Les Arcs 1800 & Les Arcs 1950
The resort of Les Arcs is made up of 4 modern purpose built villages all at different altitudes - Arc 1600, Arc 1800, Arc 1950 and Arc 2000. All have their own individual feel but together they make up a huge ski area well serviced by an impressive lift system. Les Arcs has the added benefit of being connected to the larger ski area of Paradiski which offers over 400kms of pistes. Les Arcs with its modernist architecture has the reputation of being one of France’s original mega-resorts, purpose-built for those wishing to access the mountains. But this focus on being built for purpose has created a convenient and accessible resort with a varied and large network of pistes.
Arc 1800 is the biggest of the resorts and consists of 4 villages known as Charvet, Villards, Charmettoger and Chantel. It opened in 1974 and is the epitome of a purpose built ski resort consisting mainly of large apartment blocks sitting below their slopes. They are low-rise and are not hugely intrusive when seen from the pistes. Le Charvet and Les Villards are focused around small mostly open-air shopping centers. Big apartment blocks then run across and down the mountain. Charmettoger has smaller, wood-clad apartment blocks. Le Charvet spreads up the hill to Le Chantel. At the very top, a new Edenarc development has opened.
Arc 1800 has around 100 shops, shuttle services, hotels, meeting rooms, a two-screen cinema and an ice rink. There is a good selection of restaurants catering to most tastes (including Casa Mia, voted resort restaurant of the year 2003 in a worldwide competition). The village has a convenient position on the mountain, just above the resort of Arc 1600, and given its altitude sits comfortably above the winter snow line. The TransArc gondola reaches the top of the Arc 2000 quickly and there is a good selection of ski lifts, such as the six-seater Vagere, to take you to the various parts of the mountain.
Arc 1800 occasionally has the benefit of better weather conditions as a result of the topography of the mountain. When heavy snow falls at Arc 2000 it can be closed down and can also be at the mercy of heavy winds funneling down to the valley. But this is not a problem for Arc 1800, which is west facing and thus benefits from sunshine in the afternoon. This area is linked to La Plagne by the Vanoise Express cable car, departing from the village of Peisey.
Arc 1950 was opened in 2003. It is a five-star alpine village developed by Intrawest, the Canadian developer responsible for Whistle and Mont Tremblant. It has been designed to be cute, has smaller apartment buildings finished in traditional alpine style and clustered around a traffic-free square. At an altitude of nearly 2000m it offers almost guaranteed winter skiing and is linked to Arc 2000 by a free pedestrian accessible gondola Cabriolet.
Arc 1950 has a wide variety of shops and restaurants including Italian, Mexican, French, Savoyarde, creperie and American. It also has pubs, wine bars, lounges and a nightclub. In 2012 a 1,000 m2 Deep Nature Spa opened, offering treatments and relaxation rooms. The village is completely "ski in–ski out" and the hotels and apartments have by far the highest standard and comfort level in Les Arcs (even compared to the majority of the French ski resorts (Arc 1950 was voted "the best place to stay in the Alps by Ski Club of Great Britain 2007)).
Arc 1950 is a haven for families and is also car free, making it a very safe place where children can be left to play. Everywhere in the village there are games, toboggan runs and bouncy structures to entertain kids. Arc 1950 was also designed so that all the village residences, shops and infrastructures would be easy to get to on skis. A gentle slope takes you smoothly through the village and back out to the ski area without having to use your poles.
The ski area
Les Arcs ski area is impressive, consisting of 106 runs and 54 lifts. The highest peak is the Aiguille Rouge (Red Needle) with its 7 km long piste with 2026m of vertical descent. From vast open runs (especially above Arc 2000) down to beautiful wooded pistes, Les Arcs has it all. There is a terrain park with green, red and black jumps and rails. Snowboarders will be relieved to know that there are few drag lifts. The ski lifts have been gradually updated and are modern, fast and comfortable. And since the opening of the Vanoise Exrpess cable car, Les Arcs has become part of the Paradiski which offers over 425 km of pistes making it one of the largest in the world.
For children Les Arcs is well equipped. There is a children’s area at 1800, complete with moving carpets, tobogganing and a climbing wall. There are also a couple of discovery pistes, at 1800 and 1600, for children to find out about flora and fauna of the Alps. Arc 1950 is also particularly family-friendly.
Arcs 1800 is a great choice for beginner skiers as it has many wide green and blue pistes and easy runs back to the centre.
For more expert skier there are lots of genuinely challenging runs and Les Arcs has lots of off-piste opportunities. Particularly recommended are the back of the Aiguille Rouge down to Villaroger, or off the back of the Bellecote glacier (from La Plagne) down to Nancroix valley, just below Peisey, which is linked by a free shuttle bus. There is also off-piste routes from Tignes to Les Arcs.
Les Arcs offers a huge selection of summer activities including biking, kayaking, climbing, glacier walks, hiking, horse-riding and paragliding. Both Arc 1800 and Arc 1950 have swimming pools and spas. You can visit the ice caves on the Col de la Chal, discover the spectacular baroque church of Saint Pierre, even go shopping. There is also a varied events calendar making Les Arcs a destination through summer and winter months.
Both Arc 1800 and Arc 1950 have all the amenities available that one could need. There are medical centres in 1950, 1800 and 1600, a hospital in Bourg St. Maurice. There are vets based in Bourg. The best pharmacies are in 1800 and 1600, with pharmastores in 1950 and 2000. There are mini supermarkets in each section of the resort, clothes shops, ski shops, crèche, newsagents, bakeries and shops selling local produce. There are also cinemas, bowling, and a rich and eclectic events calendar.
Several airports service the area with varying transfer times. Transfer can become more expensive out of season.
Geneva Airport to Arcs 1950 - 2hr30 approx.
Grenoble Airport to Arcs 1950 - 2hrs25 approx.
Chambery Airport to Arcs 1950 - 1hr45 approx.
Lyon Airport to Arcs 1950 - 2hrs30 approx.
You can take a train from London to Bourg-St-Maurice. There is then a funicular from Bourg to Arc 1600 taking just 7 minutes.
Getting around resort
The best way for skiers to get around Les Arcs is by skiing. It will take as much to ski from Arc 2000 to Arc 1800 than take the free shuttle bus. There are free shuttle buses circulating every 20 mins in the daytime then every half hour until about 9pm. There are two main circuits: the first is between 1600 and 2000 via 1950 and the second between 1600 and various sections of 1800. This means that to get from 2000 to 1800 you have to change buses and it will take at least 30 minutes.
In Arc 1950, there is a 720 place covered car park providing direct access to apartments by a lift.
In Arc 1800 there are 3 covered parking areas as well as parking along the roads.