The slopes

  • Extent 3 out of 5
  • Fast lifts 4 out of 5
  • Snow 4 out of 5
  • Queues 3 out of 5
  • Terrain p'ks 4 out of 5
  • Expert 5 out of 5
  • Intermediate 4 out of 5
  • Beginner 3 out of 5
  • Boarder 4 out of 5
  • X-country 2 out of 5
  • Restaurants 3 out of 5
  • Schools 4 out of 5
  • Families 4 out of 5

The resort

  • Resort charm 2 out of 5
  • Convenience 4 out of 5
  • Scenery 3 out of 5
  • Eating out 3 out of 5
  • Apres ski 2 out of 5
  • Off-slope 1 out of 5

Key facts

Resort1600-2120 m
Slopes1200-3225 m
Lifts51
Pistes200 km
Price index105

Les Arcs

France

Arc 2000 and Chalets de l'Arc

The upside

  • Varied slopes – on and off-piste
  • Lots of genuinely challenging skiing
  • Some excellent woodland runs
  • Car-free, mainly convenient villages, including cute 1950
  • Some quiet alternative bases
  • Fast cable car link to La Plagne

The downside

  • Arcs 1600, 1800 and 2000 lack charm, and aren’t the most convenient of resorts either
  • Fairly quiet nightlife
  • Some flat linking runs
  • Accommodation in high villages is nearly all in apartments (though the resort’s first five-star hotel opens in 2000 this season)
  • Latest user reviews

    It has been a while since I last wrote a review of…

    john 25 Jan 2011 

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    News – 2016/17

    Les Arcs is getting its first five-star hotel, the Taj I Mah in Arc 2000 - quite a radical development in a resort where hotels of any kind are rare. It will have all the trimmings you might expect, including a Michelin-starred chef.

    News – 2015/16

    There’s good news for Le Chantel (where a couple of the best residences are set). A new mini cable car now runs to this area from 1800, down the hill, greatly improving evening access to the main resort. And a new six-pack (Carreley) goes from here up to Col des Frettes, on the ridge above, creating a swift new route to Arc 2000.

    Summary

    We’ve always liked Les Arcs’ slopes: they offer long descents, plenty of steep stuff, plenty to keep intermediates happy, plus woods to head to in a storm. And for those who really like to travel on skis, the link to La Plagne takes the amount of skiing into the Three Valleys league.
    We’ve never been keen on the functional main villages. We’re aware that their various architectural styles are highly regarded by some; we’re not among them, but our real objection is to their dreary mall-style shopping centres. Newer Arc 1950 is something else: a resort that’s not only more pleasant to inhabit than the others, but also very conveniently arranged. There are attractive developments on the slopes above Arc 1800. And Peisey-Vallandry is a quiet, attractive and convenient base for exploring the La Plagne ski area as well as this one – right next to the linking cable car. Another option is to stay down in the valley in Bourg-St-Maurice, shuttling up and down to Arc 1600 by funicular railway each day. Each of these options gets its own web page.

    THE RESORT

    Les Arcs is made up of four modern resort units, all purpose-built, traffic-free and apartment-dominated.
    Arcs 1600 and 1800 stand a couple of km apart, roughly at the treeline on a broad, steepish mountainside overlooking the town of Bourg-St-Maurice (covered at the end of this chapter). Both consist mainly of large apartment blocks sitting below their slopes, with some development beside the slopes. 1600 was the first Arc, built at the top of a funicular up from Bourg. 1800 is much the largest Arc, and recently has been expanding up the hillside.
    Quite separate from those two, Arcs 2000 and 1950 are close neighbours on the far side of the mountain ridge, at the bottom of a high, treeless bowl. Arc 2000 consists of half a dozen huge, linked apartment blocks, plus more recently built chalet-style blocks – and now, amazingly, a five-star hotel, the new Taj I Mar. Just below 2000 and linked to it by a very short gondola, the mini-village of Arc 1950 was built from scratch by IntraWest (of Whistler fame) in traditional style, opening its doors in 2003.
    The numbers in the village names relate only loosely to their altitudes. The name ‘Arc 2000’ was dreamt up in the 1960s to evoke the future – the distant millennium; the altitude of the village is actually over 2100m.
    At the southern end of the area is Peisey-Vallandry, from where a cable car links with La Plagne, covered by the Paradiski passes. Even from Arc 1950 you can reach this cable car in 20 minutes. Peisey-Vallandry is described at the end of the chapter. At the northern end of the ski area, at much lower altitude, is the rustic hamlet of Villaroger.
    Day trips by car to Val d’Isère–Tignes are possible. La Rosière and Ste-Foy-Tarentaise are closer. If taking a car, be warned: you have to pay for parking at Arcs 1950 and 2000 – the only free parking is throughout 1600 and before the entrance to 1800. And we hear there is no longer free parking at the valley station of the funicular.

