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Aiguille Rouge, by Pete Caswell. Click on the painting to visit his site

Friday, 30 March 2012

PEISEY-VALLANDRY

Peisey-Vallandry used to be a bit of a backwater, tucked away at the far end of Les Arcs' skiing, with some brilliant red runs served by ancient chairlifts.

Today it's most certainly on the up - the Dutch are particularly in love with it, and the arrival of the Vanoise Express link has been followed by more developments, including a Club Med and some new lifts.

It's probably not the place for beginners - the nursery slopes are good, but at the top of the chairlifts, which is hardly ideal.  And there is much cheaper accommodation available in Les Arcs.  Getting to know the local place names: Landry, Plan-Peisey, Peisey-Nancroix, Vallandry....it's something of a challenge.  Minor niggles aside, it certainly has a lot going for it.

1.  The Climb Up

For cyclists, this is a not particularly well-known route.  Most people take the main road to Les Arcs and remind themselves of where Indurain came to grief in 1996.  This is a much tougher climb, with more hairpins, steeper gradients and a nightmare last 3kms.  You can continue the torment by cycling onwards via Arc 1800 and 1600 to the savage climb that runs from Comborciere to Arc 2000.  In winter, you will need chains if it snows.  No question!

2.  The Nancroix valley

This is the gateway to the Vanoise national park from this part of the Tarentaise.  There are loads of beautiful walks in summer, and in winter it's a mecca for ski de fond and biathlon.



3.  An Old Village

The ski resorts of Plan Peisey and Vallandry are basically new, and have been developed since the 1980s.  But there is a genuinely old and characterful village of Peisey-Nancroix just below, at 1300m, and served by a small bucket lift.  Together with Villaroger, this is really the only rustic option on the Les Arcs side of Paradiski.

4.  The New Lift

Suddenly, Peisey is at the centre of things - if you do want to cover the La Plagne-Les Arcs circuit, this is the place to do it.


5.  Flattering Red Runs

There is a pretty extensive selection of red runs served by the three main chairlifts - they tend to be fairly quiet, and are great after a snowfall.  Can be icy lower down, mind, and beware the lower section of the blue Retour Peisey run - probably the hardest blue in the resort!



6.  La Combe

A wonderful red run away from the lifts.  With a guide you can ski to....

7.  Notre-Dame-des-Vernettes



Also a great summer excursion - for example it's about half an hour downhill from the top of the Vallandry lift.  Or you can take the easy walk from Peisey.  Or you can take a much longer walk from the top of the Transarc.  Which brings us to:

8.   1000m of descent

The run from the top of the Transarc, at 2600m, to the Hotel de la Vanoise, and a nice lunch, is a minor classic.  

9.   New lifts

With the advent of the new Grizzly lift a few years ago (built to serve the Club Med development), and the arrival of Le Derby (the key link to Arc 1800/2000), queues are now rarely an issue.

10.  A local website

www.peisey-info.com complements the official site nicely!


Friday, 23 March 2012

TWEETERS OF THE TARENTAISE

Here's an overview of the various websites covering the resorts and villages in the Tarentaise.

To keep in touch on a day-to-day basis, we have Twitter...

So...here's a Rough Guide to some of the local Tweeters (Updated for December 2013....)

Summit of Grizzly lift, Peisey Vallandry
@LesArcs: the official account - they don't tweet too often, but are friendly folk
@LesArcsEN: as above, but in English
@lesarcsfilmfest: more of a seasonal tweeter.  Even if you're not a film fan it's worth a follow for the pre-season build up to the event each December
@laplagneactu: The official La Plagne twitter feed
@peiseyvallandry: ditto for Peisey
@la_rosiere1850: ditto - only 15 mins from Bourg to the Les Ecudets lift...

Above Notre-Dame-des-Vernettes, Peisey Vallandry
@simplyvaldisere: for latest updates on what's happening in Val
@guidespacekilly: for slightly poetic take on the ski season, and great photos
@tignesprgirls: the official press feed from Tignes
@tignesspirit: for real fans of Tignes
@mylaplagne: a real advocate of La Plagne, complete with apartment at Plagne 1800
@simplysavoie: for latest expeditions walking, snowshoeing etc
@skivillaroger: for the latest about...Villaroger
@SimonAtkinson66, boss of the ESF at La Rosiere
@ABSERTI: for latest properties for sale in Les Arcs
@chillchalet: seem to be keener on snowboarding and MTB than skiing and road cycling, but nobody's perfect...

@ledauphine: comprehensive news site, covering a large area of Rhone-Alpes, as well as further south

@ernalow: travel company which covers a big range of resorts, but are big fans of Les Arcs and La Plagne....

Saturday, 10 March 2012

THE GREAT DESCENT: Aiguille Rouge to Villaroger

Updated 13 Jan 2013

Les Arcs' finest run is the Aiguille Rouge descent, which takes you from 3200m all the way down to 1200m.  In days of old it was a black, then it was (more appropriately) graded red.  Now it's back to black again - presumably to make the skiers making the trip feel good about themselves.  There are various by-passes and alternative black/blue options as you get lower down.  One of the hardest pistes is a short black section (marked red on the piste map...) in the Planay area.

The Villaroger area was opened in 1982.  It all feels very old fashioned and rustic, certainly compared with Arc 2000.  The lifts are slow, the mountain steeper, and the snow tricker.  As the Espace Arcadien site points out, the lifts really ageing now, but there's little need for an upgrade given the small numbers who make it over here.  Allow 20 minutes to get yourself back to the foot of the Drosets lift.

You start by getting the James-Bond style cable car above Arc 2000.  Note the architecture of the cable car station - it is has been awarded a special architecture of the 20th century award.  For more on Les Arcs' architecture click here.

Most of the shots here were taken during April, which means you start off in winter in the haute montagne and finish in a green-white spring setting down in Villaroger.  A beer in La Ferme is the target.

Ski-trainspotters can revel in being able to see the slopes of La Plagne, La Rosiere, Ste-Foy and Tignes during the descent.  Here's the Grande Motte from the Aiguille Rouge summit.


The Bellecote summit of La Plagne reaches similar heights. But the Aiguille Rouge summit feels higher somehow.  There is no restaurant - just a first aid post.  And, of course, a 360 degree view - these folk are looking over towards the Beaufortain
and Moutiers.



At the foot of the glacier you take a right towards Villaroger, rather than taking the direct route down to Arc 2000:




If you are having a leisurely descent, stop at the Solliet restaurant below the Droset chair.  You used to often see the husky dogs here.  They had a kennel down by the Comborciere lift, and took their guests over to the Solliet for a chocolat chaud.   This season, chief musher Hervé has moved the dogs over to Arc 1800, so he can be closer to the bulk of his clients.


The Solliet changed hands a few years ago, and has recently been extended.  It's a fine place to stop, with views towards Le Monal, Le Miroir and Ste-Foy.



The piste below the Solliet gets very heavy during late season 
afternoons, and doesn't keep its snow particularly well.


On to the home run, just above Villaroger.  By now you are likely to be all alone.


Just above Le Pré (Villaroger), the piste/winter ends, and the footpath/spring begins.



The view across to the Villaroger chair lift.  Anyone coming from Tignes or Val d'Isere for the day should park here rather than trek round to Bourg St-Maurice.


As you can see, every effort is made to keep the run open until April, and there is now artificial snow-making on the lower slopes.   Here's a more wintery view, from January 2013:

                                        


Given its relative fame, there are of course various videos to be found on YouTube.  
This one seems as good as any: