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

Monday, 28 December 2015

SNOW REPORT: Not too bad, all things considered

It's fair to say that snow conditions are deeply underwhelming across the Alps - as witnessed by this week's edict from St-Martin-de-Belleville town hall for locals to leave the slopes for the tourists this week.

Les Arcs seems to be holding up reasonably well.  At first sight, things look reasonably white, at least on the higher runs.  But the thin snow cover means rocks and stones are never far away from the soles of your skis.  The pisteurs have done a fine job with what they have, and stakhanovite groups of them have been spotted digging out snow from the areas adjacent to the pistes. Apparently a lot of good work was done in November to make artificial snow while the real product was still falling.

Skiing in Arc 2000 is quite reasonable, as are the higher pistes on the 1800/1600 side above the Arpette.  Peisey is very bare, although a number of runs to resort are still open.  Sadly the run to the iconic Blanche Murée has been closed.  As is Villaroger.  

Above Varet (2600m), Dec 2015


This year sees the culmination of the Mille 8 development above Arc 1800, with the opening of Le Lodge - an ambitious new restaurant/bar complex.  It's just below the excellent new beginners' slopes, and is a fine place for groups of skiers to meet.  In the absence of an Austrian-style "Ubi's Ice Bar" by the Vagere, this is where you should wait for your chums.

It's early days - but there is lost of space inside and out, including options to go for a restaurant meal (plat du jour €16) or a snack.  Non-skiers can come along too (access is via the Villards gondola).  It's no ordinary mountain restaurant - it's open until late on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays (last lift down is at 10.30pm) and various parties and events are already on the agenda.

Once everyone's back to work, there's the chance to bring your team here for an invigorating conference - the downstairs restaurant converts into a seminar room.

Last, but not least, the design is stunning, and it represents a fine modern twist on the original architectural vision of Perriand and Taillefer.

Monday, 21 December 2015

LIVE FROM LA PLAGNE: The Montalbert Gondola

The big news from La Plagne this year is the arrival of the Montalbert cable car, whose journey from the planning stage to coming on stream has been chronicles by the excellent Perso-LaPlagne site. (Their new Twitter account can be found here).

The new gondola apparently cuts journey times from Montalbert (1300m) to Le Fornalet (1970m) from half an hour or so to just six minutes.

The ongoing development of La Plagne's slopes is not without its controversy.  At the other extreme of the ski area, the local politicians are ranting at plans to reduce in scope/rationalise (delete as appropriate) the Montchavin/Les Coches lifts.  More here.

The arrival of the new facility has
made four older lifts redundant

LIVE FROM LES ARCS: Les pisteurs

A new site to follow this season is the Facebook Page of the pisteurs des Arcs.

It's quite a good news feed from the resort.  For example:

  • The pisteurs will be in attendance at the world record attempt for the largest torchlit descent, which is scheduled for next Wednesday 29th Dec.
  • Yesterday's post warns Xmas and New Year skiers of the need to be very careful negotiating the currently very thin snow cover, with a picture from the high (but rocky) slopes of the Grand Col.  More on snow conditions at the official Les Arcs site.

Have a look out for the early morning First Tracks excursions which run most weeks between January and March.  You take a very early lift with the pisteurs, have breakfast with them and then start skiing before everyone else has even started.  Recommended.  You might even get to meet some of their friendly colleagues, namely the 7 avalanche dogs.

Home time: Waiting for his colleagues
to confirm there are no skiers left on the pistes

Tuesday, 15 December 2015


1.  For kids - see this super piece from welove2ski.com, which sets out 10 "snowy ski books" for children.

2.  For adults - see the reading list at the foot of the blog - including Robert Macfarlane's brilliant Mountains of the Mind.  In resort, even if your French isn't brilliant, it's worth picking up Alpes Magazine or Le Dauphiné's Alpes Loisirs just for the pictures...

Sunday, 6 December 2015


And from an Oxford band, too....

The Foals video is billed as "virtual reality".  Other videos have been shot on location in actual ski resorts.  For more, including Abba (in Les Diablerets), The Police, Wham (in Saas Fee), Tom Jones and the Jacksons (in Leysin) , click here.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

A ROUGH GUIDE TO LES ARCS: Ten Things You (Might) Need to Know

A quick tour of the resort which may be helpful for those heading off to Les Arcs for the first time:

Above Arc 1800

1. Skiing: if you are able to ski red runs, it is worth taking time out to do the 2000m descent from the Aiguille Rouge to Villaroger.  Stop for a coffee at the Solliet half way down if you get tired.

