At the end of the 13/14 season I returned from my third snowboard trip to Les Arcs. Having stayed in three different villages and visited in January, February and April I feel I am in a good position to write a comprehensive review of Les Arcs snowboarding holidays.
For this particular trip we were staying in Arc 2000, however I have previously stayed in Arc 1950 and Arc 1600. I have also had a night out in Arc 1800 and have a friend who lives in Vallandry who has acted as a guide more than once. So its fair to say I know Les Arcs pretty well.
The Paradiski Area
I will kick of this review of Les Arcs snowboarding holidays by talking about the ski area. On it’s own Les Arcs has 200km of runs making it a large resort in its own right. However it is linked to La Plagne via the Vallandry Express to create the 425km Paradiski area which is second or third (its not clear cut – read this article about the biggest ski resorts in the world to find out why) largest ski area in the world.
Having stayed in La Plagne once and in Les Arcs three times I have never felt the need to take the express. Mainly as I feel both areas are big enough to keep you busy for a week, but then I am quite happy hitting the same run a few times, as you get to know where the features are to try tricks.
The overall size of Paradiski is a big selling factor, particularly if you like to snowboard somewhere different every day or like to explore. It also gives you the option to take in different conditions or access different style of terrain, for example La Plagne is known for its open bowls that are great for off piste.
Review of Les Arcs snowboarding
The Les Arcs snowboarding is varied and very good. The lift system is excellent and easy to navigate. There are a range of different areas, however in my head I have narrowed it down to three zones; left, right and middle in reference to the Les Arcs area of the above piste map.
The left area includes the 3226m high point of Aiguille Rouge, it contains some the steepest and most challenging pistes in Les Arcs. From the top of Aiguille Rouge down into Villaroger at 1200m is a 7km red and black run. Previously the whole thing was classified as a black making it the longest black run in the world. It is leg sappingly good although with Villaroger being fairly low conditions can get slushy. This area includes the resorts of Arc 2000 and 1950.
The right area is the biggest and includes Arc 1600, 1800, Vallandry and Plan Peisey. Although it is mostly above 16oom it is lower than the ‘left’ side so it includes a multitude of tree lined runs which typically are quiet, fun in powder and great when visibility is poor. A big plus of this area is there are so many runs and lifts that you can play around all day both on and off piste, never getting lost but never really knowing where you are.
The ‘right’ also includes the excellent Apocalypse park above Arc 1600 and 1800, with a multitude of blue, red and black kickers, rails, boxes and features it will keep the most dedicated park rat entertained. It is serviced by its own drag lift, or if you fancy a sit down head a little further to the Arpette 14 and from the top of this there is a fun black down into the park. Towards the end of the season a water feature in added, which is fun unless you fall.
The middle area is ‘no resort land’ a zone between the left and right. Of my three unofficial zones it is the smallest and also the busiest. Most of the runs are suited to beginners, so if you are new to the sport you will probably be spending some time here. If you are experienced you will pass through a couple of times a day. It is worth seeking out the bordercross which is located just below Col De La Chal.
Although it is a vast area, with the exception of Villaroger, you are never more than two lifts and a bit of snowboarding away from any of the resorts, making Les Arcs a very easy place to get around. There are hardly any areas where good snowboarders need to do the one foot shuffle and there are very few low gradient cat tracks. For me a one word review of Les Arcs snowboarding holidays would be: perfect.
Accommodation for Les Arcs snowboarding holidays
The accommodation in Les Arcs is as varied as the snowboarding with different resorts catering for a different kind of audience.
Arc 2000 and Arc 1950
The resorts of 2000 and 1950 are the newest in the wider Les Arcs area and are both essentially a collection of big hotels and apartment blocks. Although they are purpose built they blend nicely with the surroundings and have an authentic feel to them with a collection of bars, cafès and restaurants. Arc 2000 and 1950 are not the liveliest of resorts, as a result they are ideal for couples and families.
On this trip we stayed at Belambra Clubs l’Aiguille Rouge in Arc 2000. It’s a large catered hotel with stunning panoramic views of the ski area. The rooms are comfy, well appointed and ideal for people that will be spending most of their time on the slopes. The food was varied and high quality, particularly good for mass scale catering.
The Belambra is great for families, with a crèche, kids clubs and evening activities. The location is perfect, with ski in ski out possible, and with a magic carpet servicing a short beginner slope that kids can practice on which you enjoy a drink on the sun terrace. Check out a detailed review of our stay at the Belambra Club in Les Arcs.
Arc 1600 and Arc 1800
Arc 1600 and 1800 are fairly close together, a bit cheaper and tend to attract a younger crowd. This results in a raucous nightlife in 1800. They are older resorts, and not the most pleasing on the eye but certainly not an eyesore. Although there are some big hotels and apartment buildings there are also both large and small chalets to choose from giving a great selection of accommodation.
Arc 1600 is the first village you come to when driving up the mountain making for shorter transfers. It is also where the Funiculaire from Bourg Saint Maurice arrives. Bourg is a fairly big town at the foot of the mountain which has some very cheap accommodation for those on a budget. It also has a train station making Les Arcs easy to reach by train – in fact throughout the season an overnight snow train departs London for Bourg every weekend.
Vallandry and Plan Peisey
The villages of Vallandry and Plan Peisey are also the gateway to La Villaret, Peisey and Moulin via the Lobster Pot. This area has a more local and independent feel to it, it is where you are likely to find something a little different to suit your needs if you don’t mind booking the different elements of a holiday independently.
Although I have not stayed there, on this trip I visited Whitebeam Chalets to find out how going independent differs from a package snowboarding holiday. The first and most obvious difference is that rather than being one of the crowd you are one of a small group, so you get to know your hosts extremely well. You become part of the family for the week and will leave as friends rather than guests.
Although Whitebeam Chalets are not considered luxury or five star their 3 chalets are very comfy, homely, well decorated and meticulously maintained. You will get a catered chalet, with a personal service, at a reasonable price. Ultimately it is great value for money.
Review of Les Arcs snowboarding holidays: Conclusions
No review would be complete without a couple of negatives. I only have two gripes with Les Arcs, the first is it is expensive. Not the most expensive ski resort I have been to but lift pass, beers and food out are all in the upper bracket for French ski resorts. My second gripe is Les Arcs is so good my stay is never long enough.
Les arcs is the ski resort I have been to more often than any other, so it is safe to say it is one of my favourites. The snowboarding is varied and brilliant, snow is guaranteed and its suitable for all levels. I will conclude this review of Les Arcs snowboarding holidays by giving it the ultimate complement: if I was going to move to the Alps tomorrow I would choose Les Arcs as my new home.
To find out more about the Les Arcs and the Paradiski area visit: www.paradiski.com