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|Resort: Bourg St Maurice/Les Arcs
Date: 15th - 29th January 2005
Our holiday: Six people in total. Three mates there for the full two weeks, and three for seven days - two for first week and one Thursday to Thursday. One second weeker, one converting from boarding to skiing, one learner boarder and three plateaued intermediates.
Website : http://www.lesarcs.com/spip/rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=125 and http://bsm.alpesprovence.net/index.htm
Basics : BSM is a French town in the Savoie region of France, up the valley from Albertville. Travelled by Eurostar, and flights to/from Geneva and Lyon. The Geneva contingent hired a car for the first week.
Lift system : Les Arcs consists of two/three main areas, separated by a ridge. One side has Arc 1600, Arc 1800 and Vallandry-Plan Peisey, while the other side has Arc 1950/2000 and Villaroger. The first side has a more tree-level skiing and the second side has the high, Aguille Rouge section. Both are reasonably extensive and well linked by several chairs and a gondola. Les Arcs is reached by a Funicular, which normally takes less than ten minutes to reach Arc 1600. From there there is a mixture of older, two man chairs and a quicker, four man that gets you up and into the main area. There are also free shuttle buses to 1800, which is in the heart of this side of Les Arcs. Generally the lifts are good, fast and in January we never waited more than a couple of minutes - and that was rare. At the end of the day though you do sometimes rely on one specific chair to get home, so make a note of its last run time.
The terrain : The 1600/1800 side is a long ridge with runs running down the length of it. There is a slight concentration of runs above each of the three centres, linked by reds. The whole area is crossed by two, long blues running diagonally left to right (Belvedire and Foret) and right to left (Foret and Sources). There are places on these blues where you may have to walk. Cachette is the big red above Arc 1600 which has a lot of snowmaking facilities but gets a lot of use so can cut up towards the end of the day. More fun is Arolles (I think) which comes off the right at the top of the Cachette chair and takes you down, through the trees to meet up with the blue, Mont Blanc, which is very good for second weekers and fun to play around in if the weather's bad. Further into the area, a trip the Arpette chair gets you to a point where you can take some good runs back down into the Arc 1800 area, or down into the Arc 2000 bowl. Both are good. If you're a good skier the unpisted, steep red Cachette looks a challenge. There are a number of good runs around and between Vallandry & Arc 1800 all of which end up through the trees lower down and a good afternoon can be had around and between the Plan Bois chair and Combe button. In Arc 2000 the runs off Varet, Grand Col are very good with some good views, if a little short (don't bottle the schuss at the end or you'll end up walking). However the best part of Arc 2000 are the runs off Aguille Rouge and especially those down to Villaroger. The latter ones cross and mingle all the way down giving you the opportunity to mix difficulty as your legs see fit. Finally, don't miss a trip to la Plagne, but you're unlikely to want to go more than one or two times.
The snow : thin, bare, patchy, icy and rocky for the first few days. We had a top-up on teh first Tuesday, then loads of fresh stuff and high winds over the weekend, followed by clear skies and very cold. After the Tuesday the snow was generally very good but got a little firm in places in the cold towards the end (not massively so).
Off-piste : Didn't do a lot but there's loads of it on the Arc 2000 side and plenty of shorter runs and trees on the Arc 1800 side. Gets tracked out very quickly though.
The resort : BSM was very quiet though there were plenty of decent restaurants and one or two bars got reasonably full at the weekend. Arc 1600 we only saw immediately off the slopes and seemed just as quiet. This was January though. BSM has two decent sized supermarkets on the road to Val d'Isere, and a Lidle not far from the funicular stop. The town centre generally has bakeries, clothes and more touristy shops. It also has a market on Saturdays. Arc 1600 has a small shop of everything you'll need (though several equipment shops), but is obviously more expensive than BSM. The Arcs centres are all ugly, and functional (but are very functional).
Food : Chalets Des Arcs above 2000 was the best of the restaurants we ate in. We also liked L'Arpette (bottom of Arpette chair). The Fying Squirrel was good (if a walk) and worth hunting out if you're on that side of the mountain. Also the Arcelette (???) at the bottom of the Combette chair (by the ski school) in Arc 1600 is very good. In BSM the Edelweiss, La Tartiflette, the Hotel Savoie, and Le Notte were all very good.
Accommodation : Stayed in PG's self catering apartment. Close enough to the funicular and station to make it easy in the day, but also in town for the evenings. The biggest problem was ensuring you made the funicular you were aiming at as a slight delay in leaving the flat could add twenty minutes. Didn't take long to guage the times though. The apartment was clean, large and well kitted out. Very good value for money and ideal for anyone with a car who wants to check out any other resorts in the area, or a group with non-skier(s).
Costs: Apartment, Eurostar (1st class), lift pass & ski hire for two weeks came in at (very) roughly ¬£750
Conclusion: The biggest downside was the early lack of snow and the weather over the middle weekend. I'd recommed getting an apartment in Arc1600/1800 if ski in/out is more important, but staying in BSM meant we were able to make it a two week holiday instead of a one week one. Get the Paradiski Doscovery pass (one day in La Plagne) as you're unlikely to spend more than one day there (on a one week holiday), but do go as it's definitely worth a trip. Mixed ability groups can do a day out to Arc 2000 (over the Arpette chair and back via Comborciere), stopping Chalets Des Arcs for lunch without restricting the better skiers to flat tracks but giving the beginners relatively easy runs. For absolute beginners I'd recommend Vallandry or Arc 1800 to 1600, but BSM/1600 is good for second weekers (and remember there are free shuttle buses - Navettes). Other levels of skier will enjoy any of the centres.
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