If there was one ski area I would call my ‘home slope’ it is Les Arcs. Not because I live anywhere near it, but simply because I have been there more often than any other resort. My most recent of six visits in eleven years, was in April 2016 to write this review of Les Arcs spring snowboarding holiday in Arc 1950.
Les Arcs spring snowboarding holiday
I am always happy to return to Les Arcs, the huge and varied ski area helps, as does the decent park, great tree runs, steep challenging slopes and ample off-piste. At Aiguille Rouge the slopes reach 3200m, and with 70% of the slopes over 2000m it is a snow sure as they come – perfect for a spring snowboarding holiday.
Les Arcs is the collective name for the four Arc resorts – Arc 1600, Arc 1800, Arc 1950 and Arc 2000 – that are named after their altitude. Together with Peisey-Vallandry they make up one side of the enormous Paradiski area. The other half is across the Vallandry Express in La Plagne.
The Paradiski area has a whopping 425 km of marked pistes, of which 200 km are on the Les Arcs side. Despite my six visits to the Les Arcs area, and two to La Plagne, I have never crossed the Vallandry Express. Simply because the slopes on either side are enough to keep me entertained for a week.
Review of Les Arcs spring snowboarding: Day 1
We visited Les Arcs in the second weekend in April, just a couple of weeks before it closed for the season. My first thought was ‘why on earth are they closing as there is still loads of snow?’. We even had a few centimeters of fresh snow on the higher slopes overnight.
On the first morning of my review of Les Arcs spring snowboarding holiday, conditions were sunny up high with some thick cloud at around 2500m. Within the cloud visibility was poor but manageable. Once you passed through the cloud it was sunny in patches and visibility was again fairly good.
We started the day with a leg numbing 2000m descent from the top of Aiguille Rouge to Villaroger at 1200m. The pistes above 1800m were all in fantastic condition, but as we got lower the snow understandably started to get soften and was thin in places.
We mainly boarded in the runs above Arc 1950 for the morning, we had an instructor/guide from Spirit Ski School who took us to a couple of spots where snow had accumulated the night before. Although they were a long way from being epic powder runs, this late in the season any fresh snow is a bonus and it was fun to be off-piste.
We stopped for lunch in the Bulle Cafe on the slopes above Arc 1950. The food was very good and reasonably priced – the large sharing pizzas are well recommended as an affordable lunch option.
In the afternoon the cloud lifted – as did the freezing line and we were encountering slushy slopes above 2000m. To be honest I love snowboarding in slush. Although it slows you down and feels heavy on the legs, it’s forgiving, easier to stick a landing, and soft if you fall – so great for practicing tricks.
We spent the afternoon in the slopes around 1800 and 1600, including a couple of runs through the well stocked park. Plus a look around the new Mille 8 area, which includes a very easy but great fun boarder cross run.
A huge benefit of having a guide was that he found us a stash of untouched powder. It required a short hike, followed by a sketchy traverse and a steep entry, but the shaded area had kept its powder for us to enjoy.
Knowing we liked to playfully snowboard, our guide hit every feature he knew across the mountain with us following closely behind. So we blasted around the slopes practicing tricks in warm sunshine – I love a spring snowboarding holiday!
We finished the day with a couple of drinks back at Bulle Cafe which is a great apres spot. Music was playing, and considering the resort was fairly quiet, it had attracted a reasonable sized crowd.
On the run back to Arc 1950 jumps and tricks were a little more boisterous and perhaps less controlled. Returning to Arc 1950 we snowboarded through town to within 10m of our accommodation at Jardins de la Cascade, which was a nice bonus.
Review of Les Arcs spring snowboarding: Day 2
Our second day of our Les Arcs spring snowboarding holiday in Arc 1950 dawned bright and clear. After overdoing it slightly the day before I was pretty achey and struggled slightly until I warmed up.
I had a comedy stack on the blue Edelweiss run while trying a nose press having 180’d onto a flat section at the edge of the piste. I caught my back edge and was catapulted off the ledge, which was about 50cm off the ground, onto rock hard early morning piste.
My right hand and back took the initial impact and then my head whiplashed into the ground. I’d had the wind knocked out of me, and was very glad to be wearing a helmet.
But my wrist was the worst, initially there was a sharp pain and I thought I had broken it. I quickly realised it was just a sprain, and that I’d been saved a break by the built in wrist protectors of the Dainese D-Impact Gloves I was testing.
I picked myself up and had a long hard chat to myself about not trying tricks until I was warmed up. We then hit the park above 1800/1600….
By midday we had worked our way over to the Peisey-Vallandry sector. We were enjoying almost deserted runs through the trees that had lots of natural hits off the sides to practice tricks. Lunch was at Le Solan, which right next to the Vallandry Express, where from past experience I knew they served tasty and reasonably priced burgers.
We spent most of the afternoon above Vallandry and 1800. Exploring between the pistes in slushy snow to find fun natural hits and practicing riding through variable terrain. It was a lot of fun with some cool natural tracks through the trees, they were probably MTB trails as the banked corners seemed too regular to be natural.
