Your guide to Les Arcs
Les Arcs is an incredibly popular ski area that, put quite simply, is both convenient and vast. Since the opening of the amazing double-decker Vanoise Express cable car, Les Arcs links to La Plagne to create the huge Paradiski Ski area.
Les Arcs is actually made up of purpose-built mini resorts coupled with traditional villages and towns on the outskirts. The market town of Bourg St Maurice is at the bottom of the valley and is linked directly to the first ski area of Arc 1600 by the efficient 'Arc en Ciel' funicular that whisks you the mile up to resort in just seven minutes.
Arc 1600 first opened in 1968 and is the smallest of the Arcs resorts, yet is still pretty snow sure and has all its own facilities. Winding further up the road you come to Arc 1800. This is the largest development in Les Arcs and, if you're an architecture fan, you'll see the likeness of the cubic style to that of legendary architect Corbusier. Arc 1800 is divided into four areas, namely Charvet, Villards, Charmettoger and Chantel.
The buildings in Arc 1800 might not be to your taste, but it's SO well-planned. Access to lifts and pistes is easy, it's truly ski in, ski out and there are loads of shops, bars, restaurants and leisure facilities for you.
Further over towards the east side of the resort, Arc 1950 sets a very different tone. Deisgned and built to resemble Whistler resort, it's the newest and most luxurious area in Les Arcs. Sitting just below Arc 2000 (which, like Arc 1800 is made up of apartment blocks in a seventies style) access to the pistes is superb and there's an even a free gondola lift (the Cabriolet) to link skiers and pedestrians direct to Arc 2000.
In Arc 2000 it's a different ball game. Completely self-sufficient with shops, cinema, bars and restaurants, this hamlet, which hosted speed skiing in the 1992 Winter Olympics, is definitely one for the serious skiers. The climate can be quite wild and at 2000m altitude you'll be walking in snow all season, but this does mean the best access to the pistes and the legendary Aiguille Rouge area.
If you're looking for a more authentic holiday experience in the Les Arcs area, you can look to stay in Villaroger, Vallandry or Plan Peisey, which are villages on the extremities of Les Arcs, but still offering easy access to the domain.
The icing on the cake with Les Arcs is the fact that it's so convenient. An ultra-modern lift system with very few drag lifts (we can hear snowboarders breathe a sigh of relief!), truly ski in/ski out accommodation everywhere, wide open motorway pistes, excellent snow parks and plenty of hidden off piste to devour too.
So where's the catch? The only thing that grates with us is the fact that Les Arcs is a closed ski resort. By that we mean that as soon as you arrive at Arc 1800, you have to go through the 'Porte de Station' entrance area to get into Arc 1800, 1950 and 2000.
This means you are obliged to pay for parking, whether it's on the side of the road or in a municipal underground car park. Rates for a week are anything from 65 to 80€, which is another cost to bear in mind. Some residences and hotels have their own private parking, but guests still have to head to the welcome chalet to get their parking validated.
So our advice is to leave the car and either head directly from Geneva airport, Lyon airport or Grenoble airports on a private airport transfer to Les Arcs, or even use the train to Bourg St Maurice and then the Arc en Ciel funicular. Once in Les Arcs, there are shuttle buses between resorts from 07:30 to 21:00 each day. Easy.
Fun on and off the pistes of Les Arcs
* Go sledging in the Rodeo Park on the Col de la Chal at 2600m above resort. The sledge run is a seriously adrenaline-inducing 3km long and costs 7,50€ per run, with sledge and helmet included. For over 12s only and access is via TransArc or Arcabulle lifts. Open every afternoon Sunday to Thursday inclusive
* Try the speed test next to the Plagnettes chair lift, where you'll find a proper downhill, skis flat, poles tucked under ski run with electronic timing that'll show you your time at the end of the run. The record is an eye-wateringly fast 251.4km/h!
* Dare to do the water slide! Right in front of the Altiport restaurant on the Clair Blanc piste you'll find a water slide dug into the snow from March onwards. At 15m long and 50cm deep, you'll need some guts else you'll get sopping wet!
* Enjoy night skiing every week during the season on Thursdays until 19:00 in Arc 1600 and 1800, then every Tuesday and Thursday in Arc 1950/2000. There's even free vin chaud and hot choc to keep you warm!
* Visit the Beaufort cheese factory. Nothing beats a creamy Beaufort cheese made by happy cows grazing in the alpine meadows around Bourg St Maurice and Les Arcs and now you can go and see where it's made at the Co-operative dairy
* Check out the L'Or Vert tea and coffee factory. Enjoy a serious caffeine boost with a look round this unusual museum and factory in Bourg St Maurice. You can also spend your euros in the visitors shop which is full of aromatic coffees and teas from around the world
Useful information website for Les Arcs
- Les Arcs tourist office - the official website for all the ski areas in Les Arcs
- Arc 1950 - the very swish official site for the newest resort in Les Arcs
- ESF Les Arcs 1600 - ESF Les Arcs 1800 - ESF Les Arcs 1950/2000 - the websites for all three Ecole de Ski Francais ski schools in Les Arcs
- Paradiski - the official website for the linked ski areas of Les Arcs and La Plagne that make up Paradiski, the largest ski area in Europe
- Snow-forecast Les Arcs - a really useful website with a six day forecast so you can check the snow conditions in resort
- Online reservation centre - run by Les Arcs tourist office, you can reserve your accommodation online
- Les Arcs ski holiday deals - the full ski holiday package to Les Arcs from Neilson with flights, transfers and accommodation included