2. Ski Schools: On balance my prize would go to Arc Aventures in 1800; but more details of the various options can be found here.  Note: The Ski Club of Great Britain is offering instructor-led guiding at Les Arcs this year, in the wake of all the uncertainty around the legality of its own rep skiing with guests.  Evolution 2 are proving this service.

3. Non-skiing: It would be brave to claim Les Arcs is a top place to go.  La Piscine at Arc 1800 certainly adds a new dimension.  And here's a guide to some of the other things on offer.  The ice cave has since moved to Arc 2000 (by the Arcabulle lift).

4. Snow Art: Keep an eye out for Simon Beck's creations around Arc 2000.  They are quite something.

5. Eating: Blanche Murée is my official favourite, but there's quite a good choice now, from the nice hut by the top of the Peisey lift, all the way through to Belliou La Fumée below Arc 2000. More on the food here and (from Where to Ski and Snowboard) here.

6. History: More than you are ever likely to want to know can be found here.  In two sentences: the two founding fathers were local ski instructor Robert Blanc and developer Roger Godino who spotted the potential of the area.  It started with Arc 1600 in 1968 and progressive expansion followed with Arc 2000 opening in 1980, the year Blanc was killed in an avalanche below the resort while searching for missing skiers.

7. Architecture: British guides often sniffily dismiss the architecture of Les Arcs, choosing to wax lyrical about the Bicester-village style design on show at Arc 1950.  But there's quite a story to the architecture of Charlotte Perriand, including their application to the mass production of the interiors, for example at Arc 1800.  More here.

8. La Plagne: Buying a 6 day Paradiski pass isn't really necessary, but you are likely to be tempted to go over there for a day.  Head for the Glacier if it's not high season, and try the 2000m descent all the way down to Montchavin.  For the latest on La Plagne (in French), the Perso-La Plagne site is great.

9. Social Media: You can do some armchair exploration of the area by following some of the locals on Facebook and Twitter.

10. Parking: You have two choices.  Pay at the Funiculaire parking (still controversial) and get the train up.  If you do, it might be better to buy your ski pass before starting out as the ride up is included.  Or drive up to resort, where you will have to pay.  Unless you want to leave your car on the access roads and take your chances.

Belles Challes, Arc 1800

Saturday, 28 November 2015


A number of results, such as Tignes and Val d'Isere have now opened their doors for the season.

For Les Arcs, the grand opening will be in a couple of weeks' time.  As usual, the first week of the season is the week of the Les Arcs' Film Festival, which this year includes a focus on Norwegian Cinema.  There's also a section dedicated to the mountains, of which La Melancholie des Telesieges looks like a highlight.

In other news:

1.  There is snow - as witnessed in this picture from local skier Jules Bonnaire's Facebook page.

2.   The Cachette piste has been remodelled, primarily to boost its status as a racing/training piste (slalom, GS etc).  The resort has invested in 82 new snow cannons: more via Le Dauphiné.

3.   The new Carrelley lift will provide a direct link to Arc 2000 from Chantel/Edenarc apartments - with the sad consequence of this being the demise of our much-loved Renard lift (over by the Transarc).   More on new lifts in the Paradiski area and elsewhere here.

Saturday, 14 November 2015


Following the attacks on Paris, the border crossing at the Col du Petit Saint Bernard is now closed, reports Le Dauphiné.  Concrete blocks were being added today (Saturday) to mark the frontier. UPDATE 15/11/15: Today's Le Dauphiné reports that the pass is now closed to road traffic for the winter

The heart of the Espace San Bernadino ski area

Further south, here is the even more remote Col du Larche, high above Barcelonnette in the Hautes-Alpes.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

PARADISE POSTPONED: No Tour in the Tarentaise (again)

There are loads of good things about the 2016 Tour de France route:

  • The opening days in La Manche will be beautiful - weather permitting
  • The stage finish at the obscure Massif Central ski resort that is Le Lioran
  • A more imaginative few days in the Pyrenees.  No Plateau de Beille. Hurrah!
  • Mont Ventoux, itself an unlikely ski resort
  • The excursion into Switzerland
  • The three-week caravan follows a nice arc, Normandy to the Alps, with no long transfers (until the final day)

The only sad point is that (yet again) there is no racing in the Tarentaise.  Unless you count the stage start in Albertville.  Bourg St Maurice, Les Arcs, La Rosiere and Tignes can all claim some Tour heritage.  But it's been some time since the race went beyond Moutiers.  At least we haven't lost out to our friends in the Maurienne, which has been the usual scenario in recent years.  Roll on, 2017.....

