Les Arcs Ski Area
The highlight of the Les Arcs ski area is the 3226m Aiguille Rouge, with its 12km run heading down into Villaroger, and several steep black runs returning to Arc 2000. But don't forget the Grand Col, or the huge forest, crisscrossed by pistes, stretching from Arc 1600 to Plan Peisey.
Reches runs past the Transarc and continues down into 1800. The initial station of the Transarc is here, but don't miss the Vagere lift, which provides access to some of the most interesting skiing in the area. Carreley and Froide Fontaine are good, varied reds leading to the bottom of the Col des Frettes lift, while Grands Melezes is a challenging blue running the full distance back to 1800. Also here is the Apocalypse Snowpark, accessed from Vagere, Col des Frettes or Clair Blanc, with jumps, rails and a big kicker graded at three levels of difficulty.
Arc 2000 and Arc 1950
The Transarc bubble takes you straight up to the top of the Col de la Chal (2600m) allowing you to drop over into the Arc 2000 valley or choose from a variety of runs back to 1800. From here, you can ski straight down reds or blues to the bottom of Arcabulle, and thereafter along the rather flat route into 2000 itself. The area around Arc 2000 is a warren of gentle blue runs ideal for beginners. Alternatively, nip round the blue Col de la Chal to the Grand Col lift - no prizes for guessing its destination! A red and a black lead down - both can be icy early in the day or through lack of snow, but both are challenging for the intermediate skier and fun for the advanced. The views are excellent too.
Down in 2000, take the Varet lift for Arandelieres, a red mogul run, or any one of three ungroomed blacks. Alternatively, squeeze into the alarmingly superannuated cable car to the very summit of the Aiguille Rouge for a black then red run descending for 12km towards Villaroger. The top half of Arandelieres provides a red route down from the top. Those wishing to avoid the black but still see most of the long run down from the summit can take the Lanchettes lift from 2000 and arrive a third of the way down at the beginning of the red section.
1600 isn't much of a village, but there are some interesting runs here for those on the way back from 2000 or Villaroger. There's also access to the funicular down to Bourg. There are some characterful tree-lined runs of all colours, including Cachette, a red accessed from the lift of the same name.
Vallandry and Plan Peisey, once small satellite villages on the fringes of the ski area, find themselves in the heart of the Paradiski area following the construction of the Vanoise Express lift in Plan Peisey linking Les Arcs and La Plagne. Peisey is inclined to be packed and icy, even after sun and snowfall, but on a good day Ours is a fun, undulating red, and Écureuills is a perfect confidence-building black which gives you the option of joining the red Combe before it gets really gnarly.
Over in Vallandry, the eponymous lift and the new Grizzly start and finish close to one another. Blanchot, at the top of the Grizzly, is a very wide red ideal for novice boarders. Aigle, Morey and Myrtilles, three excellent forest runs, depart from the top of Vallandry, or thereabouts - all are steepish but wide, but can become bare and icy through lack of snow. La Foret is a gentle summer road blue linking all three and proceeding down to the village; it's excellent for novices but probably best avoided by everyone else! Inexperienced snowboarders will find its slight incline particularly heartbreaking.
Moving away from Vallandry, Coqs and Renard, both interesting, steepish blues, link to the bottom of Derby, a new lift that finishes up above 1800. From there, off to the right the full length of Renard provides varied terrain and easy off-piste to either side with plenty of bumps to be jumped. There's also opportunities to cut through the trees on to Bosses, an intermediate-friendly black next door, which begins with three distinct short, steep slopes, and ends with a natural halfpipe with moguls just off the piste to the right. Also just off Renard is Belette, a wide, speedy red. To the left at the top of the lift is Reches, an interesting red and the fastest route to the mid-station of the Transarc gondola.
Les Arcs Ski Lifts & Lift Passes
Les Arcs' lift system is efficient and now linked to La Plagne via the new double-decker gondola from Plan Peisey.
The lift system is generally efficient despite the bottleneck at the Aiguille Rouge cable car. Recent investment has sensibly centred around the Vallandry area with Grizzley, a new high-speed chair, opening up the area and making the link to La Plagne much more efficient.
Les Arcs Beginner Skiing
Arc 1800 is the best base for beginners as the network of blues above the resort are pleasantly wide and snowsure.
