Les Arcs Ski Resort Guide
Developed predominantly in the 1960s and 1970s, Les Arcs has spread out over the years to encompass 6 ski resorts admired for their innovation and commitment to outdoor activities. With names relating roughly (although not exactly) to their varying altitudes Les Arcs villages share a common local ski area which is varied enough to keep all levels of skier interested. However the opening of the Vanoise Express cable car in 2003 and its links to the neighbouring resort of La Plagne more than doubled the skiable terrain and really got this resort noticed.
Arc 1600 was created as a purpose-built French ski resort, quickly followed by Arc 1800 and Arc 2000. All were designed at a time when large apartment blocks were the most popular form of accommodation. As such they are convenient and largely traffic-free, but aren’t likely to be featured on a list of the most beautiful ski resorts.
The trend of high-rise building changed with the creation of Arc 1950 in 2003 though. Built as a completely new area sitting just below Arc 2000, American company Intrawest designed an upmarket complex with more boutique accommodation and spa access for every resident. The clever layout means every door is practically ski-in and ski-out, and no shop, restaurant or bar is ever more than a few minutes walk away for everyone.
Peisey-Vallandry and Villaroger also technically count as part of Les Arcs, but they are set further away with few practical links after the pistes close for the night. Both are quieter villages with more chalet-style accommodation.
Although not as well-known as some other resorts in its immediate vicinity like Val d’Isere or Meribel, Les Arcs has garnered a positive reputation as a family-friendly resort with mainly low-cost self-catering accommodation and a friendly atmosphere. There isn’t a huge apres-ski or nightlife scene here, but what does exist is centred around Arc 1800.
Transport routes to Les Arcs are convenient, with most international holiday-makers flying in to Geneva airport and taking one of the numerous private or shared transfers from there. Recent high speed rail improvements and links do mean that Les Arcs is the only resort in which pedestrians can leave London and arrive in resort without using a car or bus though. The Eurostar service delivers passengers right to Bourg St Maurice, where the funicular train will take them on to Arc 1600 in just 7 minutes.
Skiing in Les Arcs
Les Arcs features a good amount of varied ski terrain which is easily accessible and can be enjoyed by every level of skier and snowboarder. The lift system around the villages is mostly quick and well planned, with easy access from all points. Beginner and child-friendly slopes spread out from the resort which allows progression to intermediate blue and red pistes the further out you go.
There are 200km of local pistes which will be enjoyed by intermediate skiers and snowboarders. The majority of runs are over the 2,000m mark which means good snow reliability, while tree-lined pistes lower down give good cover during bad weather. Those looking for more challenging terrain won’t be disappointed either with steep, ungroomed black runs found above Arc 2000 for those who want them.
Les Arcs also benefits from being part of the Paradiski area along with its neighbour La Plagne. The double decker Vanoise Express cable car stretched over the valley and is an experience itself. It also provides access to over double the amount of skiing in the 425km of pistes which make up the Paradiski area. Additionally, there is plenty of off-piste and freeriding to be found across the whole area when conditions are right.