Les Arcs is one of the most popular ski resorts in the French Alps and with good reason. Made up of several linked villages, it offers skiing to suit all abilities and all budgets along with a wide range of accommodation options, bars, restaurants (both on and off the slopes) and après-ski. There are some 200km of varied pistes along with some very fine off-piste terrain, although the ski area more than doubles if you buy a Paradiski pass which allows you to access the linked resort of La Plagne.
Les Arcs is also easy to reach and has long been popular with British visitors with a ‘Great British Celebration’ week towards the end of each season.
Approximate Transfer Times
Skiing in Les Arcs
Les Arcs is particularly suited to intermediate skiers, with over 80 per cent of the pistes being graded blue or red. However, there’s also some excellent and easily accessible off-piste along with plenty of opportunities to explore, although we always recommend taking a guide when heading off-piste. It’s very easy to move between the villages, and although the resort as a whole is above the tree line, there are areas of trees above Arc 1800, Plan Peisey, Vallandry and Villaroger in particular where you can still ski in bad weather.
Les Arcs is made up of several linked villages, Plan Peisey, Vallandry, Arc 1800, Arc 1600, Arc 1950, Arc 2000 (the numbers referring to their altitude) and Villaroger. They sprawl across the slopes above Bourg St Maurice with slopes facing from north round to south and varying from a high point of 3226-metres at Aiguille Rouge to 1200-metres at Villaroger, ensuring that Les Arcs is snow-sure and able to offer good ski conditions for most, if not all of the ski season.
The higher slopes, above the huge bowl of Arc 2000 and the villages of Plan Peisey, Vallandry and Arc 1800 are treeless and have numerous wide intermediate pistes and lots of easily accessible off-piste, whilst the lower slopes of the resort are forested, making them a good option in poor visibility and/or bad weather.
With the exception of Villaroger and its old, slow chairlifts, lift access is generally fast and efficient throughout the ski area, although bottlenecks occur at busy times on lifts such as the Arcabulle chair above Arc 2000 and Vagere chair and Transarc bubble at Arc 1800.
A major attraction of Les Arcs for many skiers, particularly those keen to eat up the miles on piste, is the link to La Plagne via the Vanoise Express cable car, which at 45kph is one of the fastest in the world (not to mention crossing a thousand-foot drop).
The two resorts come together as Paradiski, the world’s fourth largest ski area, and it can be genuinely said that there’s enough skiing here to keep anyone happy for a lifetime, whether you’re just getting to grips with the basics or looking to test yourself on some exciting and extremely demanding off-piste terrain. Many skiers like to take on the challenge of skiing from one end of the Paradiski to the other and back in a day – it can be done without too much trouble as long as you keep an eye on the clock, because if you miss a connecting lift the resulting taxi ride back to your resort can be eye-wateringly expensive!
Wide, sunny and open red and blue pistes through trees above Plan Peisey (from where you take the Vanoise Express), Vallandry, Arc 1800 and to a lesser extent Arc 1600 are a signature feature of skiing here, as is the huge open bowl above Arc 1950 and Arc 2000 which is full of runs to suit all abilities, with the high point of Aiguille Rouge looming over it all, and above this 3779-metre Mont Pourri (a serious challenge for keen backcountry skiers), while the quieter, wooded slopes of Villaroger beckon at the far corner of the resort.
Les Arcs Resort Overview
Les Arcs is made up of four modern traffic-free villages. Arc 1600 is set in the trees and has a friendly, cosy atmosphere whereas Arc 1800 is larger and has three has three main parts. Le Charvet and Les Villards which are centered around small shopping centres and Charmettoger which a more traditional wooden alpine style area. Both these villages benefit from stunning views across the valley to Mont Blanc.
Higher up the mountain the villages of Arc 2000 and Arc 1950 sit beneath the Aiguille Rouge which is highest point of the slopes and lends itself to some of the best views. Both villages are compact, ski-in/ski-out places, with lifts starting below them as well as above. Arc 1950 is a mainly pedestrianised area with a great selection of bars, restaurants and a lively après scene. Arc 2000 is quieter with a luxurious side to it and is a great village for the more serious skier as is easy access to the glacier.
Restuarants and Bars
Arc 1800 has the best choice of bars and restaurants - check out Mamie Crêpe, which as the name suggest has a huge selection of crepes and over 40-years’ experience of preparing them, whilst Nouidle offers Asian cuisine, Le Petit Zinc is a popular brasserie and Le Choucas is a good choice for traditional French dishes.
In Arc 1600, The Cairn is a good option for both Italian and Savoyard specialities, and in Arc 1950 the slopeside Chalet du Luigi is always busy and offers some great pasta dishes. Arc 2000 has gourmet dining in Le Diamant Noir in the five-star Taj-i-Mah hotel, whilst above Plan Peisey centre, the popular Cordée is worth checking out.