    Village charm

    Head for 1950
    The apartment blocks of Arcs 1600 and 1800 are low-rise, and not hugely intrusive when seen from the slopes. Arc 1600 is set in the trees and has a friendly, small-scale atmosphere. Bigger Arc 1800 has three main parts. Le Charvet and Les Villards are focused on small shopping centres, mostly open-air but still seeming claustrophobic. Big apartment blocks run across and down the mountain. Charmettoger has apartment blocks, too, but also smaller, wood-clad buildings. Le Charvet has recently spread up the hill, and now has an upmarket suburb, Le Chantel.
    Arc 2000 consists of futuristic large blocks with swooping roof lines, plus some large chalet-style blocks.
    Arc 1950 has been designed to be cute; its smaller apartment buildings have been finished in traditional style, and they are clustered around a pleasant, traffic-free square and streets – quite lively at close of play.
    Reporters repeatedly comment on the friendliness of the locals.

    Convenience

    Generally very good
    Arcs 1600 and 1800 offer some very convenient lodgings a few yards from the lifts, but also some that are less convenient than they look – you can walk miles within the apartment buildings to get to (and from) the snow. The central area in Arc 1600 is good for families: uncrowded, compact, and set on even ground. Arc 1800 is more spread out, and some of the best lodgings are up the hill at Le Chantel. Highest of all is the newish Edenarc development. A mini cable car up from 1800 to this area opened for 2015/16, making these high developments less isolated. The main lifts depart from Les Villards. Buses run between 1600 and 1800, linking with the funicular timetable.
    Arc 2000 and Arc 1950 are compact, ski-in/ski-out places, with lifts starting below them as well as above. But getting around Arc 2000 on foot can be quite an effort and we’ve had reports of antiquated elevators out of action frequently. All the bits of Arc 1950 we’ve stayed in or looked at are genuinely ski-in/ski-out (and drive-in/drive-out: you park directly under the apartment buildings, which is a distinct bonus at the start and end of your stay).

    Scenery

    Attractively varied
    Arcs 1600 and 1800, and the slopes, enjoy views across the valley to Mont Blanc. The lower villages enjoy good views along the Nancroix valley and to La Plagne’s splendid north face of Bellecôte. Higher up, Arc 2000 and Arc 1950 sit beneath the Aiguille Rouge, high point of the slopes – great views from the top.

    THE MOUNTAINS

    Les Arcs’ terrain is very varied; it has a good mixture of high, open, snow-sure slopes and lower woodland runs.