The Miguel Indurain era ended
on the road to Les Arcs, 1986

Saturday, 17 October 2015

TWIN TOWNS: Football and Skiing

With the football season now under way, time to look again at which ski resorts make the best twins for the Premiership sides.  Here is the 2014/15 version.

With the demise of Hull, QPR and Burnley, which resorts should be twinned with the three sides that take their place?  Here are three candidates:

AFC Bournemouth: ORCIERES-MERLETTE.  Way down in the south - none of the fancy big players ever paid them a moment's notice previously. But when you look at what they now have, it's quite impressive.

Norwich City: SERRE CHEVALIER.  Remote location, historic centre, good cuisine. Yo-yos in and out of the big league.

Watford: MONTGENEVRE. Strong Italian influence, previously traffic-clogged but road improvements now take most of the traffic away from the centre.  Always in the brochures in the 1980s; back in the top flight now.

Flaine would doubtless want to challenge
its twinning with Aston Villa

A GUIDE TO THE SLOPES: Where to Ski and Snowboard

The new edition of Where to Ski and Snowboard is now out.  It has a winning format - latest news and analysis, followed byextensive guides to the main resorts and pen pics of hundreds of smaller ski areas.

Looking at the main chapters, there's an informal system of promotion and relegation in terms of who is and is not included.  For example, Alpbach was relegated from the 2014 edition, but is back now.

Over the years, Valmorel has yo-yoed from having a seat in the main section to being in the back of the book.  It's back with a chapter of its own this year, although the authors suggest that the ski area is "lagging some way behind - and it is never going to compete with its illustrious neighbours in the next-door Three Valleys."

You can ski over from Valmorel to St Francois-Longchamp in the Maurienne valley, and the Maurienne will be delighted that it now has a chapter of its own in this new 2016 edition.

This includes details of the Eski-mo ski pass, covering the five resorts east of Modane, as well as short summaries of the following ski areas:

  • Les Sybelles
  • Valloire
  • Valmeinier
  • Les Karellis
  • Albiez
  • Valfrejust
  • Aussois
  • La Norma
  • Bonneval-sur-Arc

These resorts are little-known to British skiers.  And they provide much cheaper options than the mega resorts on the other side of the hill.

I've never got beyond St Francois in winter, but the summer drive up the valley motorway is a more dramatic one scenery-wise than the RN90 to Bourg-St-Maurice.  And the skiing gets good reports - see for example this piece from Peter Hardy in the Telegraph a few years ago.

Surely some mistake:The new edition of the book gives
Les Arcs a measly 2 stars for Alpine Charm....

Saturday, 3 October 2015


With the temperatures now starting to drop, a quick round-up of some of the pre-season news from the Tarentaise.

Les Arcs makes the Best Resorts for Experts list in the Telegraph.

Scary TV show The Returned is back on French screens and is back on More 4 on 16th October.  Although much of it is shot in Annecy, series 1 gave the Tignes dam a starring role:

There's more of this at the Les Revenants Facebook page

The Les Arcs Film Festival is gearing up for its annual event, which runs from 12th December.  The special focus this year is on Norwegian films.  This coincides with the start of the season, which includes new lifts in Les Arcs and La Plagne, as well as completion of the Mille 8 development above Arc 1800.

Further up the valley, conditions at the Grande Motte over the summer were terrible.  But if you can't wait until December, the Tignes glacier is now open for business.

If you want to follow the valley from afar, the @La_Rosiere1850 twitter feed is arguably the best.

Friday, 25 September 2015

GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS: The French Ski Market

The good news is that France has regained its crown as the world's Number 1 ski destination.

The less good news is that this is the result of a 5% fall in skier numbers in the US. French numbers are down by "only" 2.7%, and so it returns to the top spot.

Terrible snow on the other side of the Atlantic is a key factor in the American numbers: this Planet Ski account contains more detail.

In total, France registers 53.9m skier days, with the US on 53.6m.  Austria is catching up, with just under 52m (up 2%).

This annual review, from the French ski resort association, says resorts didn't do too badly all things considering.  In particular, the early season snow was terrible, and the resorts remained plagued by late school holidays.

