A very understated ski resort, we think offers fabulous intermediate ski holidays, and also good skiing for experts and beginners, with the ski convenience of the piste never being far away.
Skiing Les Arcs
Les Arcs has some of the best intermediate skiing in the Alps, all at a very reasonable price. Situated in the Paradiski Ski Area, and linked by the equally impressive Vanoise Express to La Plagne, it provides over 400kms of pistes and some very good off-piste too, particularly off the Aiguille Rouge and on the Bellecote the La Plagne side.
With 69 blue pistes and 33 red, the large majority of the reds being on the Les Arcs side, Les Arcs is very good for beginners, and outstanding for intermediates in our opinion. Also, the skiing around l’Arpette and under the Aiguille Grive is great for mixed ability groups as the blues and reds run parallel so some of the party can ski blue whilst others ski red if you so wish whilst then meeting at the next chair after each run.
As for experts, we often hear people suggest that Les Arcs is limited, but this we think is a little harsh as we think it has more to offer than most realize. There are 18 black runs and Aiguille Rouge offers some fabulous off-piste as well as some challenging on piste (black runs) via the Glacier du Varet and Lanchettes, or skiing under the Varet Gondola. Looking down the latter Varet run, and seeing its large and steep moguls that drop down into Les Arcs 2000, trying telling yourself that this is not a good ski resort for experts! A fall here and you will be entertaining visitors coming up the Varet Gondola for a good minute or so!
Les Arcs is made up Arc 1600, 1800,1950, 2000, and Plan Piesey Vallandry, the latter the home of the Vanoise Express that links Les Arcs to La Plagne.
We find it strange that Les Arcs isn’t on more peoples list as the skiing is simply outstanding for intermediates. Yes Arc 1600, 1800 and 2000 are not exactly chocolat box charm or pretty, but1950 and Plan Piesey are attractive, and all offer great ski convenience, located close to the lifts and pistes and are high altitude so boast good snow records too.
The best way to describe Arc 1600 was a seventies experiment that just didn’t quite turn out the wonderful, cool and inspiring lifestyle choice they quite hoped it would become. Arc 1600 isn’t in our opinion ugly like its near neighbour Arc 1800, as it has a little quirky look and feel. This said, it is by no means pretty either!
A few bars and restaurants adorn its streets but these are limited and whilst serving reasonably priced food and drink, they will not set the gastronomic world alight. Practical and convenient, but lacks charm and must do better planners next time (see Arc 1950)!
One of the great myths is that Les Arcs is ugly, and we think this bad press is based on Arc 1800 rather than Les Arcs in totality. Arc 1800 is made up of four developments amongst the forests. The trees are pretty - the buildings are simply not.
If cheap and highly functional, great convenience accommodation is your thing, and chocolate box village charm just doesn’t rate on your agenda, this is the place to go. It also has over 30 bars and restaurants in a relative small space, so if nightlife is important, it might be right up your street.
If you think Les Arcs is ugly, you've certainly have not been to Arc 1950. If you arrive with negative preconceptions of Les Arcs, Arc 1950 will have them transformed rapidly. A combination of one or two old, but the majority mostly new buildings, this is a small village that looks like it has been there centuries with a classic mix of stone, wood and medieval designs (many seem to take reference to the pretty architecture in Annecy down the valley). It has a beautiful church and tower taking centre stage and mixes ski convenience with a charming, modern but tastefully designed centre.
Whilst not extensive, a selection of bars and restaurants are located under the building too and it is one of our favourite locations in the Paradiski Ski region.
Les Arcs 2000 is certainly not going to win a beauty contest, but if high altitude skiing next to the slopes is your thing, then this is the place to be. Strangely, we find it quite striking, perhaps in 70’s way that many see architecture of the art deco 40’s and 50’s! I guess what we mean is we kind of like it, in weird sort of way!
High-rise apartments dominate, and anything other than a small functional apartment are going to be hard to find here. Arc 2000 taught the French much – many would say that lesson was how not to build a purpose built ski resort, but we think this is far too harsh!
Plan Piesey Vallandry
Situated next to the Vanoise Express, it provides good access to La plagne and Les Arcs skiing, although it is at the far end of the latter. The village itself is not large but it is prettier than Arc 1600, 1800 and 1900 with chalets more traditionally designed on the hill.
There are a few bars and restaurants that offer sensibly priced food and drink.
Family Ski Holidays
Les Arcs offers very good family skiing, particularly for families with intermediate skiers looking to progress their skiing. High altitude, and with extensive number of red slopes, there is plenty to keep most families happy, and all at a very reasonable price.
All the resorts are situated with ski convenience in mind with the pistes and lifts typically just a stones throw away from the lifts. A family ski favouritte, the tuition is very much family orientated.
Expert and Off-Piste Skiing and Snowboarding
Not as extensive as some, but good nevertheless. Plenty of off-piste to be had off the Aiguille Rouge and on the Glacier du Varet for skiers with the appropriate competencies.
