Last summer I headed over to the Alps for a combined family and mountain biking holiday in Arc 1950. I got to ride in both the immediate area of Arc 1950 and 2000, and the more well known area of Arc 1600 and 1800, so i will include sections about both in this review of Les Arcs mountain biking holiday.
Arc 1950 is part of Bike Park Les Arcs Peisey Vallandry, which is half of the winter resort of Paradiski and includes 180km of bike trails. The various villages of La Plagne are the other half of Paradiski, they provide another 145km of bike trails and can be reached via the Vanoise Express – which runs on weekdays during the summer.
Located over 1000m above the town of Bourg St Maurice, Arc 1950 is a small, family friendly, car free village that provides great access to the trails in the area. It is linked with Arc 2000 by the free Cabriolet gondola which gives you access to additional facilities, restaurants and shops.
Spirit Evo2 are the MTB hire shop in Arc 1950. If you are used to riding a UK set up bike be sure to ask them to swap the brakes over, in Europe the front brake is on the left. Spirit Evo2 also offer MTB lessons and take out guided mountain biking groups. On my first day riding I joined one of the groups to explore the local area of Arc 1950 and 2000.
We started by getting the Cabriolet lift to Arc 2000 and then took the Varet lift half way up the Aiguille Rouge. The first trail was just an easy access path to assess the groups ability. Although the trail was very easy the conditions were not, the rain in Arc 2000 had turned to sleet and my shorts and fingerless gloves were suddenly a bad idea.
When we reached the Arcabulle chairlift our guide told us that August is not normally like this, and almost on cue the rain stopped and the sun started to peek through the clouds. From Col de la Chal at the top of the chair you can access the two green and one red downhill trail, plus the 6km lake district cross country route. The 33km ‘Route 66’ Enduro trail also starts from here following La Trank’s – a green DH trail – from the top. If you wish to reach the Vallandry Bike park there is a difficult access trail that runs under the Transarc gondola.
Heading back towards Arc 1950 the green Kid’s Rock and La Trank’s proved to be fast and flowing trails of minimal technical difficulty, although made more challenging by the recent rain. Kid’s rock was the slightly more difficult of the two with tighter banked corners that you could take decent pace into. They were both great fun and ideal to get used to the full on downhill bike I was riding.
After a few runs we took on Yellow Stone the red DH trail from Col de la Chal. It is a lot steeper and more challenging plus has big (for me) jumps – although they always have a easy route around them. All three runs take you back to the bottom of the Arcabulle chair so you can easily session them. There is an easy blue enduro trail that takes you from there back to Arc 1950 and 2000.
No review of a mountain biking holiday in Arc 1950 would be complete without talking about Route 66. As previously mentioned it starts from Col de a Chal, at 2545m, on the DH trail, and then becomes an Enduro trail that passes Arc 1950. From there is heads down through the trees towards Villaroger and eventually down to Bourg St Maurice at 810m. Unfortunately I only had time to ride Route 66 to where a trail branches off towards Arc 1600 but from what I rode it looks like an epic trail.
The trails in Arc 1950 and 2000 only make up a small amount of the Les Arcs mountain biking. From Arc 1950 you can take the Route 66 trail a little way before branching off towards Arc 1600. There is a bit of a climb, normally nothing I would bat an eyelid at but on a heavy DH bike at altitude it was enough to get me puffing.
The Funicular from Bourg st Maurice comes into Arc 1600 and from it’s top is the famous La “8” black downhill which is nearly 9 km long dropping 810m. Although “8” is the only marked trail I have been told there is a lot of unmarked single track heading down through the trees to Bourg, riding on loamy soil with roots and rock creating natural challenges. It is of course recommended that you go with a guide if you plan to explore the unmarked trails.
When we arrived in Arc 1600 we took the Cachette chair lift. from the top there are four marked trails ranging from green to black. We began with the red Rock N’Arolles which is smooth, steep, fast and sculpted. It is an flowing trail that I felt happy to take at speed and was perfect for my level.
Back up on the same lift for the second run we took the black La Cachette trail, which has hosted the Avalanche Cup. Here berms, rollers and humps were huge and daunting. You need to carry a lot of pace to do it justice, and being my first (and only) go at it I was lacking the balls to fully let go. There were some massive, steeply banked North Shore style corners that were fun, although those that ended in jumps to another banked corner were way out of my league. In this area there is also a slopestyle MTB park and a Four Cross track.
At the top of the Cachette lift for a third time we took the blue Legend down towards Arc 1800.Having just ridden a red followed by a black DH competition run the Legend was easy and fast. As always pride comes before a fall and feeling totally in control I lost it on one corner leaving the track and was lucky not to eat dirt. From Arc 1800 we took the Transarc Gondola all the way to Col de la Chal to gain access to the Arc 1950 and 2000 side of the resort.
This review of Les Arcs mountain biking holiday would not be complete without talking about Peisey Vallandry. Although we did not have time, we could have got off at the Transarc gondola at the mid-station and taken the linking trail over to the Vallandry area. Serviced by the Vallandry lift there are two more downhill runs – the blue Woodstock and black Elle Chablatte. It is also from Plan Preisey that you take the Vanoisse Express over to the La Plagne side of Paradiski.
