Insider's Guide to Skiing in Les Arcs
Making the most of your ski holiday whatever the weather
Image © Tim Wilson
High altitude means lots of snow
Why do people choose resorts like Arc 2000 and Arc 1950 for their skiing holiday? It's all about the snow! The high altitude resorts get more of the white stuff and stay colder so it sticks around longer. The snowstorms however can be pretty brutal at high altitude. When they hit, you'd be forgiven for deciding to stay indoors but you might miss out on some superb skiing.
The Arc 2000 valley can feel pretty wild when the winds are high and the snow is swirling around. Sometimes the ski patrol is only able to safely open Marmottes and the very efficient, covered and heated Pre St. Esprit chairlifts. The ridges between Arc 2000 and the rest of the ski area need to be made safe before the main bowl can open. However, with a little inside knowledge, you can make the most of these conditions.
Image © Tim Wilson
Make a Plan
The first thing to do is find out what the situation is. Using the resort app, 'Yuge' or the dedicated website Ski Plan you can check the daily weather forecast as well as what lifts and runs are open in real time. If a lift shows as 'closed' rather than 'planned' it means it is likely to be closed all day. Another useful source of information is the R les arcs radio station who broadcast regular updates.
When the only chairlifts due to open in Arc 2000 are Marmottes and Pre St. Esprit, it's time to formulate a plan. The best place to ski during high winds and snowfall is between the trees. There are 2 options from the Arc 2000 valley. You can either take the free shuttle bus to Arc 1600 or you can take the Rhonaz drag lift to the Villaroger area.
Villaroger is likely to only have 2 lifts open but they give access to some fun terrain and are usually sheltered from the worst of the weather. If the weather calms down later in the day, the Droset chairlift may open to bring you back to 2000. Otherwise there is a gentle blue run back to the bottom of Pre St. Esprit. It is worth noting that the run from the top of the Rhonaz drag lift to Villaroger is quite flat in places and will take a little bit of skating but it can be well worth the effort.
The free shuttle between Arc 2000, Arc 1950 and Arc 1600 takes about 25 minutes and runs several times an hour. From Arc 1600 you have a few tree-lined runs to choose from and you can head across to Arc 1800, Peisey-Vallandry and even Montchavin/les Coches where you have lots of options. The Derby and Grizzly chairlifts are often still open during stormy weather and give access to a multitude of fantastic pistes. Later in the day, lift links back to Arc 2000 may open depending on wind and avalanche danger. Failing that you can ski back to 1600 and take the shuttle bus again. It's worth checking the bus times to avoid a long wait and bear in mind that the buses can be busy on these days. Remember that just because a lift is open (for example Carreley chair in 1800), it doesn't necessarily mean that the pistes linking to the opposite side of the mountain are open. The bus timetables are available online - Les Arcs bus timetables.
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Beat the queues
The bus follows a loop so it goes past 1950 on its way up to Arc 2000 and then afterwards on the way back down. If you're waiting at 1950 as it goes up, I recommend you jump on and get a seat in the warm before the crowds at 2000 pile on. Don't be tempted to ski down to Pre St. Esprit and get the bus there because at peak times the buses might be full by the time they get down there. The bus stops at the new Club Med on the way to the funicular at Arc 1600. If you get off here you can access the Mont Blanc blue piste by Club Med and save yourself another 10 minutes on the bus and a longer walk from the bus stop to the lifts. Probably best not to do this in reverse at the end of the day because the bus may have filled up at the first stop!
It is also worth noting that conditions can change very quickly so keep checking and stay close to your accommodation if the forecast is for the weather to deteriorate. If you make the effort to get out there, the rewards can be powder on the pistes, snow-laden trees and a winter wonderland of picturesque landscapes you won't forget in a hurry. And whatever happens you have lots to look forward to when the sun comes back out, which it inevitably does!