For bars Les Belles Pintes in Arc 1950 is one to check, whilst the cosy Crazy Fox is a good option in Arc 2000. In the busier Arc 1800 Chez Boubou and Red Hot Saloon are buzzing most nights, with regular live music in the latter, and Bar King Mad is always busy.
There’s plenty to choose from when it comes to restaurants on the mountain in Les Arcs, with views guaranteed. The Bulle Restaurant above Arc 2000 is reasonably good value and always buzzing, whilst above Villaroger, and with superb views over the Tarentaise region and Mont Blanc, is Chalet du Soliets. La Creche at Cold de la Chal has a good, sunny terrace and Au Sanglier qui Fume above Arc 1600 is worth checking out, as is the busy Enfants Terrible above Plan Peisey.
Les Arcs is not renowned for its night life, with most of the après ski action focussed on Arc 1800, which in addition to the bars already mentioned has some of the best clubs in Les Arcs, including Club 73 and Apokalypse, the biggest and busiest joint in the resort; it has three floors of pumping tunes and stays open until 4am.
The Ambiente Bar in the Villards area of Arc 1800 also has live music from 10pm as well as karaoke nights and live sports. Over in Arc 2000, Whistler’s Dream has a good atmosphere and a DJ plays most nights, whilst down the hill in Arc 1950 Chalet de Luigi has a downstairs nightclub that’s open until 2am.
The toboggan run underneath the Arcabulle lift is always popular with kids, and speed skiing above Arc 2000 provides a challenge for thrillseekers. There are also dog sledding and snowshoe trails (plus cross-country trails down in the valley near Bourg St. Maurice). It’s also worth looking out for the snow art of Simon Beck as you ride the ski lifts; the world’s best snow artists often produces amazing creations in Les Arcs.
Les Arcs does a decent job of providing for non-skiers; for instance, you can ride a number of ski lifts as a foot passenger, including the Arcabulle chair, which allows access to lovely mountain views and the Le Creche Restaurant at Col de la Chal, as well as the toboggan run which starts at the Rodeo Park adjacent to the top station. The impressively high and glaciated peak of Aiguille Rouge is also accessible to non-skiers via the Droset bubble and Aiguille Rouge cable car and offers tremendous panoramas of the northern Alps.
Speed skiing lessons are available in Arc 2000, and there are snowshoe trails from most of the villages, with several ski shops renting snowshoes, whilst between Arc 1600 and Arc 1950 there is dog sledding which also offers night rides. There’s also ten-pin bowling at Arc 1800 and skating at Arc 1800 and Arc 2000, whilst the various village cinemas regularly show English-language films.
The Mille 8 area, at the foot of the slopes at Arc 1800 is open in the early evening and includes a leisure pool. Several of the newer apartment blocks also have pools, and there are good spa facilities at the Sources de Marie in Arc 1950. For shoppers the options are quite limited although Arc 1950 is pleasant to wander around for a morning, or you can take the funicular down to Bourg St. Maurice.
Who is Les Arcs Suitable For?
From keen novice to strong intermediate you’ll find plenty of blue and red slopes, along with the occasional black, to whet your appetite.
The sunny, tree-lined slopes above Plan Peisey, Vallandry, Arc 1800 and Arc 1600 are a delight and easily accessed via a selection of fast, efficient chairs and the Trans-Arc bubble (get off at the mid-station, otherwise you’ll end up above Arc 2000 although you can easily ski back from there). The big bowl above Arc 2000 is also crisscrossed by red and blue runs – standouts include Arendelières and the long, meandering Vallée de l’ Arc, which takes you all the way down to the fast new six-seater Pré St. Esprit chair with its heated seats – nice!
You also shouldn’t miss the run from the top of Aiguille Rouge; it’s steep initially, but then opens out into a choice of superb descents including the thigh-burning 2000-metre run all the way down to Villaroger. And if all this isn’t enough, just take the Vanoise Express across to La Plagne for more of the same.
Les Arcs was already a pretty good resort for families before the development of the Mille 8 ski family area in Arc 1800 in 2015, and this became the icing on the cake. This consists of a state-of-the-art aquatic centre which can be accessed by pedestrians from Arc 1800, Les Cabanes, a tranquil, forested ski trail that beginners and children can enjoy in safety since it’s set away from the rest of the pistes (and it’s illuminated at night), Les Bosses freestyle course for novice freestylers, an area for small children located at the top of the Villard gondola and accessed via a covered magic carpet lift, a children’s area opposite the base of the Villard gondola, and accessible on foot, and a 900-metres of luge course through woodland.
Add to this the fact that you can have good access to easy slopes from all the Les Arcs villages other than Villaroger, and a wide range of ski schools to choose from, and Les Arcs, and Arc 1800 in particular, should be on your bucket list if you’re a family skier.
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