    Extent of the slopes

    Well planned and varied
    Our *** rating relates to just the Les Arcs area; the whole Paradiski area easily scores five stars.
    Arc 1600 and Arc 1800 share a west-facing mountainside accessed by fast lifts out of each village and laced with runs down to one or the other. At the southern end is an area of woodland runs above Peisey-Vallandry, with lots of linking runs.
    The newish Mille8 area at the 1800 base is a neat idea – extending the skiing day to 7.30pm in a safe and interesting area with a short winding blue piste, a ‘fun slope’ with obstacles and a powerful gondola lift. It also has a toboggan run, and a new beginner area at the top.
    From various points on the ridge above 1600 and 1800 you can head down into the wide and mainly gentle Arc 2000 bowl. From there, lifts take you to the high points of the area, the Aiguille Rouge and the Grand Col. As well as a variety of steep runs back to Arc 2000, the Aiguille Rouge is the start of an epic black/red run (over 2000m vertical – one of the biggest anywhere – and 7km long) down to the tiny unspoiled village of Villaroger.
    The resort identifies nine black runs and one red as Natur’ runs which means they are never groomed – more about this later. On the lower half of the Aiguille Rouge is a speed-skiing run, used in the Albertville Olympics, which is sometimes open to the public.
    On Thursdays outside high season the First Tracks scheme (10 euros) allows you up the mountain an hour early to ski deserted pistes.

    Fast lifts

    Generally good
    Each of the four main villages and Peisey-Vallandry have fast chair or gondola access to the slopes, and most of the lifts higher up are fast, too. The main irritants now are all in the same area, on the left of the map: the slow chairs above Villaroger and the two chairs up in different directions from Pré-St-Esprit.

    Queues

    Not without problems
    Queues aren’t generally an issue in low season, and peak-time queues are improving. But the lifts above Arc 2000 present problems, especially on sunny days. The Varet gondola to the shoulder of the Aiguille Rouge shifts its queue quickly because it has lifties pulling people out of the queue to fill the cabins – excellent; but the waits can be non-trivial despite this. Queues for the Aiguille Rouge cable car can be serious in clear weather, even in low season, and can be unbearable in peak weeks. The lift dates from 1981, holds only 70 people and shifts only 1100 people an hour; it clearly needs to be replaced by a jumbo. The Arcabulle chair has the potential for ‘five-to-ten-minute waits’. At 1800 the Transarc gondola towards Arc 2000 is queue-prone, especially late in the day; but there are alternative routes, including the new Carreley chair from Le Chantel. At Plan-Peisey, queues for the Peisey chair (and for the Derby higher up) are not unknown, partly because of arrivals on the cable car from La Plagne.

    Terrain parks

    One excellent park
    The Snowpark between Arcs 1600 and 1800, served by a snowboarder-friendly J-bar lift, has for years been one of the most advanced parks in the Alps – on a par with the main park at Avoriaz. There is no half-pipe, but a quarter-pipe. There is a snowcross run below Col de la Chal.
    Snow reliability
    Good – plenty of high runs
    A high percentage of the runs are above 2000m, and when necessary you can stay high by using lifts that start around that altitude. Most of the slopes face roughly west, which is not ideal. Those from the Col de la Chal and the long runs down to Villaroger are north-facing, and the blacks on the Aiguille Rouge are shady enough to keep their snow well.

    For experts

    Challenges on- and off-piste
    Les Arcs has a lot to offer experts – at least when the high lifts are open (the Aiguille Rouge cable car, in particular, is often shut in bad weather).
    The several shady black runs on the Aiguille Rouge, reached mostly from the Varet gondola, are excellent. It’s a shame that a couple of other slopes reached from the cable car are no longer pistes. The runs down to Pré-St-Esprit are good, too, and merit their black classification.
    Most black runs are permanently ungroomed Natur’ runs, which is fine for mogul enthusiasts but in practice means that for large parts of the season few people tackle the blacks. Of course, some steep runs should remain ungroomed – perhaps most – but we think more grooming would be good (not least to give a chance of that ultimate piste delight, deep fresh snow on a steep groomed base). Other resorts strike a better balance.
    Unskiable blacks naturally lead to busy reds. One of the quieter reds (and one of our favourites) is the lower part of the epic Aiguille Rouge-Villaroger run, which has remarkably varying terrain.
    There is also a great deal of off-piste potential. There are steep pitches on the front face of the Aiguille Rouge and secluded runs on the back side, towards Villaroger. A short climb to the Grand Col accesses several routes, including a quite serious couloir and an easier option. From Col de la Chal there is an easy route down towards Nancroix. The wooded slopes above 1600 are another attractive possibility and there are open slopes beside the pistes all over the place.

