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Hiking above Peisey Vallandry

Saturday, 29 November 2014

LES ARCS 2014/15: Latest News

Opening dates are now confirmed: 13 Dec-25 April: more on what's coming up can be found at the newly revamped official website.

The season starts with what is now a regular fixture: the Les Arcs Film Festival.  The "special country focus" will be on Irish cinema.  This year the programme includes a Music Village, which will run from 12-15 Dec.

The big news is the transformation of the Chantel slopes at Arc 1800, which sees a new beginners area, luge track and swimming pool complex, served by the equally new Villards gondola.  In an audacious move, this new area, dubbed Mille 8 in the resort's press release, will allow skiing until 7.30pm.  The press briefing also confirms that December 2015 will see a new "Dahu" pedestrian lift introduced to serve the upmarket but isolated Chantel and Edenarc complex.  Not to mention an upgraded 6-seater Carreley lift which will provide direct access to Arc 2000.  And another restaurant.  It's all a bit too much to take in....

The top station of the new Villards gondola,
August 2014

Still on the snow, Les Arcs has a new Freeski Academy, which will teach young people aged 12-20 up to competition level.

The backcountry freestyle competition aka The Red Bull Linecatcher, runs from 17-24 Jan.  Last year there wasn't enough snow, so it was cancelled.

The Vanoise Express will no longer look like this, as JC/DC has been commissioned to decorate it with a new design for 2014/15.

Over in La Plagne, the new Colosses lift is ready for action - a mega-fast 8 seater which, it is hoped, will reduce the notorious queues of up to 50 minutes that have blighted Plagne Bellecote for so long.  For more on the background, including the Montalbert gondola, now due in December 2015, click here.

Meanwhile, Simon Beck's snow art continues to gain publicity, most recently through this piece in The Independent.

Click here for more

Sunday, 23 November 2014

SNOW (AND SAND) ART: Simon Beck

Les Arcs has always had a slightly eccentric streak, and Simon Beck's brilliant snow art is part of that tradition.  The British cartographer has a flat in Arc 2000, and much of his work can be seen on the slopes above the resort.  It takes him 6-9 hours for one of his masterpieces to appear - more here from  laplagnet.com.

Take a look at this video on how he does it, as well as this selection of pictures from the Telegraph and the Guardian.  There's another nice gallery here at plusmaths.org.


"Making these drawings is map-making in reverse.  
You start with the map, and you need to make the ground agree with the map."
Simon Beck


He has also been busy back home, taking to the sands off the Somerset coast armed with just a rake and a compass.  There's more in BBC report.


For the latest news, including the chance to buy a copy of his new book, check in at his Facebook page (complete with nearly 300,000 likes) and website.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

LES ARCS 2014/15: The Ski Schools

There aren't zillions of ski schools in Arc 1800, but there certainly is a choice.

Which to choose?  All the instructors have the strict French ski teaching qualifications. They all speak English (although they are always happy to help you with your French). Everyone's on the same mountain.  In some ways, it comes down to time of day:

For a quick lesson at 9am, choose  Privilege.  They only have a few instructors, but are very flexible and friendly.  Based out of a ski shop in Villards.  You can have an hour lesson with them and, after a quick refresh, you can be on your way.

If you have two hours, between 10 and 12, there is Arc Aventures.  Part of the ESI network, they run these handy sessions outside the absolute peak weeks.

For an hour over lunch, either 12-1 or 1-2, best to go to ESF.  They have more instructors than anyone else, and there is usually space.  Note: they do have a tendency towards being dull bureaucrats.  Last year, during the Paris school holidays, I tried to make a telephone booking while en route to the resort.  This rather modern approach was not permitted.  When I got to the resort they were booked up.  Make sure you take note of the French school holiday calendar: the February/March holidays for the various zones go on for quite some time.

There are plenty of options in the other Les Arcs villages of course.  For example, the New Generations school has a bases in Vallandry and Arc 2000; instructor JP McCarthy is happy to meet clients in Arc 1800.

If you want to explore the off-piste, the Bureau des Guides at Villards has a macho back-country vibe.  But they have very few actual guides.  If you want to book one just for your party, it's likely to be touch and go.  You might want to consider going to Ste-Foy or Tignes for such a trip.

Le Monal, Ste-Foy-Tarentaise


Thursday, 6 November 2014

HAPPY FAMILIES IN VALMOREL

Ambitious Valmorel is recognised in the World Snow Awards as most improved family resort.  It is praised, among other things, for the new piste to Doucy and its innovative family lift pass.

There is still some way to go.  In this year's ski brochures, for example, Crystal places it in the second tier - the resort is part of their internet offer but does not make the print version. And Inghams doesn't bother with Valmorel at all.

But the resort is certainly on the way up, with new lifts going in, a state-of-the-art Club Med and something completely different in the Celliers valley - more details here.  It's also much handier for Lyon and Geneva than its larger neighbours further up the Tarentaise.

This blog puts them in the Premier League of French resorts: the skiing equivalent of Crystal Palace...

Any resemblance to your ESF instructor at Valmorel is purely incidental


Sunday, 2 November 2014

A MINE OF INFORMATION: PERSO LA PLAGNE

Good news for La Plagne fans: the excellent Perso La Plagne site is now on Twitter. Follow @PersoLaPlagne for all the latest news about the resort.  It's the essential guide to the latest lifts and modifications to the piste network.

Their first tweet advertises a France 3 documentary about the lead mines which formed a central part of the local economy prior to the birth of the ski resort in 1961.

You'll find loads of articles (in French) and pictures on the site.

But for a bit of background in English, you can read a little more about the pre 1961 history here.  And this article picks up on the development of the resort since then.