The southern Alps fared worst, with an 8% year-on-year fall, while the season saw a sharp recovery in the Vosges (after a disastrous 2013/14) and a good season in the Jura. Smaller stations were aided by the good mid-winter snow cover.  In the ski heartland of the northern Alps, which account for between 65-75% of skier days, visitor numbers are broadly in line with the previous four seasons.

All in all, not a disaster, but not too great either.  One reason why the big resorts are still coming up with new marketing schemes like the mega Tarentaise pass.

Early season in Les Arcs

(For more details on the 2013/14 season, click here.)

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

ONWARDS & UPWARDS: New lifts for Les Arcs and La Plagne

A good summary of some of the things to watch out for this season in Les Arcs & La Plagne can be found on the Ski Nordique website.

This includes:

  • The new telecabine at Montalbert, part of a phased redevelopment of the La Plagne system.  For the latest photos, follow the Perso La Plagne site
  • The new Paradiski Yuge app, which is being given a big marketing push
  • In Montalbert, a new 3km blue piste - les Lupins - aimed at younger skiers, complete with wood sculptures and a feature tunnel
  • A Traversée du Paradis challenge, aimed at people energetic enough to make the journey from Montalbert to Villaroger.  It includes offers at participating restaurants as well as a prize draw at the end of the season

Meanwhile, the Ski Club of Great Britain provides a good summary of the new lifts coming on stream this season: Avoriaz, Val d'Isere, 3 Valleys.  And in Les Arcs we will have the new Carreley lift, which will provide fast access to Arc 2000 from the Edenarc complex, just above Arc 1800.  It links with the transformation of the Chantal slopes, following the launch of the Mille 8 development last season.

All in all, quite a transformation over the last couple of years.  The only sad note is the demise of the Grand Renard lift, which provided a rustic alternative to the second stage of the Transarc.  It's nowsurplus to requirements, given the increase in capacity provided by the new lift.

Mille 8

Sunday, 13 September 2015

ALPINE LEGENDS: Marketing the mega resorts

The first snowfalls have started to appear on the tops.  The new edition of Where to Ski and Snowboard is out.  Britain itself faces "months" of heavy snow.  Time to look ahead to season 2015/2016.

Val Thorens last week. Source: Val Thorens Tourist Office

The big marketing news is the arrival of the new Alpine Legends pass.  The chance to enjoy Paradiski, Espace Killy and the 3 Valleys on a single ticket.  In return for a 340€ six-day pass, the winter visitor now can now take advantage of the 391 lifts, 1300 ski runs, 5 glaciers the three areas have to offer.

"It's a unique product with a unique target market", says the website sniffily, in response to the "FAQ" asking why there are no discounts for children, seniors or groups.  Quite what that target market is, who knows.

Here are the prices for day tickets in each of the mega-areas covered:

Espace Killy: €54€
Paradiski €57 (50€ for Les Arcs/Peisey only)
3 Valleys: €59

By my maths, the cost of simply buying day passes in the area you want to ski in is practically identical, but maybe I am missing something.  I imagine relatively few people will want to ski in one area in the morning and another in the afternoon?  Even rally driving from Les Granges above Arc 1600 to Les Brevieres at Tignes is still likely to take an hour or so out of the day....

Note: if you are visiting Les Arcs for the week, you'd be far better spending a day in La Rosiere or Sainte-Foy-Tarentaise than trekking up to Tignes - the two smaller resorts offering a change of pace and a different experience.

Anyway, it all seems harmless marketing spin, and with the decline in the  ski market witnessed in recent years, everyone is thinking about how they can increase their market share and/or win back some of the lost skiers.

There is now a real gulf in prices between the big league resorts and the next level down.  A 6 day Paradiski pass will set you back €291.  Set his against relative neighbours Les Saisies, Le Norma and Aussois, and the southern resorts of Auron, Isola 2000 and Le Sauze.  These are all credible resorts, which were all offering six-day passes for under €150 last season.

Saturday, 5 September 2015


Thus far, people staying in the upmarket Edenarc and Chantal apartments at Arc 1800 have had to rely on a shuttle bus to link with the resort.  That, or walk up and down a slushy/icy piste.

This is all about to change with the arrival of a new pedestrian lift to link the expanding area at the top of the slopes with the front de neige.

This photo, taken last week, shows the new pylons.  A new Edenarc residence is also under construction.    For more on the transformation taking place at Arc 1800, click here.  

The Chantal slopes:
The old chairlift has been dismantled during the summer

Next up in terms of new developments: the proposed chairlift to link Arc 1800 with the Arc 2000 valley via the Col des Frettes.

