Les Arcs was the first time our annual group snow holiday had ventured out of Austria and into France and the only preconceptions I had were that it was going to be pricey!
Arriving at tiny Chambery airport the transfer took just over 2 hours whereas our friends that came in from Scotland had to endure a traffic heavy 3.5 hours on a coach journey from Geneva.
This year we were a 30 strong crew so filled Inghams Chalet De L’arc ( a conveniently easy name to remember when drunk) the staff met us and took our bags round in a van whilst we made the short trek to our home for the week. Having a super early flight (5.50am from Gatwick) our accommodation was not ready for us on arrival so we decided to strip off and grab an extra half day on the mountain. This cost cost us $30 but with blue skies and plenty of snow it was worth the additional cost.
Arriving back to the chalet our rooms were not exactly clean but ready enough for us to grab a shower before dinner. Still eagerly awaiting our buddies arrival we were forced to start our first meal without them.
Though Inghams advertise a 4-course dinner, including pre-dinner apèritif, followed by tea/coffee & chocolates I have yet to see an apèritif or be offered a hot drink or chocolates however, the staff cheerily offer up good quality meals and were liberal with the wine which suited my group perfectly. My only real issue with the food was once again the really odd vegetarian options – lentil stew served on mash potato anyone?
Despite having a rather heavy night we were all up in time for a cooked breakfast, served with baguettes, croissants and pain au chocolat which gave us enough fuel to hit the mountain and explore the resort.
Les Arcs has 4 main villages 1600, is the lowest but is well connected by the funicular railway which takes under 10 minutes to reach the slopes.
1800, the largest and was our favourite place to grab lunch, with lots of little cafes, bars and shops to suit everyone’s needs. Last year Mile 8 zone was created here which includes a swimming pool, spa facilities, children’s play area, sledging zone, and winter walking trails. This area also had a range of wide runs and connected with quiet Peisey-Vallandry which were amazing for building up my confidence.
1950, the newest and prettiest village looked like something straight out of a fairytale and had a lovely patisserie, spa, pubs, upmarket hotels and restaurants. The streets were also snow covered allowing you to ski in and out.
We stayed in 2000 the highest of resorts made up of huge interconnecting buildings which you confusingly have to trudge through when trying to get anywhere. Though not the prettiest it was only a short walk straight to the slopes and had plenty of amenities so I couldn’t really complain.
Starting out on our first run I was disheartened by the narrow slopes and crowds but just round the corner people spread out as more routes and several chair lifts were revealed.
There were plenty of varied options for all abilities to enjoy, some great steep slopes, and lots of wide tree lined pistes. The only down side was there were also a lot of flat linking runs which are my arch nemesis.
I was still getting the hang of snowboarding so was quite happy pottering around the pisted areas, where as some of the others were a little more adventurous and seemed to enjoy racing down the boarder cross and exploring more challenging parts of the range.
One thing my group always looks for is a decent snow park which Les Arcs’s delivered. The only downside from my perspective, was unlike Mayerhofen and St Anton there was not an area for us all to sit watch our buddies attempts at jumps and stunts. Saying this there were two bars near the park a two story quiet space where you could enjoy steaks, salad and a beer whilst seeing if riders were going to glide or sink in the water slide, and another with a more laid back vibe. The second was our bar of choice as you could enjoy mountain views whilst chowing down on basic but tasty canteen style food like salads, chicken, burger chips and pizza. That was until it hit about 4pm when the apre scene kicked off, the music was cracked and half the mountain descended to party, drink, and dance on tables.
Our group was an eclectic bunch, with a variety of skiers and snowboarders from beginners to advanced but despite our differences we managed to meet up all over the mountain due to it’s great connectivity.
If all that was not enough you could also pay extra to head on over to La Plangue another ski area connected by fast cable car from Peisey-Vallandry, making it an easy trip.
After a long day of snowboarding we headed back to the chalet for some home made cake and coffee but were also greeted with an actual cess pit building up outside our balcony. Despite the steaming pile of poo we did not leave the chalet much over the week, and enjoyed spending time in the large social space.
The only evening we ate in the village was on the Wednesday when the staff had their well deserved day off. Our rep helpfully made a booking for us at Kilimajaro in Arc 2000 where we stuffed ourselves silly on raclette and fondue, served by friendly French staff.
Feeling full but still not ready to call it a night we dropped into Whistlers the bar closest to our chalet. Things escalated as they always do and I think the staff and other punters were pretty happy we didn’t make it out much. Managing to piss them off with horrible slow and uncoordinated games of pool, using the table as a slide and briefly steeling the snowboarding boots that were hanging from the ceiling.
After a couple more hard nights on the wine and days on the mountain our bodies needed a break so on the Saturday a bunch of us headed to the spa in 1950 where we enjoyed steam rooms, a sauna, jacuzzi and a pool within caves. Though it did my body the world of good, going to an enclosed space with some of the loudest people I know was not exactly relaxing but a fun experience.
As always with these weeks it went by way too quickly and before we ready it was time to hop on the coach and head back home. I liked Les Arc’s as a resort but most of us agreed that a week was enough feeling that we had managed to concour most of the mountain. Though we all enjoyed our jaunt to France it was an expensive trip so it looks like we will be returning to much more budget friendly Austria again next year.
If you like the sound of this trip you also might want to check out how I survive a snow holiday.
Do you guys ski or snowboard? Where is your favourite place to holiday? If you don’t does this sound like your kind of trip?
*Group shot by Jonny Flynn