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Summer season 2019 starts in Les Arcs

All the news from the opening weekend

Featured in: | Sam Birch, Les Arcs Reporter | Published
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The Les Arcs resorts have officially opened for the summer: eight full weeks of family fun, outdoor activities and restful relaxation. The season has kicked off in style, with the K2 trail run and the Enduro 2 MTB events drawing sports enthusiasts to all corner of the mountain. Restaurants, shops and bars have opened their doors and there are innumerable activities happening on the lush, green slopes and throughout the main villages.

Over the last couple of days, I have been touring around Les Arcs to see what is happening, what has changed and what we can expect from now until the end of August. There are already a few visitors arriving in the villages, plenty of mountain bikers shredding the downhill pistes and forest trails, and families enjoying the cornucopia of fun activities on offer in Arc 1800 and 1600. Unfortunately, due to an impressive but slightly delayed upgrade, the Bourg St Maurice to Arc 1600 funicular has been inoperable for the opening weekend with normal service expected to resume in approximately a week; in the meantime, there is a replacement bus service running every half-hour.

If you say run, I’ll run with you

Starting in Bourg Saint Maurice, the Enduro 2 is a pairs mountain-biking event that follows many of the Les Arc’s Bike Park trails but also heads seriously ‘off-piste’ into the otherwise uncharted wilds. Sometimes using the resorts’ chairlifts and gondolas to increase the daily downhill distances, the racers cover a huge amount of ground over a three-day weekend.  On Saturday, I saw competitors popping out of dense forests above Peisey village and ripping up the trails around Arc 1800. Sunday brought its own challenges, with intermittent but intense stormy showers interspersed with bright sunshine. Fortunately, at the end of the day, there were masseuses, a barbeque and PSB brewery’s pop-up bar at the finish line.

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Trail runners were not only dealing with unexpected summer storms on Sunday but also an unconscionable climb in the Vertical K2 race. An ostensibly easy 7.6km long run, the course is made immeasurably more difficult by the fact that the start line is in Villaroger, at 1200 metres altitude, and the finish is on the Aiguille Rouge peak, at 3226 metres altitude. That is 2km straight up! Perhaps unluckily, the hail-filled storm caused some safety issues at the top of the mountain, so the race was cut slightly short, at 6.5km. Regardless, both male and female winners, Donovan Lloyd and Corrina Ghirardi, finished in less than 1 hour 25 minutes, with the first kilometre of ascent in under 45 minutes. Now that’s definitely worth a medal.

Walking in Les Arcs

At the international white-water centre in Bourg Saint Maurice, the finals of the canoe-kayak French National Cup were also ongoing over the weekend. Keen competitors had been arriving all the previous week, lining up to practice the course before they attempted their first timed runs. I spent a few hours watching them skilfully navigate the gates and rocks in the fast-flowing, glacial waters. Reminded me to book another white-water rafting session this summer...

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These were the first in a ram-jam-ham-packed calendar of events occurring throughout Les Arcs this season. Fortunately, many of them are much more laid-back and don’t require near-superhuman physical efforts. Check out our rather comprehensive guide to What’s On this Summer for all the details.

Events Calendar for Les Arcs

We could be heroes

In winter, the snow fronts where the pistes end and the chairlifts begin are almost exclusively occupied by skiers and snowboarders preparing to ‘get their shred on.’ In summer, however, each resort seems to have its own individual feel, from agricultural tranquillity to hive of activity. In Plan Peisey, the slopes are largely occupied by cows, with a few mountain-bikers skidding to a stop below. The Vallandry lift has begun taking a steady stream of riders back up the mountain, with most of the piste-side restaurants and cafés being open for a lunchtime stop or a mid-afternoon refreshment break. Arc 1600 and 1800 are already the busiest spots, with a huge variety of activities and experiences already drawing families to the resorts.

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The exceptional walking, hiking and mountain biking in Les Arcs are already well-known, with the infrastructure of chairlifts and gondolas allowing people to explore further and with less effort. There are also plenty of swimming poolsspas and outdoor terraces for people to enjoy the fantastic, sunny weather of the French Alps. In Arc 1600 and 1800, the fun has been maximised through the introduction of the multi-activity Hero pass. With different options lasting from a single day to the full season, the Hero pass gives you full access to lifts in Les Arcs, as well as indoor and outdoor pools, and a potentially vast range of activities. When in Arc 1800 on Saturday, there were already families playing crazy golf, kids riding mini-quad bikes, children and adults climbing through the tree-level adventure park, teenagers learning circus skills and plenty of people enjoying some al fresco swimming. The list of things to do is extensive, running all the way from Archery to Zumba. Local weekly passes (for Arc 1600 or Arc 1800) are available from €37, with a ‘Premium’ pass covering all lifts, all classes, all facilities and all villages starting at €81.90.

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Summer is a time of renewal in Les Arcs. This year the well-loved arc-en-ciel funicular, which replaced the original cable-car in 1989, has been fully upgraded. There are already shiny, glass-clad and fully-futuristic new trains sat on the funicular tracks, but now the whole station in Bourg St Maurice has been ripped out to be replaced with a cutting-edge modern concourse area. We were hoping to take our first trip on the new ‘funi’ this weekend but delays in testing have scuppered that particular plan. Currently, the link between the valley and Arc 1600 is expected to reopen after Sunday 14th July. When the shrink-wrap comes off, I fully intend to be there.

Summer Lifts Les Arcs

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A summer break in the Alps is something that should be experienced at least once. If a trip to Les Arcs takes your fancy, start booking your accommodation today.

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