Emulate your Olympic heroes in Les Arcs
It is the second half term week and whilst we are still seeing mixed weather conditions, the excellent skiing that has typified the season also continues. Sunday's cloud gave way to beautiful sunny skies on Monday, creating the perfect environment for fun on the slopes.
School holidays usually bring more people to the pistes and although the last couple of weeks have been no different, traffic can be surprisingly light in some areas. Arc 1800 and Arc 2000 tend to be the busiest sectors, whilst Peisey-Vallandry, Arc 1600 and the lower slopes of Villaroger are often largely unaffected by the increased footfall. Typically skiers head straight for the highest altitude possible, but the current exceptional quality of snow throughout all resorts makes that quite unnecessary.
With the Winter Olympics filling our newspapers, TV screens and imaginations, it is the perfect time to try some alternative sports and get a brief feeling of what our Olympic athletes must experience. As well as the various skiing and snowboarding options, Les Arcs gives easy access to luges, ice skating at Arc 2000, the various options in cross-country skiing and bobsledding.
On Saturday there was a little precipitation which fell as powder in most areas but was wet at lower altitudes. This made the higher pistes softer on Sunday, with the top layer beginning to harden below 2000m. Temperatures have dropped once again, however, with the freezingly level likely to stay below 1200m for the next few days. Combined with Sunday's sunshine, this has evened out the slopes quite nicely with less obvious variation from one village, or altitude, to another. The overall snow depth has risen to 4m at the very top, whilst remaining at 138cm at 1600m.
Above Arc 1800, the sectors which had previously toughened up in the end-of-weekend mist softened up beautifully with exposure to the sun. Skiing in Peisey-Vallandry has been smooth and quite quiet over the last couple of days (although the Derby lift has seen queues at times) and, in general, the pistes are reliable. At the busiest junctions or particularly steep pistes (especially in the early morning), the snow can get hard and even icy, although these patches are infrequent and usually quite small. Again, the sun tends to soften up the pistes during the day, improving grip and reducing speed as time goes on. As there are more ski school groups on the mountain, reduce your speed on the slower runs.
Temperatures should stay low for the next week, with the freezing level barely rising above valley-level, and there are no significant winds expected. Clouds will come and go, bringing mist at times but also affording the sun plenty of room. There could be a couple of centimetres of snow every day, which is always welcome, but we are not expecting any massive dumps in the near future. In total, this should provide fairly consistent on-piste conditions, inspiring confidence underfoot as the week progresses, even if you might not always be able to see where you are going.
Other winter games available
You might not walk away with a shiny medal, but there are plenty of places in Les Arcs where you can try some Olympic sports and prepare yourself physically and/or mentally for Beijing 2022. There are a selection of “boardercross” areas where snowboarders and skiers alike can race against friends and family on different courses: there is a short run in snow park, one (complete with gates) from the Villards lift at Mille 8 in Arc 1800 and the two long “freestyle zones” (one red, one blue) accessible from the Col de la Chal. The snowpark has a wide choice of jumps, from bunnyhops to big air ramps, rails, boxes and even a full metal wall so you can practice alley-oops, pretzels, tail grabs, and even your signature switch triple cork 1440 nose grab.
If you want something less high-risk but with more exertion, why not head down to the Nordique area of Peisey-Vallandry? There are regular free shuttles from the bottom of the Lonzagne lobster-pot in Peisey village to Pont Baudin, where you will find the centre for cross-country skiing. Here you can rent the correct equipment and get a “badge” to use the 3 green, 5 blue, 2 red and 3 black pistes in one of the most picturesque areas in the Tarentaise.
There are two sledge-type “luge” courses in Les Arcs. The Rodeo Run goes from the top of the Col de la Chal to the Igloo bar near the base of the Arcabulles lift and, in Arc 1800, you can choose from one of three sleds in the shorter, winding Mille 8 run. If you want the full Olympic experience, however, head over to La Plagne (the other side of Paradiski) via the Vanoise Express and take on the bobsled run that was used in the 1992 Albertville Olympics. From an automatic bob to a pilot-driven sled, you can pick the thrill level before sitting back and enjoying the ride.
Location: Les Arcs Villages