Thursday, 20 August 2015


Geneva is the starting point for many visitors to the Tarentaise.  If you hire a car on the French side of the airport, you have the exciting opportunity to travel from Switzerland to France (on foot), go back to Switzerland in the car, and then rejoin France again at the Bardonnex border crossing.

All this cross-border movement is very much a feature of daily life for the 150,000 French workers who cross the border every day.  A new Ipsos poll, L'Observatoire des Frontaliers 2015, sets the scene.

The number of frontaliers has risen by 60% overt the last 10 years (and the number coming from the Savoie departments is up 78%).

The poll shows that the relationship with la Suisse is more than simply transactional:

  • Three in four feel integrated socially and 66% "have a social life" in France outside work
  • And 57% have been working in Switzerland for more than 10 years

All of this is causing more than a little pressure on the frontier.  The Bardonnex crossing has a capacity of some 3,600 an hour, which is woefully unable to cope at peak times. Plans are afoot to alleviate the situation at least to some extent, with the recent announcement that cars will be allowed to use one of the lanes currently reserved for lorries.  Looking further ahead, there are vague plans to look at other possibilities, for example a car sharing lane.  But this would involve a complete reorganisation of the set-up and the Tribune de Geneve points out that it's not that big a priority.

A French flag on a Swiss lake with a French
mountain (Mont Revard) in the background

Monday, 27 July 2015

ROCKS AND STONES: The Grande Motte Glacier

Picking up on the post below about the retreat of the glaciers, today's Le Dauphiné  describes the increasingly poor conditions facing summer skiers on the glacier at Tignes. Some 20kms of pistes are open this summer - but rocks and stones have replaced snow and ice in many parts of the Grande Motte area.  The skiing is open until 9 August - unless the warm weather continues....

More at www.ledauphiné.com

Tignes is one of only a handful of French resorts still open for summer skiing.  Chamonix is no longer among them.

Diccon Bewes' excellent Slow Train to Switzerland provides us with a then-and-now account of the retreat of the ice at Montveners in Chamonix.  He quotes John Murray, in his 1861 hand-book for travellers in Switzerland and the Alps of Savoy and Piedmont:

The view of this enormous sea of ice is one of the most 
striking scenes of wonder, but its great extent....is not appreciated at first.

Not any more, says Bewes:

And a quick Google search provides more evidence of how it has retreated since its heyday.

The book retraces the steps
of one of the original Thomas Cook
expeditions - more here

Saturday, 27 June 2015

VARET WORRYING: The Retreat of the Glaciers

The warm weather is here, and the few remaining resorts offering summer skiing are now open.  La Plagne is no longer among them....

A good time to reflect on the retreating features of the glaciers of the French Alps.  They have lost a quarter of their area over the last 40 years.

The greatest losses have been in the southern Alps: the decline in the Ecrins Massif is more than three times faster than the levels observed around Mont Blanc.  The Chamonix glaciers are aided somewhat by their higher snowfalls.  Having said that, Vincent et al (2014) found that the lowest 12% of the 12km Mer de Glace is now stagnant and now poised to melt away.  They predict a retreat of 1200m by 2040.

"95% of the world's glaciers that are monitored are retreating.  And it's happening so fast. Twenty times faster than any natural temperature change before human beings became so active", says glaciologist Atsumu Ohmura, quoted in this CNN article.

In Les Arcs, the pint-sized Varet glacier saw a protective sheet introduced in 2010 in a bid to ensure the top of the glacier was able to benefit from the winter snowfalls.  Apparently it has been quite successful, and the rate of retreat has slowed.

The Varet Glacier under cover.
Click here for more on the epic ski run from here
down to Villaroger

Still on the subject of the Varet glacier, some readers might like this account of a failed attempt to make it to the summit by mountain bike.

(Research by Holly Atkinson, University of Sussex)

Monday, 15 June 2015

JAMES BOND: Back on skis

Welove2Ski is celebrating the return of James Bond to the ski slopes by showcasing its recent filming in Soelden, an endeavour which involved up to 500 crew members in January and February this year.

They have also dug out seven classic scenes, alongside some useful facts - for example the Russians using Elan (i.e. then Yugoslav) skis in View To A Kill (1985).

For a more amateurish summary of 007 on skis, click here.


The best Les Arcs can manage is the visit of the former Top Gear crew to Arc 2000 some years ago.

With the ski season over, filming of Spectre has now moved to London.  It opens in November.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015


The Col du Petit Saint Bernard is now open, albeit after a bit of a delay.

Val d'Isere has opened its short summer skiing season.  Tignes will follow on June 27th.

Les Arcs is open for the weekends of 20/21 June and 27/28th.

Peisey-Vallandry's Facebook page is this blog's recommended social media site for the summer - lit comes complete with a good selection of local news, as well as various pictures of cows.

More on the coming summer here.

What's more of a concern is the return to our screens this Autumn of something scary:

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

ARC 1800: A Guided Tour

During the season Arc 1800's weekly programme of animations includes a guided tour around the resort.  This year it was at 6pm on a Wednesday.  It's in French at the moment, but there is a plan to do a version in English.

Lots of reference is made to the work of Charlotte Perriand, who masterminded the interiors at Arc 1800.  This involved a mixture of design and practicality, with the initial Charvet blocks of Belles Challes, Lauzieres and Pierra Menta built very quickly, and on a much larger scale than had been the case at Arc 1600.

For those not yet persuaded as to the merits of the resort's architecture, here is a bit of background, while this post talks about Les Arcs' history.

The tour points out how much attention was made to get the orientation of the apartment blocks right, so that they got the benefit of the sunshine as much as possible.  Unlike La Plagne, there was always a plan to make the resort a summer destination, as witnessed in the golf course and indeed the Hotel du Golf (1974).  And talking of summer, the awarding of appellation status to Beaufort cheese has further helped at least stabilise the economy outside the winter season.

Belles Challes, Arc 1800

There is a reminder of how priorities changed over the course of little more than a decade. When Charvet was constructed, there was a big emphasis on being a pedestrian resort. By the time Charmetogger was on the drawing board, everyone wanted to come in their cars, and the resulting plans evolved accordingly.

In terms of developments, it does look like Edenarc will be the last major addition, as the resort is now at the limits of what will be permitted, construction-wise.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

BOURG ST MAURICE: Work in Progress

Bourg St Maurice is now poised to move on from the loss of the Chasseurs Alpins army brigade.  Losing 1,400 people is a big loss to a small town, and it's taking a little time for the plans to come to fruition.

The plan (this one from February 2014) is to build a new tourist complex on the site, which will include a hotel, holiday apartments and aquatic centre.  There isn't a huge amount of information online at the moment, but things are clearly starting to move.

The Quartier des Alpins branding is in place, and work is now under way to clear the site, with 30 buildings awaiting demolition between now and November.

Yesterday: The base of the 7th Chasseurs Alpins brigade

Tomorrow: a new "tourist zone" aka the
Quartier des Alpins

Regular visitors to Les Arcs will be pleased to learn that the redevelopment will be a catalyst for the long-awaited upgrading of the grotty pedestrian bridge which links the station with the funiculaire.  The 2013 plan involved adding new lifts, with the bridge being be extended towards the Quartier des Alpins.  Estimated cost: €1.85m.  Le Dauphiné's 6 May 2015 edition reports that it is indeed going to be "completely renovated", but it's behind the paywall, so that's as far as I've got for the moment.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

PARADISE LOST: Force Majeure

Snow Therapy (French). Turist (Swedish).  And now Force Majeure (in English....).  Now on release in the UK, this Swedish film, set in Les Arcs, is now in UK cinemas.  You can also watch it online at home via Curzon Home Cinema.

Arc 2000 has moved location, and now sits
in the main Haute Tarentaise valley

The Guardian put it on the front page of G2, gave it four stars and interviewed lead actor Johannes Bah Kuhnke.  They filmed the interior scenes in a Swedish hotel (it looks like the Hotel du Golf, but rather swankier) with Les Arcs forming the backdrop to the exterior shots.

"This ice cold Swedish drama about a family torn apart by cowardice is like Bergman with a wicked streak", says the Telegraph, also awarding the film four stars.

At Le Solliet, above Villaroger?

For Les Arcs fans, there is of course the opportunity to completely miss the point of the film and play "spot the location".  These include:
  • Arc 2000 moving location (see photo above)
  • Drinking at Le Solliet
  • Skiing from La Plagne back towards the Vanoise Express
  • The Varet and Aiguille Rouge lifts
  • The Pierra Menta block at Charvet
  • The scary pedestrian tunnel linking Charvet with the Croisette parking at Arc 1800
  • Plus, the star of the show: La Creche restaurant at the top of the Transarc, location for the pivotal avalanche scene:

Click here for an interview with
Ruben Ostlund

Saturday, 2 May 2015


There is new snow up high, but it's the wrong type of snow.  In any case, all the resorts bar Tignes and Val Thorens are now closed.

