Three fabulous days skiing under blue skies in Les Arcs

25th March 2018, by Dave Watts

The packed powder on the pistes was delightful – more like cold January snow than the usual late-March spring snow

The packed powder on the pistes was delightful – more like cold January snow than the usual late-March spring snow

I have just spent three days based in Arc 1950 village in Les Arcs ski area.

The weather was wonderful – bluebird skies and cold enough to keep the snow in mid-winter rather than spring condition.

The huge buildings of Arc 2000 in front and the smaller, friendlier ones of Arc 1950 behind

Arc 1950 has grown substantially since I last stayed there several years ago. I stayed in the newest residence, the Manoir Savoie apartments, which had hotel style 24-hour staffing at reception. My one bedroom, one living room billet was excellent and spacious and there was a good (though rather crowded) spa with outdoor swimming pool and indoor hot tub, sauna and steam room. The views of Mont Blanc from some of the rooms (and from just outside the front door – see photo) were stupendous.

Mont Blanc in the late afternoon sun, seen from in front of the Manoir Savoie apartments that Dave stayed in

The village itself has several restaurants and bars (I can recommend the Table de Lys, where I had delicious king prawns in garlic) and the small, cosy, confortable O’Chaud bar. It also has a Deep Nature Spa, with indoor pool seemingly carved out of the mountain, saunas, steam room and various treatments on offer.

Arc 1950 was purpose-built by Intrawest in a sort of Disneyland version of Savoie buildings in the early years of this century; but it works very well and the traffic-free streets are pleasant to stroll around. It is certainly my choice of the Les Arcs villages to stay in.

The last rays of sunshine hit Arc 1950

During my stay I skied pretty much all of Les Arcs pistes, except for the black runs. I love groomed black runs but Les Arcs has a policy of not grooming many of them (marked ‘Natur’ on the piste map) and I didn’t see a single groomed black on my visit – all were big mogul fields.

But the reds and blues were excellent. My favourites were the reds through the trees in the Peisey-Vallandry sector: well groomed, wide and relatively quiet compared with runs in the 1600, 1800, and 2000 sectors.

There’s a lot of excellent off-piste to be explored with a guide too.

The Les Arcs ski area is quite a complicated one to find your way around because of the number of different sectors and lots of traverses linking them. But it was made much simpler by the excellent signposting system at nearly every junction.

The excellent signposting makes finding your way around very easy

The Vanoise Express double-decker cable car whisks 200 people between Les Arcs and La Plagne in less than four minutes

I spent a day over in La Plagne, which is remarkably easy to reach using the Vanoise Express double-decker cable car. I caught the first lift out of Arc 1950 at 9.15am (why don’t they open earlier I wonder) and was at Roche de Mio, high in the La Plagne ski area at 11am, after taking time out to ski a lovely treelined red run down to Les Coches. I was intending to catch the gondola up to the Bellecôte glacier. Sadly, there was a huge queue (see photo).

The queue for the gondola for La Plagne’s Bellecôte glacier at 11am

So I decided to explore the rest of the La Plagne slopes instead. My favourite area was the Champagny sector, with long, varied runs from the top lifts on both sides of the valley.

My final day saw me back in the Les Arcs ski area, where I caught the first (10.30am – why so late?) and last (4.30pm) cable cars up to the 3226m highpoint of Aiguille Rouge. The snow here was truly tremendous. It’s just a shame that a lot of the piste skiing from here is on narrow tracks rather than wide pistes. But I roamed far and wide in between, down towards Villaroger at one end of the ski area and to Peisey-Vallandry at the other taking in runs in 1800 and 1600 on the way.

One of the best blue runs in the area is Mont Blanc down to Arc 1800 – it’s a bit out the way, so often quiet, and a lovely wide easy cruise. Quite a contrast to many of the blues in Les Arcs which tend to be narrow, or simply tracks across the mountain.

The blue Mont Blanc run is gentle and quiet. The huge building in the pic is a new Club Med due to open in December 2019

Near the bottom of Mont Blanc I saw a huge building which I took to be one of Arc 1800’s original monstrous blocks. But no. It was a new building and still under construction. It will open in December 2019 as a new Club Med, with over 1,000 beds. This will be the third Club Med in the Les Arcs ski area.
It was a great day and I racked up nearly 8000m vertical, despite stopping for a lengthy lunch including delicious confit de canard at the spectacular Le Lodge restaurant, built a few years ago with floor to ceiling windows above Arc 1800.

Next stop: La Rosière. Watch for my blog from there plus associated news story.

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