Bourg St M Town Hall, Dec 2017. Has "Architecture of XX Century" status, alongside cinema & Arc 2000 cable car station. Click on photo for more

Friday, 26 April 2013

DOWN BUT NOT OUT: Snowboarding

"Snowboarding is no longer new, no longer extreme, and - now that your mom knows how to ride - no longer quite as cool"   

THE big change on the slopes of the last 30 years has been the arrival of the snowboard. But there is pretty clear evidence that it has reached its peak.  According to this article, sales of snowboard gear are down 21% in the last four years.  The number of skier days in the US is up by 16% since 2004.  Etc.

Similarly, after seeing a period of 300% growth between 1988 and 2004, "the sport is spluttering in the United States".

The two reasons for the decline seem to be:

1. Snowboarders are getting older, so can't go as often as they would like, now they have families...
2. The innovations in ski technology (twin tips, park skis, fat off-piste skis) have made a real difference, enabling skiing to regain its market share

It's also clear that snowboarding remains much more popular in the US than it is in France.  Even in this 'post-growth' environment, the reports suggest around 30% of slope users are snowboarders.  In France, it's running at around half this level - and lower in the more "traditional" resorts.

Even Les Arcs, home of les nouvelles glisses, including the "cult" 1983 film Apocalypse Snow, struggles to get much above 15%.


As snowboarding started to get going in the 1980s, even James Bond got in on the act, with a snowboarding scene in A View To A Kill...

Back to the present.  Here are the results of our 2012/13 survey:

% of slope users on snowboards:
Les Arcs (Xmas): 11%
Les Arcs (10-11/1): 15%
Les Arcs (11/3): 12%
Les Arcs (10-11/4): 17%
La Rosiere (9/1): 16%
Flaine (15/3): 13%
La Plagne (12/3): 12%
Le Grand-Bornand (8/1): 9%
Ste-Foy (13/3): 8%
Villars (14/3): 6%

Technical Note: All data is gathered via careful random sampling methods, with minimum sample sizes of at least 400 per measurement....

Sunday, 21 April 2013


Updated 8 December 2013

A quick internet guide to the history of Les Arcs:

External inks:

The Reve des Bergers (aka "Shepherds' Dream) - Claudie Blanc's book about her father Robert and the Les Arcs story.  May take a bit of finding, but available in resort

The Espace Arcadien site has loads of history, including detailed guides covering the installation (and removal) of the various ski lifts

long essay on the history, which will challenge your French

The culture pages of the official Les Arcs site

The English and French language Wikipedia pages

From this blog:

The timeline of Les Arcs

The architecture of Charlotte Pierrand and team (Part 1)

The architecture (Part 2)

The old ski area, which included lifts from Bourg St Maurice itself

Changes to the Les Arcs ski area, 2002-2012

Interview with Claudie Blanc about her book (see above)

Tour de France 1996, including the beginning of the end for Miguel Indurain

Tour de France 2009, with Lance Armstrong et al spending the night in Arc 1950

The now departed Chasseurs Alpins army division.  (They still keep a ski training base in Tignes Les Brevieres)

The Vanoise Express, which celebrates its 10th birthday this year

Looking back at Peisey-Vallandry from the Vanoise Express
documentary which traces the history of Les Arcs (also taking in the Tignes dam)

Sunday, 7 April 2013

LA PLAGNE SKI AREA: What Happens Next?

There's been quite a bit of change in La Plagne this year, with the remodelling of the Plagne Centre area, and the opening of the fast new chairlift by the stade de slalom and the new Traversée lift on the glacier.  Not to mention all the excitement of the 50th anniversary, the re-opening of the Derochoir piste.  Etc.

And there's more to come.  The ever-alert www.perso-laplagne.fr site has just brought us the latest news.  They thank the La Plagne Press Office for their advice.

Changes on the not-too-distant-horizon include:

1. The renovation of the Telemetro between Aime 2000 and Plagne Cetnre - more information to come on this shortly.

Aime 2000

2. The 3rd phase of the refrubishment of the galeries at Plagne Centre - which have been lovingly chronicled here.

3. The removal of the Coqs chairlift.  Skiers coming from Montalbert will be directed to the La Roche chair, via the Cornegidouille piste.  There are some concerns that this may cause overcrowding on the Cornegidouille.  It's narrow in places, with trees either side, and could become a bit of a nightmare with skiers of all abilities only having this option. So they are going to see how they go for a season.

4.  This is all part of the grand plan taking shape to prepare for the new Montalbert télécabine, planned for December 2014.  There appears to still be some heated debate around what this will mean for the three holiday villages on the piste down to Montalbert. But it looks like intermediate stations for the lift have been ruled out, at there will simply be a direct line between Montalbert and Le Fornelet.  There will however be a reworking of the pistes, and more artificial snow to link them to the gondola base station.


The new lift will see the end of the Montalbert and Fornelet chairlifts, although apparently they will be put to good use elsewhere in the La Plagne ski area.

In the words of www.perso-laplagne.fr:

"Let us hope that everything will be done to protect as much of the forest as possible along the line of the route, as well as the Tete du Fornelet site itself"

5. Meanwhile, the current Coqs lift is not being scrapped or sold.  It is going to be moved over to Les Bauches, where it will replace the old 2-person lift.  Since the re-opening of the Derochoir piste, this area has got much busier, so this will help ease the queues. The www.perso-laplagne.fr report speculates on exactly which path it will take.  In theory, its length (1250m) would allow a link with the 6-pack La Salla lift.  But then again the Carroley lift is going to be replaced in 2017, and there are various modifications coming in that sector, ahead of the construction of the new Carroley télésiege.

Monday, 1 April 2013

LA PLAGNE'S GREAT DESCENT: From the Glacier to Montchauvin

Much is made of the epic descent in Les Arcs, from the mighty Aiguille Rouge at 3226, all the way down to the pastures of Villaroger 2000m below.

Very few resorts can claim to have ski runs giving 2000m vertical.  La Plagne is one of them.  Its own great descent takes you from the Bellecote glacier, at around 3250m, all the way down to Montchauvin.  But it is rather less well known.  For two good reasons...

The trip starts on La Plagne's rustic/"urban" gondola from Roche de Mio over to the glacier area, followed by the new Traversée chairlift.  

The glacier at La Plagne

This 2000m descent has been on and off La Plagne's piste map for years.

Here's one example, which shows the pistes (regardless of whether you take the black or red/blue versions) finishing at 2300m.  There is no piste down towards Les Bauches and the Vanoise Express.  And the oh-so-fancy interactive Paradiski map doesn't have it either (yet).

This is where the newly resurrected Derochoir piste comes in.  It was on the piste map until 1987, was then retired and became an off-piste route.  And now, following a series of works by the lift company, it's back.  Skiers taking this route are warned with a big sign saying (from memory) "68% gradient - good skiers only".  But it's just too enticing for many.  Carnage ensues:

The Derochoir piste

There are no nasty cliffs to fall off, but it is icy, busy and has some narrow sections. Stay patient and you should be fine.  But it is harder than anything on the Aiguille Rouge-Villaroger run.

If you survive the Derochoir, you ski down a beautiful deserted valley to your next challenge.

To avoid taking a lift, and therefore keeping to the "2000m in one descent mission", you have to take the Les Bauches blue.  This sounds delightful.  However, a sign warns you that this is, er, on the flat side:

2km of flat piste awaits

This is indeed a correct assessment.  But if you persevere, in perfect solitude, your poling will lead you to the Vanoise Express sector, with a clear run all the way down to Montchauvin at 1250m...