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Les Arcs
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Les Arcs

By Amy Adejokun Amy Adejokun Section editor

Our Editorial team's advice

Part of 'Paradiski', one of the largest ski areas in Europe, the resort of Les Arcs is composed of 4 sites stretching over the mountain's various slopes; there is Arcs 1600 and 1800 on one side and Arcs 1950 and 2000 on the other. Whichever part you're visiting, though, the slopes and various villages are all accessed on skis. Very Parisian, the resort hosts a clientèle of regular guests who appreciate the friendly, lively atmosphere but also the diversity of the ski area which is suitable for both beginners and experienced skiers alike.

Each site has its own unique identity linked to its history, reflected in its architecture, hotel structures, and ambience. One thing that these villages have in common is that they are all pedestrian-only zones. A quick tour of the horizon:

Arc 1600, a family-friendly resort, was the first to have been created, in 1968. Heritage from the 20th century, it is noted for its avant-garde architecture: buildings with slanted façades to 'bring the mountains into the apartments', the various levels that are accessed via ramps instead of stairs, etc. Famous architect Charlotte Perriand, who has notably worked with Le Corbusier, played a significant role in the design of the resort, both in terms of its external architecture and interior design.

Arc 1800 is a resort divided into 3 villages (Charvet, Villards, and Charmetoge) with the activities and shops centred in Charvet. It is popular with a younger crowd thanks to its festive atmosphere in the bars, nightclubs and bowling alley, which are the places to be once the ski lifts close. Its innovative architecture integrated into the mountain landscape was designed to be in keeping with Arc 1600 in 1972.

Arc 1950 was the last of the Arcs resorts to be built. Entirely created by a Canadian resort developer in 2003, it was recently purchased by Pierre & Vacances Premium. Some call it the "Eurodisney of the mountains' because of its architecture, its shops, and lodgings that all look like they have been made out of papier-mâché. And yet, these chalets located on either side of the main thoroughfare are made out of top-quality wood! In fact, the entirely new buildings offer upscale services, including a charming well-being centre, set in a village-like atmosphere.

Arc 2000, created in 1980, consists of a lower and higher section connected by an elevator, or a moving walkway if you are on skis. Of no real charm, this resort is a collection of tall buildings that attempt to blend in with the mountainous scenery. It includes 4 hotels, including a Club Med, which is the most popular but not the best. This resort, located at a higher altitude than the other resorts and only open in winter, had new constructions added to it in 2010. It is principally aimed at die-hard fans of snow sports (there is even a skating rink in the middle of the resort).

Paradiski< /b>, an area of the Arcs good for skiing, also includes Peisey-Valandry, a small, authentic resort linked to the large and impressive resort of La Plagne, divided into six sites. This ski area boasts almost 250 miles of slopes on which you can practise all kinds of sports, from the traditional to the more modern disciplines like skijoring (you are pulled along by a horse while on skis), speed riding, dog sledding and the latest craze, Rodeo Park, a toboggan slope that is over half a mile long.

To see

The spectacular views of Mont Blanc from Les Arcs 1800 and directly from from the slopes.

In winter, you can visit an ice cave (£3.50). Situated at the top of the slopes, it offers artists the chance to create theme-based sculptures. A unique break between two descents.

Films at the Festival of European Cinema during which more than 50 screenings are organised throughout the entire resort (Arcs 1600, 1800 and 1950). In 2010, the event was held from 11-18 December.

To do

Go skiing in the vast domain.
Have a go on the new toboggan slope (£6).

Take a guided tour of the resort to learn about the layout and architecture of the Arcs.

Take a night-time tour of the resorts by torchlight twice a week (Arcs 1600 and 1800).

Give speed riding a try; similar to paragliding, the skier is pulled along by a sail.

Participate in the free sessions teaching you how to use an avalanche transceiver in Avalanche Park, every Thursday at 2:00pm.

pros

  • +  The varied and wooded skiable area.
  • +  The spectacular views of the Mont Blanc.
  • +  The architectural interest
  • +  No luxury hotels
  • +  The architecture isn't exactly appealing to everyone.

cons

  • -  The architecture won't suit all tastes.
  • -  The questionable quality of the hotels.

To think about

When leaving to go skiing, take a marker with you (sometimes already integrated into your ski jacket) which would allow you to be found in the event of an avalanche.

Always let those travelling with you know where you are going. Moreover, remember to take a drink and some energy bars when heading out, as dehydration occurs more rapidly at altitude and the cold uses up a lot of energy.

Remember to warm up before leaving for a day of skiing and to stop as soon as you feel tired.

To avoid

Wandering around in the mountains, in both summer and winter, outside of the marked trails and ski slopes. The mountains are dangerous and temperamental.
Purchasing a one-week Paradiski pass. It is cheaper to buy passes by the day.

To try

Summer or winter Beaufort, the first being more fruity and fresh, but also Tomme de Savoie, crozet and all of the cheese-based specialities, like tartiflette, fondue, and raclette. There's nothing like it after a good long day out in the fresh air. Afterwards, a small glass of génépi and you're good to go!

To bring back

In Bourg-Saint-Maurice, right next to the train station, you will find the dairy cooperative of Haute-Tarentaise. It's the ideal place for finding a few local specialities to take home with you and for continuing to enjoy the pleasures of the mountains. In the display windows: Beaufort, tome, sausages, and many more 100% natural delicacies!

Génépi liqueur, made in the mountains from flowers that only grow at higher altitudes, is the perfect gift or souvenir to take back with you.
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