An Introduction & guide to Les Arcs
Les Arcs is part of the famous Paradiski ski area which combines the ski areas of both Les Arcs & neighbouring La Plagne, joined together by the Vanoise Express cable car. Les Arcs itself is actually made up of a number of different villages, each at slightly different altitudes and each with their own character and ambience. It's renowned as a family friendly resort, with a good selection of beginner pistes and ski areas, as well as those for the more advanced skier or snowboarder. Its location on the edge of the Vanoise National Park offers amazing panoramas of the surrounding mountains and, on a clear day, you can even spot Mont Blanc.
Les Arcs itself is actually made up of four modern, purpose built resorts: Arc 1600, Arc 1800, Arc 1950 and Arc 2000, each offering doorstep access to the fantastic Paradiski area, one of the most extensive and varied ski domains in the world. It was a local skier, Robert Blanc, who first conceived the idea of building a series of resorts at different altitudes above his home town of Bourg St Maurice, which lies on the valley floor.
Les Arcs & La Plagne were joined together in 2003 by the Vanoise Express cable car from Plan Peisey, a huge double decker ski lift that boasts a capacity of 200 people, making it the biggest, longest and fastest cable car in the world. With over 425kms of piste (200km in Les Arcs alone), even an accomplished skier can be hard pushed to ski from one end of the Paradiski area to the other and back again in one day.
Since the Vanoise Express cable car was built, the skiable area for visitors to Les Arcs was increased to a whopping 425 kilometres, which includes a huge number of blue or intermediate pistes (around 70) and 10 green or beginner pistes - one of the main reasons this resort is so popular with families and beginners.
For the more advanced or expert skiers there are in the region of 50 red pistes, 16 black pistes and a number of snowparks both in Les Arcs and La Plagne. Getting around the resorts is easy thanks to a great network of ski lifts which are mostly open in the day time, with a few also available at night to help people get from their accommodation to different restaurants and shopping areas.
Food is a great part of life in the French Alps, and with all those outdoor pursuits to try you can rest assured it is all very hearty! Local specialities are often cheese or cream based (sometimes both…) featuring local meats, potatoes and green salad. The food in the Alps is often accused of being unadventurous and ‘lardy’ but there are plenty of delicious regional dishes besides the good old fondue. The emphasis is very much on fresh local produce and so cured and seasoned meats will have come from cattle grazed on Alpine pastures, the local cheeses of Abondance and Beaufort will be prevalent and, although there isn’t a coastline in sight, there is still a regional fish dish! The féra is caught in nearby Lake Geneva and is a popular dish served in many restaurants, alongside other lake fish such as Omble Chevalier (char), truite (trout), brochet (pike) and perche (perch).
Where is Les Arcs?
Les Arcs is located in the Savoie region of France, in the Tarentaise valley. It benefits from being on the edge of the Vanoise National Park, an area of natural beauty and wildlife which attracts plenty of summer visitors as well as those coming here to ski.
The most convenient airport to Les Arcs is Chambery, situated 144 kms (2hrs) away. From here, you have a number of different methods of transport to choose from to get you up to resort. If you can’t get a flight to Chambéry, the next best options are Grenoble (211kms), Lyon (222kms) or Geneva (225km), all of which are serviced by a number of the major airlines.
Each airport has it pros and cons. Chambery is closest but may shut in bad weather and your flight be diverted elsewhere. Geneva has excellent bus/shuttle links to Les Arcs, but finding the route in a hire car isn't particularly easy. Lyon St-Exupery has fewer links to Les Arcs, especially midweek, but the journey is easier and quicker than from Geneva if you hire a car.
Also see: Towns & Villages in Les Arcs
Events in Les Arcs
A number of freestyle and freeride ski competitions take place in Les Arcs in the winter months, whilst the summer attracts a number of trail running and cycling competitions.
Sights & Attractions in Les Arcs
The Vanoise National Park and the Aiguille Rouge mountain & pistes are definitely worth checking out in summer and winter respectively. In summer, the park offers the chance to spot the local flora & fauna whilst in winter, the views from the top of the Aiguille Rouge are really spectacular.
Things to Do in Les Arcs
In the winter there is a vast skiing/snowboarding area that links up with La Plagne to create the Paradiski area, one of the largest in the world. There is freeskiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, dog sledding, sledging, skidooing and ice caves. In the summer there are lots of activities as well: swimming, hiking, mountain biking, cycling, horse riding, golfing etc. You will not be bored...