The Montalbert telecabine is officially under construction.

@WeLove2Ski has published a warts and all guide to La Plagne.  "La Plagne's statistics make it feel like the best resort on earth....However it isn't the best resort - even in France."  It points out the slightly unusual terrain - flat around the main bowl and steep both up top and down below: "by turns it's bland and bloody terrifying".

Les Arcs' website now has its summer skin, with the resort open from 4 July - 29 August. This will see the reopening of the outdoor pool to complement the fancy new indoor pool/spa set-up.

There will also be weekend openings of the funiculaire and Cachette lift during the final two weekends of June.

The summer music festival runs from 19th July-2nd August - bringing with it lots of keen music students and free concerts.

The Tour de France continues to cold shoulder the Tarentaise, but at least the Cyclocoeur cyclo-sportive events, now in their 12th year, continue to flourish.  This year's events are on 7-9 August.

Meanwhile, over at Peisey Vallandry, home to some of the best walks in the area, there is a new website, including a summer photo competition...

Wainwright in the Alps: a walk from
Nancroix valley to the Lac de la Plagne

Saturday, 18 April 2015

SEASON 2015/16

There's still a week of the season to go at Les Arcs, and all sorts of silly things are taking place (#BubbleFoot, Ride'n'Golf, Zumba at 2600m.....).  Full details on the resort's Facebook Page.

But it's never too late to start thinking about next season, and there are some new things in the pipeline.

Over in La Plagne, the final go-ahead for the Montalbert telecabine is about to be granted by the département.  There are big changes planned to the lifts at Les Arcs' neighbour over the coming years; for more click here.

Back in Les Arcs, watch out for:

  • A new Col des Frettes chairlift which will link Arc 1800 with Arc 2000.  Planning permission has just gone in.  I am advised that it's a formality, but let's see
  • A new "lodge" on the Mille 8 site - it's half built already, so this is definitely happening
  • The long-awaited pedestrian lift which will finally link the Chantel slopes with Chantel & Edenarc
  • A new hotel at the Edenarc development, which is opening on 4 July

The lift will (I believe) leave from Edenarc rather
than the Arc 1800 front de neige

Sunday, 29 March 2015


Les Arcs has a fairly dense piste network, but there is still a huge amount of off-piste terrain to explore - taking one of the local ski instructors with you, of course.

For a guide to many of the more challenging slopes, including runs from the top of the Aiguilles Rouge and Grive, click here.

More extensive is this guide from the Peisey-Info site.  It starts off with some useful routes on the Peisey side of the mountain, warning the reader about avalanche danger near the Derby lift and then showing the way to Notre-Dame-les-Vernettes.  The guide finishes with some videos of key routes, including the off-piste run from Col de la Chal down to the Nancroix Valley:

Col de la Chal, from the La Creche restaurant

Seated safely in your favourite armchair, the must-have coffee table book is Didier Givois' Les Clés du Paradiski, widely available in resort.  It covers a big range of routes in both Les Arcs and La Plagne, with perhaps the most terrifying account being the descent from Mont Pourri:

"You must test the snow on the North Face before your first turn.  
If there is ice, turn back, otherwise it will be the last turn you make"
Didier Givois' helpful advice on the Mont Pourri route.  For more, click here.

Similar guides to the 3 Valleys
and Espace Killy are also available

Saturday, 28 March 2015


Perso La Plagne reports this week that a big argument has broken out over the lift company's 10 year investment plan for the resort - more details of which can be found here.

The Matserplan for La Plagne.
Click here for more on Les Arcs' neighbour

More specifically, anger has broken out on the Montchavin/Les Coches side.  The new masterplan involves dismantling a series of lifts, leaving two heavy-duty telecabines to serve that side of the mountain from 2021.  One (from Montchavin) would link directly with the Vanoise Express.

A new blog - save the ski area of Monchavin Les Coches - has been set up by two local figures: Michel Girod was Mayor of Bellentre (down in the valley) between 1986 and 2008, while Gérard Rochet was in charge of the Service des Pistes between 1973 and 2005.

In an open letter, they complain that the changes are motivated by profit, go against the vision of La Plagne's founding fathers, and put 40 jobs at risk.  In particular, they underline the importance of keeping two parallel links rising up the mountain from the twin resorts.

