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50 YEARS OF LES ARCS: Click on the photo for an instant briefing

Saturday, 11 May 2019

SEASON 2018-19: Les "Tops" et les "Flops"

For the second year in a row, it's been an excellent season snow-wise in the Tarentaise, with great conditions right the way until closing day.

Col de la Chal, 14 April 2019

By way of a very quick round-up, here are the good and the not-so-good things to report back on.

LES TOPS

1. The new "Secret" piste, launched in conjunction with the new Comborciere lift, opens up a new dimension.  At the top of the now-reasonably-fast lift (it's second hand) there's also a fab new picnic area and a choice of pistes: Secret (dark red), Comborciere (black) and the un-groomed Malgovert (red with black sections, certainly when its icy).  All in all, it's become a bit of a destination.

2. The new pedestrian footbridge (aka la passerelle panoramique) at the top of the Aiguille Rouge is a good new innovation, and the resort is now so much better for non-skiers, with a proper pietons lift pass, swimming pool at Arc 1800 etc etc.

3. On social media, the Pisteurs Arcs Facebook and Twitter (@PisteursArcs) give a great inside track of the dynamics of the resort, as does the ever-energetic R'Les Arcs radio station.  On Twitter, @SkiVillaroger is often skiing in the other Tarentaise resorts like Sainte-Foy and is a good guide to the local conditions.

 LES FLOPS

1. Feels a bit harsh calling out the Aiguille Rouge cable car, given it gives access to such epic views and one of Europe's finest runs - not to mention the new opportunities for non-skiers to explore the site.  But it now has pretty awful queues most of the time, including out of high season. It almost feels like some kind of timed ticket system like you get at the doctors or deli queue might be necessary.

35 minute queue beyond this point

2. The Paradiski Priority Lane: All the main lifts now have a priority lane reserved for those who have bought the Paradiski 6 day ski pass (retail price 305 Euros).  This gives off a not-very-nice vibe and is contrary to the whole idea of Les Arcs and similar resorts which was to bring skiing to a wider audience.  Anyway, it's not such an issue as hardly anyone buys the full Paradiski pass in any case.  But low marks to Compagnie des Alpes nonetheless.

3. The Club Med at Arc 1600, which opened in December, is a monument to unthinking development.  There is no reference to the traditions of Les Arcs' architecture, and no respect for its amazing setting.  It just sits there in its Soviet-syle glory, manspreading across the lower reaches of what was Les Arcs' most beautiful away-from-it-all blue piste.  Poor show to the local authorities who allowed this through.

Last year Alpe d'Huuz. This year, Les Arcs. Coming soon: La Rosiere
Club Med has big plans to attract skiers from new markets
like Brazil and China and - to its credit - is committed to
the summer season as well as the winter period



Friday, 28 December 2018

SEASON 2018/19: 10 Things To Know

1. Les Arcs is celebrating its 50th anniversary

...and the coming year will see a whole range of innovations and animations.  For newcomers, the key things to know are that it was founded by a local Robert Blanc, who had been working as a ski instructor in Courchevel and got together a group of architects, developers and other assorted pioneers to set up a new resort above Bourg-St-Maurice.  The first base, launched in 1968 was Arc Pierre Blanche, now Arc 1600.  People from established resorts like Val d'Isere thought they were crazy.  For more on the history, including Charlotte Perriand's ground-breaking architecture, click here.

2. There's a new clock at Arc 1800.  But it's more than just a clock...

It's a "musical sculpture", designed to bring a new element of poetry and musicality to Les Arcs - and forms a cornerstone of the 50th anniversary celebrations.  Conceived and constructed locally, there are 19 bells, to denote a "chromatic" octave-and-a-half.  It's at the heart of the front de neige, just by the Vagere lift.


3. Panorama Matters: "pedestrian footbridge" at 3,226m

Pedestrians are being actively invited to join their skiing friends and spent time at Les Arcs' highest point.  This year's new innovation is 35m in length and boasts an unparalleled view of Mont Pourri. On Christmas week the summit was open for visitors to take advantage of the site, even though the piste down remained closed.

4. RIP to the Hotel du Golf Bar

The Hotel du Golf remains at the heart of Arc 1800.  But it is no longer the heart of the resort, complete with live jazz featuring quirky musicians for 3-4 day stints.  New operators Belambra Holiday Clubs have a completely different format.  Apparently it's working well and the hotel is often full.  But it has lost its soul.

5. Parking charges at the Funiculaire are Not A Thing

At 68EUR for a 4-day stay, a group of people can save a lot of money by driving up and either paying in resort or parking somewhere cunning like Plan Devin below Arc 1600.  A poor show and does not tie well with the resort's assertion of its environmental credentials.  Anyway, at least...

6. ...there will be fancy New Carriages for summer 2019

On winter Saturdays, the funicular links Les Arcs with 3 European capitals: London, Brussels and Paris.  From next summer, visitors will be able to enjoy the new panoramic cabins as they make the 8 minute journey to resort.


7. Brexit starts with...The Great British Celebration

Now in its 3rd year, the resort's annual celebration of all things British is scheduled to kick off on...you guessed it, March 30th.  The brainchild of the local mayor, last season's event featured Olympic snowboarding star Jenny Jones

8. There's a new lift (and a new piste) in the Comborciere sector

The lift is second-hand and the red has distinctly black-ish shades, but these developments - coupled with a rather excellent new picnic area at the summit - certainly provide more reasons to spent time in this beautiful part of the slopes, with its "high mountain" feel.  A shame to see the reggae music banished from the departure point though.


9. For a day-trip from Les Arcs, try La Rosiere

La Rosiere has always had a lot to offer, but on the French side the runs (according to some) lacked variety and interest.  This year sees the the opening of two new chairlifts and five new pistes, with the summit rising to 2,800m.  If you're keen, you can watch a full France 3 TV programme on the resort's offer and ambition here.



If you haven't got a car, there's a bus from the Funiculaire (the Arc 1800 tourist office has details), which takes you to the Les Ecudets lift just above Seez.  If you have got a car, park at Les Ecudets anyway as it saves a lot of driving.

10.  La Plagne has a new logo

Two years after Les Arcs launched its new visual identity, La Plagne has introduced an update to its famous logo.  They too have gone for an upper case font.  If you look closely, the smile is not as "enigmatic" as it was:

Before

After

Thursday, 8 November 2018

TOUR DE FRANCE 2019

After ignoring the Tarentaise for what seemed like absolutely ages, the Tour de France returns this coming summer for the second year in a row.  This time it will be right at the end of the race, and it could be Tarentaise tarmac that determines who wins.

Following on from Geraint Thomas' victory in La Rosiere, the Tour will be visiting Tignes for a stage finish on 26th July, having first claimed the 2,700m Col de l''Iseran (from the Maurienne side).  The tour last visited Tignes in 2007 when the stage was won by the soon-to-be-disgraced Michael Rasmussen - more here.

And then the next day - the last one before Paris - the Tour will start at Albertville, pass through the pastoral delight that is the Beaufortain and then drop into Bourg St Maurice en route to the long drawn out final climb to the summit finish at Tignes.

In Bourg the best place to watch may be by the roundabout at foot of the Cormet de Roselend.

Full route details here.