Les Arcs – On the piste
The ski area ranges from 1200m to an impressive 3200m so there is normally good snow coverage from December until early May. Les Arcs alone has 54 ski lifts and 200km of pistes, with these numbers rising to 143 lifts and 425km for the Paradiski area. Beginners will find well-conceived debutant areas throughout Les Arcs often with some free basic lifts. Intermediates will love the variety and the forested trails in the Peisey-Vallandry sector. Experts will find plenty to keep them amused off the Aiguille Rouge and with the extensive off piste opportunities. Hiring a guide via one of the ski schools or the “Bureau des Guides” is recommended.
Beginners and families
Each area has a designated spot for beginners. For example in Arc 2000 there are free moving carpet lifts and the Saint Jacques chair lift (which give access to a wide, gentle piste) is free on Saturdays and Sundays. There are long gentle blue pistes which link the villages and make getting around fairly swift, but these are less fun on a snowboard than skis.
Intermediate and advanced skiers
There is plenty for intermediates and advanced skiers with some nice cruisy reds (like “Belette” and “Myrtilles”) above Vallandry and more bumpy reds (like “Clair Blanc” and “Malgovert”). The blacks off the top of the Varet bubble are enough to test anyone's thighs after fresh snow. The Aiguille Rouge-Villaroger run is a superb black above Arc 2000 with a vertical drop of over 2000m. The first part is narrow and can get quite icy but for those that want to take the cable car just for the views, there is always the option to take it back down as well.
There are loads of good off piste opportunities around Les Arcs. Like the descents from the Aiguille Rouge into the Vanoise Nature Reserve and down to Villaroger, or the North Face of Bellecote from the back of the glacier area of La Plagne. Local expertise and a professional guide is important, not just for safety, but to help you find the best snow! After fresh snow, the runs marked “Natur” on the piste map are left ungroomed but still controlled by the pisteurs leaving you lots of powder to enjoy!
The Apocalypse Park above Arc1600 is a reference point that many resorts aspire to. It is well maintained and has a good variety of features including jumps, boxes, rails and an air bag jump. The park is served by a T-bar drag lift which gives swift service for those who want to do circuits and hone their technique. The music pumping out of the speakers will help you forget your nerves!
Les Arcs is home to the Gavaggio Monster Cross (GMX), a junior skier cross event held annually. There is also an evening Freestyle display event called the L.A. Session.
The national French ski school (ESF) are present throughout Les Arcs and run many of the facilities for children including a massive kid's snow area in Arc 1800. There are several independent schools including Spirit 1950, Evolution 2 and Arc Aventures. There is also a speed-riding school and many of the ski schools offer extras like Paragliding. There is a “Bureau des Guides” in Arc 1800 for those looking for off piste adventure although guides do operate through all of the ski schools.