The Ski Resort
No one is going to claim that the Les Arcs villages are going to win a beauty contest, but it would be a mistake not to go there just for this reason if you are really into your skiing. The skiing is very good for all levels despite its reputation for being more a beginners and intermediate skiing destination. In fact, we are pretty convinced that the so-called advanced skiers who suggest Les Arcs has no advanced skiing may quite simply never have been! Certainly the runs down (on and off-piste) from the Aiguille Rouge kept our blood pumping as did the runs (and bumps) under the Varet Gondola too. As well as the areas mentioned above, experts have good tree line skiing above Peisey-Vallandry and there is a itinerary route from Malgovert down to ARC 1600. Yes Les Arc is a superb ski area for intermediates, but it is very good for beginners and advanced skiers too! It is also well designed so that most routes have easy and difficult routes down so if you are in a mixed ability group you can ski pretty much together, even if it is a case of meeting at bottom of the ski lifts. Beginners start on the Ski Tranquille nursery slope before progressing to the blues. If we have one small complaint it is the lack of long greens although the blues are not intimidating and relatively easy that beginners progress on to.
In terms of the villages, Les Arcs main developements are high above the funicular that links les Arc to Bourg St Maurice - the last stop for the Eurostar ski trains. The best known is probably Arc 1600 and Arc 2000, the latter being the highest. Arc 2000 is at best described as functional although we are being kind here as it simply half a dozen high-rise apartment blocks. Arc 1600 was built at the top of the Bourg St Maurice funicular and is prettier if not necessarily pretty. Despite these two being better known, Les Arc 1800 is the largest development. Its location is ideal as it is central to the Les Arcs skiing as well as close to Plan Peisey Cable Car that links the Les Arc ski areas with La Plagne. Plan Peissey itself is not an unattractive ski village and is the village that has the spectacular Vanoise Express that spans the wide valley between Les Arc and La Plagne. A double decker cable car the engineering has to be seen to be believed and people with vertigo might want to step into the middle of the car! Whilst well located for La Plagne, it is at the far end of Les Arc and can take time to get across to the main expert skiing under the shadow of the Aiguille Rouge. I guess the jewel in the crown is probably Les Arc 1950. The latest development has learned the lessons of its older neighbours and is a pretty and modern development. It is below 2000 so has right on its doorstep some of the best skiing in the area. It also has a handful of bars and restaurants to keep all but the partying crowd happy.
With the funicular linking visitors to Bourg St Maurice and Les Arcs 1600, it does not get easier than the Eurostar for convenience to the slopes. By road it is 15 to 20 minutes (approximately) as well with the Ski Train arriving twice at weekends (night or day train) from St Pancras (Eurostar).
Off Piste Skiing
It is worth popping over to La Plagne via the Vanoise Express for the run down to Champagny is one of the Chalet Ski teams favourites. Being a predominantly beginners to intermediates ski resort, generally this off-piste run known as the Mont de la Guerre has great powder and is gentle and wide at the top before becoming tree line most of the way down thereafter. Our tip is to make sure you allow enough time to stop for a well earned lunch in the pretty village of Champagny (see Google map right) to round off a great day off-piste.
The Bellecote is however one of the best known off-piste areas and is legendary, if at times a little daunting too to put it mildly. Try telling your friends at the top of one or two of these runs that La Plagne is only a beginners and intermediates ski resort.
If you are looking for a more gentle introduction to off-piste skiing then you may want to try the ski areas below Le Tougne.
The main ski schools in Les Arcs is ESF. Our own experience of ESF has been very good but we have had one or two indifferent reports from visitors.
Snowboarding is excellent in Les Arcs, with good off-piste, through the trees and something on the piste for all levels. The Aiguille Rouge is particularly good for experts and the slopes below the Col de la Chal are great and relatively stable. There are also numerous blues and reds to enjoy on the piste and with a good ski lift system convenient too.