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|Resort: Les Arcs 1800
Date: 5th - 12th March 2005
Our holiday: Family. 4yr old kidsâ€™ second week on snow. 38yr old kidsâ€™ 15th â€“23rd week on snow.
Website : http://www.lesarcs.com/spip/-Ski-area-or-mountain-of-hapiness-
Not the easiest to navigate but lots of info/links.
Frequently (sometimes too frequently) updated weather predictions
Basics : East of Lyon, Chambery and Albertville, perched above Bourg-St-Maurice at the north-eastern end of the Tarentaise valley in the Savoie departement of the Rhone-Alpes region. 3 hours from Geneve and 1.5 hours from Chambery in decent traffic. We went Eurotunnel, Calais, then A26/A4/A26/A5/A31/A6/A46/A42/A432/A43/A430/N90. Not a good journey out this time largely due weather in France. Need to leave resort early (before 0800) or late on changeover day to avoid traffic out.
Lift system : Efficient system linking each of 3 valleys (Arc 1950/2000/Villaroger, Arc 1600/1800 and Peisey-Vallandry). From main centre in each valley can pretty much get to the next valley by using just one lift. All stations have big fast lifts out. Still some old ones around the system but no significant queues except for the cable car up to Aiguille Rouge. Very few drags, good for kids. Paradiski link from Vallandry to La Plagne â€“ Vanoise Express â€“ Iâ€™m told itâ€™s very good.
The terrain : Pretty skiing amongst the trees on the Peisey-Vallandry side. Gentle reds and not too gentle blues to practise on. Great place for a top-up lesson. Arc 1600/1800 not too exciting but good selection of blues and reds, steepish and shallow, wide and narrow. Arc 2000 more interesting. A few good blacks off Aiguille Rouge (3226m) - good snow so confidence building on both pisted steep and unpisted mogulled. Mogulled black under Bois de Lâ€™Ours 31 good for practise, as is Lac and Edelweiss and Cascade down to bottom of Pre St Esprit 39. Watch out for long flat Nordic style blues in both 1800 and 2000 valleys though! Didnâ€™t go to Villaroger 1200, though Aiguille Rouge run goes from summit down to it and I understand is one of longest pisted runs in Alps (2000m vertical). The Flying Kilometre Olympic speed skiing run at Arc 2000 - didnâ€™t look into it but it is apparently 45deg and open to the public for a taste of speed skiing (starting half way down with special skis and a parachute). Family and slow skiing areas not bad at 1800 though with occasional blue run racer (a racer with only enough skill to race on a blue run).
The snow : 1st half of week, good, light, dry powdery (though not lots). 2nd half scrapey, though good cover on piste and sun had got his hat on. Lots of high skiing and good snow record.
Off-piste : Fairly extensive but I only did side-of-piste. Fun had on large mogulled sections between pistes, and between trees but snow cover a bit dodgy for the latter imho, so didnâ€™t do very much. From what I could see, most of lift-accessible reasonably sane off-piste terrain largely tracked out. Hairy stuff at top of Aiguille Rouge out of my league. Iâ€™m sure a guide could find things though esp in 2000.
The resort : We were based in 1800. Largely fairly ski convenient. Some big blocks though so even if you can start/stop at the door of your bldg thereâ€™s still a short trudge with skis (good to warm-up in the morning but no redeeming benefit in the pm). We were in the Villard area of 1800 and didnâ€™t feel the need to walk round to Charvet on the left and definitely had no urge to walk up-hill to Charming Todger on the right. Villard is surprisingly small for a major resort centre. It isnâ€™t unattractive and is car free and very easy to get around. There are a handful of bars, several restaurants, several clothing/accessory shops, a handful of ski hire shops and one decent supermarket. I guess double the numbers if you include the other parts of 1800, and of course the other stations have their own centres. 1600 is connected by a funicular to Bourg-St-Maurice, a proper town with lots of facilities and choice.
Food : We lunched at Les Alpages du Chantel off the lower section of the Carreley family area run - excellent food but quite small so limited seating and steep stairs to toilet difficult for little ones in ski-boots. Also at Lâ€™Arpette off bottom segment of Arpette run â€“ very good food, very popular/crowded, get there early or late. Also at the self-serve La Creche at top of Transarc â€“ decent food not too crowded. Also on the terrace at the Hotel du Golf in 1800 â€“ very convenient immed after 1800 ski school, decent food, pretty popular/crowded. Dined at Le Triangle â€“ very good food, made an effort to please, rather tight squeeze. Also at La Cloche a Fromage â€“ very good food and diverse menu. Also at Le Chalet Bouvier nice surroundings, decent food.
Accommodation : We stayed at La Nova apartments in 1800. Booked directly with Maeva as itâ€™s in the same block as the ski kindergarten Pommes de Pin. Functional and clean apartment, not a chicken coop but more of a sheep pen. TV with remote and choice of channels incld BBC World. Enough space to live, cook, rest. Not what youâ€™d call living it up but we wanted proximity to ski kindergarten and weâ€™d come to ski, not lounge. Ski to door of your part of the block down narrow scrapey but bumpy so fun path (from where it was 10metres to the door of my apartment! Uninspiring but not unpleasant 2 minute walk up covered rubberised path in the morning straight to ESF HQ smack in centre. Loading and unloading at these apartments always a bit of a pain.
Children: The Slikedgelets were booked into Pommes de Pin ski kindergarten for the mornings. Having skied blues with us last year, we wanted them taken up the mountain during their lessons, but were told that they didn't usually take 4yr olds up. This is not made plain in their advertising. We tried speaking to the ESF instructors allocated to the kindergarten and were told no problem. Despite this on the 1st day they spent a frustrating morning once again going up and down ramps and stuff. I spoke to their particular ESF instructor and she said their group would go up the mountain but only later in the week. Rather than to rant, I immed went to ESF HQ and booked a pvt lesson for the kids with this instructor that same afternoon and another for the following pm. She was then able to appreciate that they could control their skis and were themselves controllable. The very next day they were promoted to the 1st star group and were taken up the mountain. Looking again at the kids' ski school blurb, ESF do say that group lessons start at 5 (which is a hint), whilst ArcAventures start at 4. Actually, if going for group lessons up the mountain there is probably little advantage to P de P. You can drop off at 0900 instead of 0930 I guess is the main one! as well as having somewhere near slope to leave the kids equipment. But it's 230euros/wk for P de P (incld equipmt hire) c.f. 121euros/wk for the gp. lessons alone.
Costs: Neither an exorbitant nor a thrifty place. We did it on an amazing budget though, thanks to 6 person apartment for 792euro direct from Maeva and driving (admittedly primarily for kidsâ€™ clobber).
Conclusion: Had a great time. Plenty of skiing whatever your level. Enough to do unless more wild party animal than diehard snowhead. Not uneasy on the eye. Not expensive. Reasonably ski convenient. Snow safe. Good for kids. Good all round resort.
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