A Les Arcs mountain biking holiday has plenty of marked trails to keep you busy, with a wide variety of styles of riding that are suitable for all ability levels. Whether its the 27 km Hot Wheels cross country trail with nearly 1400m of ascent, the sculptured downhill trails or the many miles of unmarked singletrack that takes your fancy there is something for everyone.
The Les Arcs mountain biking is very good, but for it to work as a family holiday you need more than great trails. We chose Arc 1950 as our base because it is car free and is a pretty town in comparison to most of the rest of the Les Arcs villages. The accommodation in the village all encircles a large pedestrianised areas and a big square, which is ideal with kids.
For a small village there is a lot going on to keep families entertained. Kids playgrounds, trampolines and rocks to climb on are permanent features, and most days there was something going on in town. From 5-aside footy and kite making, to archery and onstage entertainment, although small the village has a vibrant feel. Of course beyond the village the mountains are calling with a world of family adventures to be had.
At the time our kids were three and one so certainly not up to all day biking or hiking, so they spent a couple of days in the Cariboo Club which is a creche that runs from 9am to 5pm in the summer. There are separate areas for the younger and older kids, and the older children are taken out in groups to participate in age appropriate activities like archery, fishing, zip-lining. hiking and much more. Our kids had a great time, we even spotted our eldest out for a walk and a ride on the Cabriolet gondola.
Of course it is always nice to have a bit of adult indulgence when on holiday. In Arc 1950 this can be provided in the Deep Nature Spa, who offer a full range of massage and holistic treatments plus they have a stunning pool, sauna, hot tub, steam room etc. After a long day of hiking my wife and I had a double massage in front of floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Mont Blanc Massif. It has to be the massage with the best view in the Alps – not that I enjoyed it for long as the massage was so relaxing I was soon asleep.
To get to Les Arcs you can fly into Geneva, Lyon, Chambery or Grenoble and either hire a car or arrange a transfer – they are all two to three hours away. Alternatively you can get the Eurostar to Paris and then a train onto Borg St Maurice and hop on a local bus to Arc 1950. Because we were visiting other resorts we decided to drive over, we took the DFDS Seaways ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe and from there is was an eight to nine hour drive to Arc 1950. If you want to find out about the journey read driving a Kia Carens across France.
Having driven to the Alps it was great to arrive with parking directly under our accommodation. With lots of stuff for a family holiday and two tired boys this made for a relaxing arrival. Just a few minutes after parking we were sitting in our lovely Radisson Blu self catered apartment.
The apartments are stunning, using high quality furnishings and decoration. The bedrooms are very large and very comfy – our three year old loved the enormous bed he had to himself, and there was more than enough room for the cot for our oyougest. Likewise the bathroom was big and well appointed with both a bath and a huge walk in shower.
The living space has a kitchen hidden behind folding doors, a big dining table, and a relaxing area with TV sofas and armchairs. Little touches like high quality glasses and crockery make it one of the nicest self catered places I have stayed in. However it was not very child friendly, there were lots of breakable things within reaching distance, sharp corners at head level and the posh crockery and glasses were stored in tempting low cupboards.
But it is lovely accommodation, and for a group of friends it would be ideal as the big bedrooms give you private space and the shared living area is perfect for relaxing. However as anyone with young kids know relaxing is not high on their agenda. The overall space of the apartment was big but the living area didn’t have room for the kids to play (eg run, jump, roll, bundle etc).
Although the accommodation was self catered it came with breakfast that was served across the courtyard in the Manoir Savoie. Breakfast was a buffet affair with an excellent choice of warm and cold options. In particular the variety of fruit and baked options made it healthy and easy to feed the kids.
The accommodation comes with free WiFi which is always good. However although the connection was strong in our apartment it was almost impossible to get online as the the WiFi did not offer enough connections or bandwidth. For what is a luxury accommodation this was disappointing, however it did mean I didn’t get distracted by football scores or work.
During the summer a stunning two bed Radisson Blu apartment costs from €130 a night. To find out more visit: www.radissonblu.com
Arc 1950 is ideal as a family destination with lots going on for kids. In the early evening it has a vibrant feel but it does not have any nightlife – so you can be up early every morning enjoying the mountain biking. The lift system serves the area well and means you can get your thrills with minimal uphill, and there are very few people on the mountain meaning no queues or slow riders in your way.
With 180 km of marked MTB trails, in a variety of styles, suitable for all abilities, there is enough Les Arcs mountain biking to keep most riders entertained for a week. The marked area it is not as extensive as other areas so hardcore downhill mountain bikers may find it slightly limiting – although I am told there are a lot of unmarked trails to explore through the woods making it a bit of an untouched secret for those into single track.
To conclude this review of Les Arcs mountain biking holiday in Arc 1950, I would say the marked riding it most suited to those who like to ride a range of styles – if you want to ride difficult sculpted DH all day it is probably not for you. However if you like to explore the mountain you can enjoy quiet but challenging single track through the forest, sculpted and more natural DH trails, long enduro routes and a range of cross country circuits.