Beginner Skiing in Les Arcs
Despite a lack of green runs across the mountain, 1800 is the best base for beginners as the network of blues above the resort are pleasantly wide and almost always have good snow. The blues under the Plagnettes chair above Arc 1950/2000 are also an ideal learning ground with Cascades being a very pleasant run for progressing beginners. Most of the mountains that make up the resort are accessible by blue runs and Vallandry is a charming introduction to tree skiing, with La Foret providing a winding route down to the village from which a confident novice can access small portions of the red runs before returning to the blue at the next junction.
Ski Schools & Ski Lessons in Les Arcs
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Les Arcs Intermediate Skiing
There is a great deal to satisfy the piste-hungry intermediate in Les Arcs.
There is a great deal to satisfy the piste-hungry intermediate here. Most if not all of the runs described in the area guides are suitable. But the best area for intermediates overall is Vallandry, with four excellent runs from the Derby lift as well as the tree-lined runs above the village, which are perfect for building speed and confidence. Above 1800 there is also a handful of fine reds, notably Froide Fontaine and Carreley.
Les Arcs Advanced & Expert Skiing
The steep pitch of many of Les Arcs' runs make it a good choice for advanced skiers, and there are also good off-piste options.
The steep pitch of many of Les Arcs' red and black runs make it a good choice for advanced skiers. The steepest run in the resort is Robert Blanc, a challenging bumpy black coming down the main northwest face of the Aiguille Rouge and next door to the official piste of the flying kilometre, another must-ski guaranteed to make your eyes water. Varet and Genepi are two other quality blacks that feed off the Aiguille Rouge piste down from the top; the runs down from the first stage bubble are also interesting, particularly the moguls on Lanches. The other side of the Arc 2000 valley sees two of the more interesting ways over from the ridge in the shape of the up and down Ours and the characterful Comborcière. In 1600 the old red of Rouelles has been reclassified as black due to its preponderance of bumps.
Les Arcs Boarding & Freestyle
In the Eighties Les Arcs introduced the snowboard to Europe and "Team Apo" still rip it up in the well-maintained and versatile Apocalypse Park.
The Apocalypse Park above 1800 is well-maintained and boasts jumps and rails at three levels of difficulty. The lowest is perfect for keen but inexperienced boarders (and skiers) yet can still provide pretty sizeable air when approached at speed! The black jumps on the other side are formidable, and the timid can still enjoy an afternoon in the park watching braver souls trying their luck. A new boarder-cross was built for the 2004-5 season over the ridge underneath the Plagnettes chair in Arc 2000.
Les Arcs also provides a great deal for novice boarders and those who prefer being on the piste to off it. The varied terrain of the runs, with assorted bumps and drops, provides plenty of opportunities for jumps. Meanwhile, Blanchot, at the top of the Grizzly, is perfect for a first lesson, and the network of steepish reds across the whole resort is an ideal learning ground for those who still find flatter ground tricky.
Les Arcs Off Piste
Les Arcs offers world class off-piste skiing but you will need a guide to get the best out of it.
Skiing off the back of the Aiguille Rouge (Reserve Naturelle des Hauts de Villaroger)
There is wonderful off-piste skiing off the back of the Aiguille Rouge, with verticals of more than 2000m, but it is a Nature Reserve and access is restricted. To get there, take the Aiguille Rouge cable car, or hike up from the top of the Grand Col lift, or (with a slightly smaller vertical on offer) take the Lanches lift straight from Arc 2000. All three entry points are governed by the Nature Reserve's rules, which are firstly that you have to keep to two zones, both of which are wide at the top but funnel into narrow sections at the bottom; and secondly you must be accompanied by a guide, unless you have attended a two hour course on the ecology of the Natural Reserve. Details of where the zones are and when these courses are held are at http://www.reserves-naturelles.org/hauts-de-villaroger. If you get caught breaking the rules, you can be fined.
Skiing down to Nancroix
The Col de la Chai, the meeting point at the top of the Transarc and Plagnettes lifts, is the start of several itineraries which weave behind the Aiguille Grive and Aiguille Rousse and descend all the way to the Nancroix valley. There is more than than one way down, ranging from extremely testing couloirs to easier flanks. You tend to pop out somewhere on the Nordic ski circuit that runs between the villages of Lanches and Nancroix: one takes you directly past the medieval church. From Nancroix, a bus takes you to Peisey where you can catch a lift back into the ski area.
You can also ski down to the Nancroix valley from the Grand Col chairlift or from the lifts above Plan Peisey. For the latter there are routes in from the top of the 2300 lift and a more heavily-wooded one veerring off to skier's left on a track through the trees from the Combe run.