Restaurants in Les Arcs
You'll find everything from fancy French restaurants to Tex-Mex, pizzerias and burger bars in Les Arcs. There's something for every taste and budget.
Nightlife in Les Arcs
Each of the villages of Les Arcs has its own mix of bars, apres ski venues and places to go for live music. 1800 is probably the busiest, but each of the villages offers its own selection to choose from.
Where to Stay in Les Arcs
Your choices of places to stay in Les Arcs starts on the valley floor in Bourg St Maurice. Working your way up the mountain you will find the other villages of Les Arcs 1600, 1800, 1950, 2000 and, slightly off to one side, Villaroger and Peisey-Vallandry.
Villaroger (Le Pré) is a charming, traditional village that lies at 1200m and is joined to Arc 2000 by a series of 3 chairlifts. With a skiing population of around 100, there is no need to worry about long queues in the morning or noisy parties at night. However, the runs back to resort are all graded red or blue, making it an unsuitable choice for beginners. In the summer, Villaroger is the starting point for many forest hikes and climbs and offers a very traditional setting for a peaceful, relaxing holiday.
Peisey-Vallandry comprises a series of 5 smaller resorts (Peisey, Plan Peisey, Vallandry, Nancroix and Landry) that are linked directly to the 200kms of skiing in Les Arcs. All of the resorts are small and quiet, but recent development has resulted in some very good quality chalet accommodation being available.
Peisey is the original village in the area. Dating back over 1000 years it was originally a small farming community, attracting only those skiers for whom lack of lifts and mountain restaurants was considered part of the challenge! It has been a tourist destination since the 1930's and its beautiful Baroque church is one of the must-see attractions in the area.
Plan Peisey has a few shops, bars and restaurants and is the departure point for the cable car connection to La Plagne. A few hundred meters away is Vallandry where there are a number of recent chalet developments. The village is pedestrianised and links to Plan Peisey by a regular shuttle bus.
Also see: Where to Stay in Les Arcs
Hotels in Les Arcs
There are a small selection of hotels in Les Arcs from the more contemporary style to the more traditional French Savoyarde style.
Apartments in Les Arcs
There is a great choice of apartments in Les Arcs, ranging from studios to ones suited to larger groups, and most tend to be self catered.
Chalets in Les Arcs
Most chalets in Les Arcs are available in winter only, and tend to be fully catered. However, in the summer, as the area becomes more popular with mountain bikers and walkers, you may find a few more available.
History & Culture in Les Arcs
Situated in the heart of a 300 year old Swiss stone pine forest, it is the first resort of its kind in Europe. In true North-American style, the resort also boasts a heated outdoor pool and Jacuzzi and is the perfect choice if you’re looking for high quality facilities at reasonable prices.
Arcs 1600 was the original village which opened up as a ski resort in 1968. The concept was very innovative at the time – accommodation built specifically for convenient skiing and doorstep access to the slopes, but it’s a concept that has since been replicated many times over, across the Alps and beyond. Today, Arc 1600 remains nestled in the trees and enjoys stunning views along the valley towards Mont Blanc. It has a compact centre and a reputation as being the “friendliest” of all the villages to stay in, although it does have a decidedly quiet nightlife.
For anyone travelling by rail, Arc 1600 makes a convenient choice as it is directly linked from Bourg St Maurice by funicular railway in only 7 minutes. The convenience of the resort facilities also makes it a particular favourite with families.
Arc 1800 was the next resort to be established (in 1975) and is still the largest and liveliest of all the levels. It is made up of four sectors: Le Charvet, Le Chantel, Les Villages and Charmettoger, although the boundaries between them are indistinct. Dominated by large apartment blocks, there is always something going on in 1800 and it is a great place to stay if you have a mixed ability group. Children and beginners are well catered for on the wide, easy nursery slopes and there are also some free lifts for first timers, whilst intermediates will love the blue and red runs just above the resort. It is also the most conveniently located resort for access to the Vanoise Express and the La Plagne ski area.
Arc 2000 is the highest of all the resorts, situated on the other side of the mountain to 1600 and 1800 in its own secluded bowl at the base of the Aiguille Rouge (3226m). What it lacks in charm and nightlife, it makes up for in its swift access to the highest and most demanding skiing in the area, including the Varet glacier.
Arc 1950 is the new kid on the block and has brought some much needed architectural charm to the resort as a whole. Built by North-American resort developers Intrawest, 1950 is a ski-in/ski-out, landscaped pedestrian village comprising a number of luxury apartment residences, the last of which was completed in 2008.
Also see: History of Les Arcs
Location: Les Arcs Region