Les Arcs Destination Guide
Villages At Altitude!
Les Arcs is an incredibly popular ski area that, put quite simply, is both convenient and vast. Since the opening in 2003 of the amazing double-decker Vanoise Express cable car (the biggest in the world carrying 200 passengers in each of the two double decker cars) Peisey-Vallandry at the far end of the Les Arcs ski area links to Montchavin/Les Coches in 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 'Les Arcs Express' (formerly 'Arc en Ciel') funicular that whisks you the mile up to resort in just seven minutes and from here there are free navette buses that serve 1800, 1950 and 2000.
Arc 1600, also known as Arc Pierre Blanche, first opened in 1968 and is the smallest of the Arcs resorts, yet is still pretty snow sure and has great kids' clubs too. It has all its own facilities, including underground parking under all the hotel complexes, where you'll be dropped off on your transfer from Geneva, so you can catch the lift straight to reception - no dragging bags through the snow!
Winding further up the road you come to Arc 1800 (or Arc Chantel), which was constructed in 1974 and is now seen as the centre of the cluster of resorts. 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. Designed and built to resemble Whistler resort, it's the newest and most luxurious area in Les Arcs, having opened in 2003. Sitting just below Arc 2000 (which, like Arc 1800 is made up of apartment blocks in a seventies style) 1950 is much chalet style in look and the access to the pistes is superb. 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, with the summit looking down on Arcs 2000 at 3226m, the highest point of the whole resort.
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, being directly linked by lifts. As these resorts are lower down and not car-free, your Mountain Drop-offs transfer from Geneva Airport could well be slightly under three hours and will drop you off at the door of your accommodation.
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 head directly from Geneva airport, Lyon airport or Grenoble airport on a private airport transfer to Les Arcs, making your travelling to and from resort easy, so all you have to worry about is whether you'll find your ski legs or not!
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Geneva to Les Arcs