Set above the valley town of Bourg St Maurice on a sunny plateau, Les Arcs came to being in the 1960s with the Arc 1600 was built. It was one of the first ski-in, ski-out developments. The buildings, which were presumably designed to blend into the mountains and mimic them in the eye of the architect, alternatively mimic a type of tatty holiday park, but the design was user-friendly and assured Les Arcs’ success for years to come. From then on, Les Arcs has boomed steadily into Arc 1800 and Arc 2000, two more convenient slopeside villages, and a rare new development, Arc 1950, which is constructed in faux-Savoyarde style and whose apartments were snapped up within three days of going on sale in Paris.
The reason for the rush were, firstly, new ‘resorts’ in the Alps are as rare. Second, in spite of its faults, Les Arcs is an underrated ski resort, having an immense and varied ski area, ski-in, ski-out accommodation, lifts going up to 3,200m and a vertical of more than 2,000m, plus a funicular going down to the railway at Bourg St Maurice, including the fast rail links to Paris and London.
During the 90s Les Arcs experienced an image crisis, almost hit the wall at osome time because other resorts stole the limelight and the custom, but having the link to La Plagne completed and the new Arc 1950 development, the resort is once again setting itself at the cutting edge of French skiing.
The largest talking point in the Alps come to fruition several years back, the union of convenience of Les Arcs and La Plagne under the umbrella of Paradiski. A 200-person double-decker cable-car, known as the Vanoise Express traverses the Ponthurin gorge separating the two resorts and opens up to skiers access to 425km of runs and 143 lifts.
What Les Arcs does have above its new partner is some truly steep piste skiing, and the sublime 7 km Aiguille Rouge run from the peak of the resort all the way down to the valley village of Le Pre, a vertical drop of more than 2,000m. But most of Les Arcs’ tough stuff occurs above the treeline and is exposed to the vagaries of the weather, which can readily close down the highest lifts.
© 2012 Athena Goodlight