We understand your concerns, respond the SAP (lift company) on the same blog.  But you need to take into account the economic context.  Did you know that Montchavin-Les Coches saw a 27% fall in skier numbers last year, and a further 7% this season?  

The Bellentre group has now put forward its own proposals - which include three different potential routes for the new telecabine de Montchavin.  To be continued....

Figure 1: The lift company's plan
Figure 2: The Mairie de Bellentre's plan

Leaving these arguments to one side, the highlight of the area is the 2000m descent from the Glacier all the way down to Montchavin - assuming you don't mind a km or so along the flattest blue run you will have ever encountered.

Saturday, 14 March 2015


Last week Le Figaro set out its recommendations for late-season skiing - including Val d'Isere (closes 3 May) and Tignes (10 May).  It also discusses the implications on the ski market of the recent changes to the French school holiday calendar.  They now run from 10 April-11 May.  The result: the Easter period now represents some 2% of takings, down from 8-10% previously.  Much to the irritation of ski resort bosses: see here for more.

The latest news is that tourism minister Laurent Fabius is taking a look at all this - his response is due in a few weeks' time.

For British skiers, it means that things will be quiet in late March and early April, and the snow cover is now absolutely fine.  With this in mind, WeLove2Ski has done an "In Praise of Late-Season Skiing" review.  The good news being that Les Arcs, La Rosiere, Ste-Foy and Tignes all make the grade.

En route to the glacier at La Plagne

Friday, 27 February 2015

SKI AU BAS PRIX: The Story of Ski Republic

Visitors to Les Arcs and the other big league Alpine resorts will be familiar with the garish Ski Republic advertising - and many will have taken advantage of their prices.

The adventure has now come to an end.  For more on the low cost ski retailer's (brief) rise and fall, see this analysis by Ski Adventures.

Sunday, 22 February 2015


With two months of the season still ahead of us, the helpful folk at lesarcsnet.com have come up with a handy calendar of events - click here for details.

One hidden gem is the early morning "First Tracks" excursion with the pisteurs.  It does involve getting up early, but the jolly breakfast and opportunity to ski with the experts before the lifts open is well worth it.  For one account click here.  The next one is this Thursday, 26th February.

Monday sees ski rando coming to the front de neige at Charvet, in the form of an hour-long teams-of-two-relay race.  You used to only be able to rent equipment at Christina Sports in 1600, but its popularity seems to be growing somewhat: for example, skis and skins are now available for hire at the shop by the mini market in Arc 1800.  For a fine account of ski touring (in Austria) click here.

Click here for more.
NB You need a doctor's note to take part

Sunday, 15 February 2015


Arrive on an early morning flight to Geneva, and the Les Arcs-bound skier has a wonderful array of resorts to choose from as Day 1 destinations: FlaineCrest VolandMegeve for example.  

Le Grand Bornand firmly falls into this category of Geneva-friendly ski stations.  As does its slightly bigger neighbour La Clusaz.  You can be in the car park below an hour or so from leaving the airport.

Free parking at La Balme

The car park at La Balme is gateway to the highest skiing.  There's also a link to the Cote 2000 area from here on a different gondola.  There's a restaurant, but oddly for a base station of this size, no ski hire shop.  You can rent Alpine skis close by in the Confins valley, which is a charming centre for ski de fond.

Looking back to the resort, during the
"snow famine"of early January 2015

Everyone drones on about how low La Clusaz is, and on our visit, it's true that you couldn't ski below mid-station at La Balme (there being no artificial snow in this sector).  But La Balme's summit of 2477m is comparable with the top lifts of Flaine, Avoriaz and Valmorel, and the reds from the top are genuine reds.  What's more, the views are A-MA-ZING, even by Alpine standards.

View 1: towards Mont Blanc

View 2: back towards Geneva, with the Jura in the distance

The restaurant at La Balme is perfectly serviceable, albeit shady given its north-facing orientation.  We also made it over to the Cret du Loup restaurant below Cote 2000, which has a sunny terrace and friendly staff.  You can also look at one of the resort's curiosities from here, namely a hybrid lift which gives you the choice as to whether you want to sit on a chair or enjoy the shelter of a gondola cabin.

For some stats on La Clusaz, click here, and for the WeLove2Ski review, click here.

For a tour of the resort, here's a nice overview from the Mail.

And for some history, see the English-language Wikipedia page, which charts some of the key dates since the first road into the valley was opened in 1902, click here.

To get the latest news from resort, follow @LaClusazChalets.