With warm conditions all day even the highest slopes became slushy, so we blasted around hitting every lump and bump to get air and do tricks. It was the perfect end to our Les Arcs spring snowboarding holiday.
Review of snowboarding holiday in Arc 1950
Of course no review of Les Arcs spring snowboarding would be complete without talking about the resort. Arc 1950 is the newest of the Les Arc resorts having opened in 2003.
I first spent a week there in the winter of 2005 as part of a group holiday and I returned for a family mountain biking and hiking holiday in the summer of 2014. So even before my April 2016 visit I knew the village very well, but then it is very small so anyone who has been there once will feel like they know it.
It’s small size is both it’s biggest advantage and it’s biggest disadvantage. On the downside there are just two pubs, a wine bar, and about ten places to eat in the whole of Arc 1950. On the plus side everything is very close, so when you head out in the evening you never have far to walk.
With so few eating and drinking establishments the prices are high – even by ski resort standards. But on the whole quality is also high. Typical Savoyard specialities can be found in most of the restaurants and I can thoroughly recommend the sharing steak in Le Chalet de Luigi which was excellent.
If you are looking for a cheap option Meli’s Snack sells burgers and hotdogs, but as with all the eating options you’ll pay more than you’d expect. Most of the accommodation in Arc 1950 is self-catering, so eating-in is an option. But the supermarket is very small and fairly expensive, so if you have a car stock up at a supermarket on route.
Being lazy we didn’t stock up, instead we went to the Brasserie 1950 in the Residence Le Manoir for breakfast each day. It does a very good buffet style with a great selection of breads, pastries, meats, cheeses and fruit. There are also cereals, yoghurts and a few cooked options. All in all a great start to the day.
The entire village is car free which makes it a pleasure to walk around. All parking is beneath the village offering quick and easy access to your accommodation through its colour coded parking. There are bus stops at both ends of the town with free public transport whisking you around the Les Arcs area.
There is no banging nightlife in Arc 1950, but the two pubs can get busy. La Belles Pintes had live music and a nice vibe when we were there, but I was charged €29 for two pints! This is a rip off even by ski resort standards so I assumed it was a mistake, but I had inadvertently ordered their most expensive beer – Grimbergen Rouge.
Being small, self contained and car free makes it the most child friendly ski resort I have visited. Throughout the summer and winter there are activities in the afternoon and evening to help keep kids entertained. Straight off the slopes there is a nice vibe with kids playing in the street.
A slope runs through the village so almost all accommodation is ski in ski out. As a snowboarder I had to walk about 20m before strapping on my board, but skiers could set off right from the door.
Although Arc 1950 is new it has been built to look traditional. It has the feel of a quaint mountain village rather than purpose built ski resort. I really like it and I am sure I will be back, probably for a family snowboarding holiday in arc 1950 in the not too distant future.
Review of Jardins de la Cascade
For this review of Les Arcs spring snowboarding holiday in Arc 1950 we stayed at the Residence aux Jardins de la Cascade, which is run by Pierre Vacance – one of the leading French accommodation providers. It promises Tyrolean style five star self-catering accommodation, and on the whole it delivers.
Our apartment was very nice, with good decoration and nice homely touches. The twin beds very comfy and the bathroom clean with a very powerful shower. The living room was a great place to relax and the kitchen had all you need to make your own meals.
There were only two of us in the apartment that sleeps up to four. There is a pull out bed in the living area, it’s slightly tucked away giving some privacy which is good. But it would feel a little cramped with four adults and all their gear.
The residence includes a spa area with sauna and steam room, plus an outdoor swimming pool and hottub. We checked that out one evening to help relieve the aches from riding, as it has snowed we ended up having a snowball fight in our swimwear. Very mature.
The only downside to the residence was the communal areas seemed pretty tired and a little worn. However, while we were there they were redecorating sections, so I assume this was just a temporary thing that they were rectifying.
Review of Les Arcs spring snowboarding holiday: Conclusion
Les Arcs is a fantastic ski area, with great variety of runs suitable for all levels of snowboarder. Whether you are into freeride, freestyle or both you’ll find plenty to keep you entertained. It’s high altitude makes it perfect for a spring snowboarding holiday and it’s normally open until the end of April.
As a base for a holiday Arc 1950 ticks many boxes. It’s small, quaint, attractive, car free and has a really nice vibe particularly in the afternoons. On the downside it is more expensive than most ski resorts and the nightlife is very tame. Those looking for a budget holiday or wild apres would be better heading to Arc 1800.
To conclude this review of Les Arcs spring snowboarding holiday in Arc 1950, I’d say it will appeal to couples and small groups looking for a chilled out ski holiday. But above all it’s the best ski resort I have ever visited for families.
I hope you found this review of Les Arcs spring snowboarding holiday in Arc 1950 useful. To find out more about Arc 1950 visit: www.arc1950.com