcs, and due to the high percentage of families skiing here, if you are up and about early, you can get some great first tracks. If it’s dumping and flat light, head over to the easy tree runs above the Peisey-Vallandry lifts, or just above 1600. On clearer days go under the Varet bubble or to the right of the Lanchette chair in 2000, where there are some steep and open faces. You can find some great cliffs in the ‘rock garden’ around the Deux Tetes in 1600.
A hike of 40 minutes to Aguille Grive from the main Transarc bubble gives advanced riders access to some great couloir lines into the open bowls and kicker spots above 1800. But be warned, these tend to catch the sun most of the day and are prone to slides – so if you’re heading that way make sure you’re up early and out before noon. If you’re feeling adventurous (and have most of a day to spare) there’s the epic North Face run which starts at the top of the Bellecote glacier in La Plagne and runs all the way down to Nancroix. You can make the descent as gnarly or as mellow as you like depending on which part of the face you drop into, but it’s worth taking a guide so you know what you’re getting!
There’s also an amazing valley run through the National Park off the back of the Aiguille Rouge that goes all the way down to Villaroger, but you have to attend a course on the local wildlife in Arc 1600 to obtain a pass. Understandably, pisteurs love the opportunity to chase you down the run, and they’ll fine you £100 if you’re caught – so it’s worth doing the course and taking a local guide.
The Pistes - 5/5
Most of the time, even if the resort is full, the wide-open groomed runs of Les Arcs feel fairly uncrowded.
Beginners can try the area above Arcs 1800 next to the Chantel lift, the quieter areas of Peisey-Vallandry or the large motorway runs around Arcs 2000 – although be warned there are a few flat spots. Most lifts in the area have intermediate access available from them, and there are some great carving runs above Arcs 1800.
From the 3000m-high glacier you can take the Aiguille Rouge run, a 2000-metre descent over 7km to Villaroger! Or speed freaks can try their hand at the Flying Kilometre, the Bellette or the Myrtille runs. And of course, if you get bored of all that you can always cross over and start all over again in La Plagne…
How To Get There
Les Arcs is approximately three hours from Geneva Airport.
The Parties - 3/5
Although not the nightlife capital of the wintersports world, Les Arcs has its fair share of bars in each village. The Mont Blanc Bar in Vallandry is predominantly British – with a good happy hour and Sky Sports, it’s home to tourists and seasonaires alike.
"The Crazy Fox and Latino Loco are busier late-night options"
Try Chalet Luigi in 1950 for a great bar with a club downstairs, or Bar des Montagnes in the Hotel Chachette in Arc 1600. Arc 2000, although isolated, has some nightlife action, with Red Rock great for après. The Crazy Fox and Latino Loco are busier late-night options. Oh, and KL92 is one of the worst nightclubs you could ever set foot in, but at 3am what choice do you have?
It is really Arc 1800 that has the liveliest reputation and widest selection of nightlife options, with the Red Hot Saloon providing live music and drunken dance floor antics well into the night. L’Ambiente and Benji’s have themed nights popular with seasonaires. And when the bars kick out the last punters, most people end up in the Apokalypse nightclub.
If you need a bit of R&R to recover from the previous night's excess, then book yourself into the fancy new spa at 1950 - incidentally, at 1,000 square metres it is reputedly the largest in the Alps.