    For intermediates

    Plenty for all abilities
    It’s an excellent intermediate area, with intimidating terrain pretty much confined to distinct slopes above Arc 2000. But Malgovert, from Les Deux Têtes towards Arc 1600, is a red Natur’ piste and is tricky – it is narrow, as well as mogulled. One particular strength of the area is that most main routes have easy and more difficult alternatives, making it good for mixed-ability groups.
    Strong intermediates shouldn’t shy away from the blacks when in good condition – most are not scarily steep. The long run to Villaroger is very rewarding. The woodland runs at either end of the domain, above Peisey-Vallandry and Villaroger, and the bumpy Cachette red down to 1600, also include some challenges. We especially like the Peisey-Vallandry area: its well-groomed, treelined runs have a very friendly feel and are remarkably uncrowded much of the time, allowing great fast cruising.
    The lower half of the mountainside above 1600/1800 is great for mixed-ability groups, with a choice of routes through the trees.
    Cautious intermediates have plenty of blue cruising terrain. Many of the runs around 2000 are rather bland and prone to overcrowding. Edelweiss is more interesting, with a short red alternative, and takes you to Arc 1950 from Col des Frettes. The blues above 1800 are attractive but also crowded. A blue favourite of ours is Renard, high above Vallandry – usually with excellent snow.
    And, of course, you have the whole of La Plagne’s slopes to explore.

    For beginners

    No long greens
    There are ‘ski tranquille’ beginner zones at each of the three main Arcs, and up the hill on the treeline above Vallandry and Plan-Peisey. There are about 10 free beginner lifts in 1800, 2000 and Villaroger; 1600, which seems to lack them, is in any case a bit steep. Additional chairs are free at weekends – you can buy a points card to use them during the week. Sadly, the resort does not use the valuable green run classification used by most other French resorts. In all sectors there are long, wide blue runs to move on to, and some are gentle enough to be green – eg Forêt down to Vallandry (‘a beginner’s dream’). Much of the Arc 2000 bowl is also great progression territory.

    For boarders

    A pioneering place
    Ever since 1983 when Regis Rolland introduced the sport in the cult film Apocalypse Snow, Les Arcs has been a hot spot for snowboarders. It offers excellent freeriding, and there are plenty of wide-open rolling slopes for intermediates and beginners too, especially at Vallandry and 1800. The terrain park is great and is served by a snowboarder-friendly draglift. Most other lifts are chairs and gondolas. But beware long flat areas – especially at Arc 2000 – and some linking blue runs (you may prefer the wider reds).

    For cross-country

    Very boring locally
    Short trails, mostly on roads, is all you can expect, but the pretty Nancroix valley’s 40km of pleasant trails are accessible by free bus.

    For families

    Convenient choices
    Les Arcs is a good choice for families wanting convenience, with lots of slope-side lodgings. The new Mille8 area at 1800 is a great innovation, giving kids something active to do after they’ve had their tea, and it has an excellent leisure pool at the base as well as skiing and tobogganing. Arc 1950 has a family-friendly layout and also has a good programme of kids’ activities.
    Family specialist tour op Esprit has chalet units in Arc 2000 and in Peisey-Vallandry.

    Blogs, features and news

    Map unavailable.

    The slopes

    • Extent 3 out of 5
    • Fast lifts 4 out of 5
    • Snow 4 out of 5
    • Queues 3 out of 5
    • Terrain p'ks 4 out of 5
    • Expert 5 out of 5
    • Intermediate 4 out of 5
    • Beginner 3 out of 5
    • Boarder 4 out of 5
    • X-country 2 out of 5
    • Restaurants 3 out of 5
    • Schools 4 out of 5
    • Families 4 out of 5

    The resort

    • Resort charm 2 out of 5
    • Convenience 4 out of 5
    • Scenery 3 out of 5
    • Eating out 3 out of 5
    • Apres ski 2 out of 5
    • Off-slope 1 out of 5

    Key facts

    Resort1600-2120 m
    Slopes1200-3225 m
    Lifts51
    Pistes200 km
    Price index105