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

Sunday, 14 October 2012

LES ARCS 2012-13: A Rough Guide

If you're in Les Arcs this winter, here are 10 things you can drop into conversations to impress the locals and/or bore your fellow skiers:

1.  The bond with Bourg St Maurice

It's more than just the funicular to 1600: Les Arcs IS Bourg St Maurice's ski resort.  They are marketed jointly as Bourg St Maurice-Les Arcs, they are part of the same local government commune, and there is a daily commute of workers up and down.  Aime's relationship with La Plagne is similar.  Bourg is not a particularly wealthy town, and the economic impact of departure of the Chasseurs Alpins soldiers during Summer 2012 is a big concern.  The locals are called les borains.  People "from Les Arcs" are arcadiens. Locals over at Peisey are peiserots.

Bourg St Maurice, looking towards La Rosiere

2.  Founded by Robert Blanc

The founder of Les Arcs was from a farming family based in Hauteville-Gondon (just outside Bourg), who spent the summers with their sheep in what is now the Arc 2000 valley.  His dream was to come back and see a ski resort above his home town.  Arc Pierre Blanche (now 1600) was duly launched in 1968.  Robert Blanc was killed in an avalanche looking for lost skiers on the road up to 2000 in 1980.  More here.

3.  The resort nearly went bust in the 1980s

It all went a bit horribly wrong for Les Arcs, and a landslide on the road to 1800 did not help.  This prompted a transfer of power away from Blanc's business partner Roger Godino and land was sold to other developers.

4.  A pioneer of snowboarding

Apocalypse Snow...

Les Arcs always fancied itself as a home of les nouvelles glisses, for example in being the capital of the ski evolutif means of teaching beginners.  The Apocalypse Snow films were filmed in Les Arcs during the early 1980s....

5.  The old ski area around Courbaton

When you arrive at Arc 1600 you will see a dilapidated building on your left.  This is the former cable car station from the "old", pre-Les Arcs ski area.  More here.

6.  Intrawest

Arc 1950 was developed by the Canadian developers Intrawest during the early 2000s.  It is much loved by the Brits and, increasingly, by Russians.  The introduction of the Bois de l'Ours and Marmottes lifts were a direct result of the "resort" opening.

7.  Mountain Biking

The Cachette piste above Arc 1600 is a racing (slalom) course during the winter.  In summer there is a serious MTB descent route down its western flank.  If you're driving up to the resort, comment on how difficult the climb is, and remind your friends that this was where Miguel Indurain met his end during the 1996 Tour de France.

The top of the Cachette

8.  Architecture: a national treasure...

Not everyone loves the original architecture.  But it was part of a broader vision, starting on a relatively small scale at 1600, and moving on to the mass-construction methods deployed in Arc 1800 and later Arc 2000.  You can go on a tour if you are staying in 1600 and 1800, and you can read all about it here and here.

Pierra Menta, Arc 1800 (1978)

9.   Paradiski

The new lift to La Plagne opened in 2003.  Although no-one ever actually admits it, traffic between the two stations is far lower than predicted, but Paradiski must go down as a success in being able to promote La Plagne and Les Arcs as one of the top ski destinations in Europe.  More on the link here.

10.  Local sports

When you drive through Bourg St Maurice, comment on FC Haute Tarentaise, which is based in both Bourg and Aime - two towns together etc.  You may also see the Isere bubbling away.  This is one of the best white water rafting sites in Europe.  On the slopes you may see the Les Arcs' Ski Club training in their day-glo suits.  They are one of the best development squads in France.  The most famous local skier, however, is a "Plagnard", namely Jean-Luc Cretier.

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