Resort Profile: Les Arcs
29 Nov '12 at 16:27
Though the architecture of Les Arcs has much to be desired, with its giant ocean liner sized apartment blocks and it has become known as a family orientated resort, you should never rule it out as somewhere to go and do a season. It has some stunning off piste, and thanks to its link with La Plagne, you will have access to one of Europe’s largest ski areas.
Les Arcs is actually a dispersed collection of villages at varying altitudes; Arcs 2000, 1950, 1600 and 1800 and you could also count the charming Peisey-Vallandry as a part of it. They all differ in their atmospheres and their pistes etc, but they really are all great fun.
On the Slopes
There are some cracking slopes that vary from vast wide open pistes to some really challenging mogul runs. If moguls are your cup of tea then you should most certainly give the Grand Col a go, this is a very challenging run which can, at times, play host to some huge moguls.
If you are a fan of speed then you are in luck. Les Arcs is built for speed. If you are in need of a real adrenaline kick then you can rent the correct gear to have a go on the Flying Kilometre. However, you may fancy something a little less lethal, and therefore the long wide reds above Vallandry will most probably be more your thing. Alternatively, if it's not too busy you can do the top-to-bottom from the top of the Aiguille Rouge to the Bottom of the Comborciere chair.
The main snowpark in the resort is the Apocolypse park above Arc1600. There is a variety of kickers, rails and boxes and a wall and also a bordercross run. There is a hut at the bottom where you can sit and have lunch, sunbathe and listen to the music. Unfortunately although this park is named as one of the best in Europe there is no drag lift, you have to use a slow 2 man chair which often has a queue during busy weeks. It has to be said that this park is kept in pristine condition until the last day of the season.
There's a natural quarterpipe whcih is in Les Arc 2000 but if you're looking for a more serious half pipe you can travel to La Plagne, but there is often a small rail park conveniently placed on the piste just below the top of the Grizzly chairlift.
Although not as big as other resorts, there is massive variety - from easy tree skiing all round Vallandry and 1600, to cliff hopping in the 'rock garden' around the Deux Tetes in 1600, to big, steep and scary from the top of the Aiguille Rouge. Plus if it's flat light or snowing, the trees mean you can still see where you're going, and with lots of families, there's less competition for first tracks!
Under the Varet bubble and to the right of the Lanchette chair, both in Arc 2000, are where they held the freeride competition, and are relatively safe places to start - quite steep, and in full view if you're not too sure where you're going! Slopes above 1800 are in the sun all afternoon and prone to sliding, as is the Aguille Grive (40minute hike from top of transarc), which is one of the best off-piste runs in the resort.
Anything off the back of the Aiguille Rouge and above Villaroger is National Park and if you're in there without a pisteur or chicken pass (available by attending a course in local wildlife in Arc 1600), you'll be fined £100. Not idle threat either as it gives Pisteurs an excuse to ski over there and chase you!
Living in Resort
As previously mentioned the resort is spread over a number of villages which are all different and special in their own ways. Let’s go through the bars and clubs first...
Bars and Clubs
Les Arcs 2000
Whistlers Dream is a bar with great DJs and pool. It has a cracking seasonaire atmosphere and is well worth checking out if you are staying nearby. The Red Rock is another top venue that has a reputation for brilliant après sessions and also has great food and late night dancing.
The Crazy Fox is located within the Altitude apartments and is very French, but is also very fun.
Latino Loco is Without a doubt the best bar in 2000, fantastic fajitas and Vince (Manager) is a real personality. KL92 is one of the worst nightclubs you will ever go to - but so much fun!
The Bar Mont Blanc is one of the best bars in the area, if not the best. Great atmosphere, great staff, brilliant live music and good food too. It also shows the football and has pool tables as well as some other cool events - including board testing - throughout the season. Jimmy’s and Maxima are also worth a mention, but if you are heading to Vallandry, then you are best off going straight to Bar Mont Blanc.
Les Arcs 1950
Chalet Luigi is a smart bar that is a short bubble ride down from 2000. It has a disco downstairs for those who want to hike back up the piste!
Les Arcs 1800
1800 has the liveliest reputation and certainly the widest selection when it comes to nightlife. The Red Hot Saloon is the biggest and liveliest bar with a big dance floor, great staff, and good live bands. BKM is pretty much next door and is also well worth visiting. The owners are ace and they show the football. Also, if you fancy a good pizza, then BKM is well worth a stop. Once you have stumbled out of any of the bars in 1800, you usually have a decision to make. Do you, go home to bed or do you head to Apokalypse? if you choose the latter then you have made the right decision. Apokalypse is a chaotic and strange nightclub that must be experienced.
With easy access to Bourg St Maurice via the Funicular, Les Arcs is a great starting point for away days. Public buses run to Tignes, Val D'Isere, the Three Valleys and La Plagne. You can also get trains along the Valley including stops at Aime and Moutiers. Tour Operators can also organise trips to gems such as Saint Foi. Further afield, Geneva, Lyon, and Annecy are all pretty easy to get to.
Bourg St Maurice has pretty much anything - from electrical goods, to DIY stuff, to huge supermarkets - all of which are cheaper than in resort. As far as winter sports equipment goes there are a few shops to choose from. The old favorite, Tip Top (in Bourg St Maurice and Arcs 1800) is popular although a little expensive and there is no seasonnaire discount. There are a couple of newer shops. Bazoom is opposite the train station and is a ‘lifestyle’ shop that provides wintersports equipment to buy and rent and also has a bar and restaurant, ideal for a beer before the train leaves for Waterloo! T
As Les Arcs is very French and mainly geared to self-catering, choice is limited. The Mountain Café does amazing burgers and tex-mex and has a great atmosphere - ideal for post powder day wind down. La Santaline is the best of the local specialty restaurants, The Jungle Café does goods salads and lasagne, and Mamie Crepe is a great place to sit outside on a sunny afternoon. In Arcs 1950 there is a great Asian restaurant called East open for lunch and dinner. Over in Vallandry there is the Bar Mont Blanc which serves varied menus including mid-afternoon tapas and great burgers. La Vache in Plan Peisey is another place that is a must visit, amazing food, wonderful staff and a beautiful location all add up to make La Vache one of the area’s most charming resorts.
Bourg St Maurice station is only 30 minutes away, so Les Arcs is always popular for train arrivals. Most of the tour operators do transfers to either Lyon (3hrs) or Geneva (3 ½ hours) or both. Chambery airport is now a popular airport for access to Les Arcs as it is only 1hr 30mins away and many low budget airlines now service it.
Arc 1800 is a good central resort within Les Arcs and Vallandry has the advantage of being the closest resort to La Plagne because of the Vanoise Express. There are many small, individual chalet companies here and some good bars, shops and restaurants. It is a charming, rustic French village, smaller, but with the same size community of English speaking seasonnaires as Arc 1800.
Arcs 1600 and 2000 are much of a much-ness - great location for getting straight out to the best skiing, but suffering on the Architectural side. However, they're both cheaper to live in and less temptation to go out all the time! And Café Sol in Arc 1600 is great! You can just about walk between 1600 and 1800, but Arc 2000 is 15km away. There is a bus service that runs between all of the Arcs. Bourg St Maurice has a community of seasonnaires – French and English - who commute on the funicular, accommodation prices are cheaper.
[Thanks to Lauren Little for putting most of this Guide together]