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.