One of the most famous runs is the Mont de la Guerre that takes you into Champagny. A great introduction to off-piste with any guide, it starts off nice and wide and eases you into the flow as you head lower into the trees before a fantastic dinner at the bottom.
For the ultimate day out for the fit and adventurous is to find a good guide and check out the Couloir du Canadian on the Bellecote on the La Plagne side. But before you do, it involves a good hike to get to it and it starts off at 45 degrees and is over 1.5km long – you have been warned!
Les Arcs Mountain Restaurants
To find great restaurants in Les you have to look jut that little bit harder than some of the high end luxury ski resort neighbours, but if you do, you’ll find them generally very reasonably priced and serving great French food too.
First on the list has to be Chalet de l’Arcelle which is accessed via the Combettes ski slope opposite the ESF Ski School building in Arc 1600. Both the lamb and the roti de boeuf (roast beef) are highly recommended.
Next on the list has to be the Belliou La Fumee that is found at the bottom of the Pre Saint Esprit chair lift. Rustic farmhouse charm is combined with very well prepared French cooking.By Les Arcs standards it is far from the cheapest, but then you are getting a lunch to die for in a superb mountain ambience. Booking is highly recommended and this is required in person either the day before or early morning before its too late.
Chez Clarisse is a fabulous little restaurant just above Arc 1800 off the side of the piste. The menu is predominantly traditional Savoyard, with salads a must, even if you don’t think you like them (they will change your mind). Popular and limited dining when the weather limits external space so booking in advance recommended.
Steak lovers can be found at Benji’s. Gastronomic experience no, but if you like steak and and blue cheese you’ll love the steak with Roquefort sauce. A popular bar with the English and in particular families and younger revelers.
One of the early pioneering resorts for snowboarders and freestylers, you won’t be surprised to find that Les Arcs has one of the best parks in the Alps. Half pipe, nine kickers and eight rails varying in difficulty (blue, red and black) it can be accessed via the Arpette ski lift just above Arc 1600 and Arc 1800.
Evolution 2 and ESF are the main ski schools in Les Arcs. Privilege Ecole de Ski also operate in Les Arcs.
The après-ski is reasonable in Les Arcs despite the fact that many expect it to be relatively quiet. Arc 1800 is the liveliest of the four and the Red Hot Saloon tops the bill for starters where a combination of live music and DJs get the party going from 4pm onwards. La Gabotte in Arc 1800 is also a popular bar after skiing with English, Swedish and skiers and snowboarders from the Netherlands.
Perfectly located on the slopes, Arc 1950 grows year on year in terms of popularity, as does its après-ski. Most dive into the Irish bar Le Belle Pinte but there are several other bars to choose from.
Plan Piesey is a relatively quieter affair compared to Arc 1800 although the Mont Blanc Bar gets busy and has great views across the valley towards La Plagne, and a relatively lively ambience most nights.
Les Arcs Restaurants
Arc 1800 visitors may want to head to Chalet de Candice where the Gratin and breast of duck is beautifully cooked and was loved by all the family.
Table de Lys is a must visit restaurant for any Les Arcs visitors. Situated in Arc 1950, our favourite Les Arcs village, the interior may be a little too Parisian in styling, but it makes up for this by offering superb French food that borders on Michelin Star status. The beef and brown jus it comes with is to die for, then again so is the escallops with foam
Le Savoy in Arc 2000 offers some nice dishes and the conFrom the outside it won’t send the heart racing, but once inside you will find a pleasantly welcoming interior with wood panels, and beams lining the ceiling.
The place to party has to be Arc 2000’s Apokalypse with three floors and music played well into the morning. Arc 1950 has the Le Club 1950 which is building a reputation for itself as the town grows year on year. If you are staying in Arc 2000 and you don’t fancy venturing down, the KL92 will keep
Getting Around The Valley
One of the great benefits of Les Arcs, with all the villages being purpose built, is everything is conveniently located. The pistes are at best a short stroll, the shops, restaurants and bars also. This said, a free bus service does link them all together, should you need it.
The Piste de Luge at the Rodeo Park is a popular afternoon activity with adults and families. Or for a more sedate experience the Grotte de Glace is a favourite with children and many adults alike. Situated at the top of the Transarc Gondola you will find fabulous sculptured carved in ice. There is also an outdoor ice rink (Arc 2000), husky sleigh rides, snow shoeing, paragliding and snowmobiles.
Below Les Arcs in Bourg St Maurice there is an indoor 25m swimming pool.
Les Arcs is made up of Plan Piesey Vallandry, Arc 1600, Arc 1800, Arc 1950, and Arc 2000 villages. Located just above Bourg St Maurice, it is just a 20 minute drive from the Eurostar and SNCF Train station. The nearest airports are Chambery Airport is 1 hours 40 minutes, Lyon Airport 2 hours 20 minutes and Geneva 2 hours 30 minutes (transfer times vary depending on road conditions).