A guide is recommended for all these routes.
Between the piste skiing
If you want something that does not require a guide the area between the pistes under the Grand Col chair is a good starting point but gets skied out pretty quickly.
You can also find routes down between the pistes on the front face of the Aiguille Rouge above Arc 2000, but be careful: almost the whole area here is steep and dotted with cliffs, so study your whole route carefully (including your exit point) before attempting it, never go in poor visibility, and don't over-estimate your ability.
Another run into the bowl above Arc 2000, is from the Col de la Chai. Stay skier's left of the Arcabulle and Plagnettes lifts, and there is a long ridge which you can traverse along before choosing a line down into the bowll. You return on the same lifts so you can do it again and again, picking different routes each time. It's North East facing so at its best in the morning.
The ridge line of Les Deux Tetes between Arc 1950 and Arc 1600 provides plenty of opportunities. Either side of Comborcière are pockets of powder and strong skiers will revel in the tight, steep couloirs to skier's right of the run. Again this is East facing so at it's best in the morning. And in the afternoon you can ski the other side of Deux Tetes under the Mont Blanc lift which is predominantly West-facing.
Moving from Arc 1600 to Arc 1800 there is more interesting between-the-piste skiing near the Clocheret lift (ride the lift up and you should spot an interesting route down), and more under the Vagere chair.
Above Vallandry and Plan Peisey, the Derby lift opens up a small area of open bowl skiing, and some good routes through the trees. There is also some off-piste at the top of 2300 lift. Much harder to reach are the steep slopes above the highest lifts in Vallandry-Plan Peisey. They are just about accessible if you know the route around the back from Col de la Chai, but the gaps between the cliffs are narrow and the whole area is notoriously rocky, so go with a guide.
And lastly, don't forget Villaroger. It's not just the end point for decents from the Aiguille Rouge. North-facing tree-lined powder can usually be found under the Plan Des Viollettes and Droset chairs.
Offpiste in La Plagne.
Serious offpiste skiers based in les arcs should use the Vanoise Express and a pardaiski pass to to go off the back of Bellecote (with a guide). There are several routes - most involve a 2000m descent ending up in the Nancroix valley, but you can also head North to Champagny. Details are in the La Plagne Advanced skiing section. There are other less serious descents from almost all the peaks in the area.
Les Arcs Mountain Restaurants
Most of the high-altitude mountain restaurants are fairly standard; the better restaurants are lower down.
Most of the high-altitude mountain restaurants are fairly standard. L'Arpette, near the Snow Park at the foot of the lift of the same name, is a good value self-service place (excellent omelettes) that transforms on Wednesday and Thursday nights to provide a reasonably priced and very good Savoyard set menu, with lashings of wine, followed by a torchlit descent down the mountain. Down in 2000, the restaurant by the bottom of Lanchettes (lots of deckchairs, no idea of the name) does the best vin chaud on the mountain in the face of pretty stiff competition, and delicious yet sensibly priced pasta and pizza. Over in Vallandry, the Bar Mont Blanc is very easily accessible, right at the bottom of the Grizzly lift, and does cheapish baked potatoes and cheesy chips as well as a more substantial lunch menu. Just by the Vanoise Express in Plan Peisey is Le Solan, proud purveyor of the best pizza on the mountain, as well as unusually friendly staff.
Les Arcs Villages
Les Arcs is a collection of ski villages rather than just one resort. Arc 1600, Arc 1800, Arc 2000, Arc 1950 and Peisey-Vallandry are all high-altitude, purpose-built ski stations. Villaroger, Peisey and the town of Bourg St Maurice are all older, lower and cheaper.
Arc 1600 has some chalets and hotels but is dominated, like most of the Arcs, by apartments. It's located in a nice woodland setting and has the advantage of being only a funicular ride away from Bourg so is the easiest of the high altitude resorts to get to and out of.
Arc 1800 is the largest village with 18,000 beds in a mixture of apartments and hotels . Some of the largest blocks date back to the 1960s and 70s but there are some new ones as well, which tend to blend in better. Facilities for children are excellent. Arc 1800 is subdivided into three sectors - Charvet, Villards and Charmettoger.
Arc 2000 is actually situated at 2100m: the 2000 in its name was to make it sound futuristic when it was built in the 1960s and 1970s, and its large apartment blocks are classic examples of 1970s modernist architecture (which, ironically, now seem very dated). There are, however several new buildings housing large chalet-style apartments. It has the quickest access to the highest, toughest runs in Les Arcs so is a favourite of advanced and off-piste skiers, but it has great beginners's slopes too, and it is also the most snowsure village.
Arc 1950, is lift linked to Arc 2000, and was conceived and mostly built in the early 2000's, learning from the mistakes of the earlier purpose-built resorts. Its ersatz Savoyard architecture is generarly pleasing on the eye although a little bland. It is is mostly made up of generous-sized ski-in, ski-out apartments in large chalet-like buildings but there are also hotels.
Peisey-Vallandry is composed of two pupose-built resorts, Plan Peisey and Vallandry, which almost, but not quite, merge into one another. Once they were both thought to be a bit stuck out on a limb, but they are now right at the centre of the Paradiski area, thanks to the Vanoise Express which links Les Arcs and La Plagne, and which docks in Plan Peisey. Both have expanded rapidly since the late 1990s but most of the development has been low rise. Vallandry is also the home of the all-inclusive Club Med complex. Below Plan Peisey is the valley-level village of Peisey which dates back to 1000 AD and has a fine baroque church. It's cheaper than the purpose-built villages and is popular with ski guides. It has some small hotels, B'n'Bs and gites/rooms for hire. It's connected by lift to the ski station but there is no piste down.
On the far side of Les Arcs to Peisey, Villaroger is another lower and older village, with direct access to the main ski area. This has both lifts and pistes connecting it to the other villages, but they can seem a long way away. Situated 2000m below the top lift on the Aiguille Rouge, it's for people who want to stay in a more remote, rustic and authentic Savoyard village and who will enjoy a long ski back in the evening. Although its altitude is very low (1200m) for a ski resort, its slopes are North-facing and a lot of money has been inveted in artificaila snow-making.
The last Les Arcs 'village' is actually not a village at all but a valley-level town. Thanks to its rapid funicular access into Arc 1600, Bourg-St-Maurice is a feasible base for skiers. Prices are lower and connections to other resorts in the region are better, so it particularly suits skiers on a tight budget or those who want to combine their skiing in the Paradiski area with day trips to Val d'Isere, Sainte Foy, La Rosiere and the 3 Vallees.
For accommodation options in all the villages, please see our Les Arcs accommodation page.
Les Arcs Apres-Ski, Bars & Restaurants
Les Arcs provides an abundance of supermarkets for self-caterers and plenty of restaurants for the lazy!
Owing to the large proportion of self-catering apartments, all the Les Arcs villages are well-equipped with small supermarkets as well as specialist grocers. Anyone able to get down to Bourg St Maurice, by funicular or car, will find that the Super-U hypermarket on the outskirts of town beats the lots hands down for choice and price! There are also plenty of restaurants to try in each area, for a change or on the chalet girls' night off if not every night. The many establishments offering Savoyard cuisine are reliably good, if relentlessly cheesy, while the preponderance of pizza places offer toppings with an alpine twist - there's usually at least one featuring all the tartiflette ingredients on a pizza base! Most will offer takeaway if you ask nicely. Arc 1950, being recently purpose built, is particularly well-supplied with restaurants, including what may be the only Mexican restaurant in the entire region.
Les Arcs Après-Ski
Although Les Arcs has many different levels 1800 is the place to be for bars and clubs.
Although Les Arcs has many different levels 1800 is the place to be for bars and clubs. The Red Hot Saloon is a lively bar popular with the English crowd, it has good live bands and big dance floor. Benjy's is a seasonnaire hangout, has good food and infamous stripper nights. Alternatively try The Jungle Bar; the theme is distinctly un-alpine with a beautifully spray-painted image of a female African face dominating the back wall and cutting-edge reggae providing the soundtrack. There are two clubs, the traditional Apocalypse and the new ultra-modern Igloo Igloo which would easily fit in the heart of any cosmopolitan European city. Over in Vallandry, the Bar Mont Blanc remains a seasonnaire favourite, with friendly staff and a vodka-based happy-hour doing their best to offset soaring drinks prices.
Les Arcs Activities
Most activities are based on the snow, with skidoos, snow tubing and horse and dogsledding.
There are cinemas at 2000, 1800 and 1600, skating at 1800 and 2000 and a bowling alley at 1800 but the only public swimming pool is down in the valley. A lot of the other activities are based on the snow, with skidoos, snow tubing and horse and dogsledding. There are walking trails in the wooded areas and a cave of ice sculptures at the top of the Transarc lift. But this is essentially a resort for skiers rather than non-skiers.