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It may be the last month of the year, but the ski lifts are open and Christmas is on the horizon.
We can expect sports competitions, opening parties, and there will obviously also be lots of festive celebrations including a visit from a certain Papa Noël. As you are no doubt aware, most things in December revolve around the last two weeks of the month, schools break up and travellers from near and far descend on the valley. There are a plethora of events coming up, from parades to special Christmas menus and New Year's blowouts.
Read on for a look at what we like to do in resort throughout December.
What are the weather and snow conditions like?
It's generally rather cold here in December. It is, on average, the second-coldest month of the year after January with temperatures averaging from -8°C to 0°C. This is at least partially due to the long nights, although with Les Arcs being near to the South of France, even on the shortest day of the year the sun rises at approximately 08:00 with sunset just after 17:00, leaving plenty of time for skiing. This is certainly the time to pack your thermal underwear.
Whilst there will be snow up the mountains, a white Christmas is never a guarantee. But more than 70% of Les Arcs ski slopes are situated above 2,000m, therefore 'up there' it's always colder and snowier, and with regular snowfall throughout the month - an average of 12 snow days - the chance of serious powder days is high. And the new snow often comes during the night, but it's worth bringing low-light goggles in case of reduced visibility. One great thing about December is the fact that the snow base just keeps growing week after week, with the low temperatures ensuring practically no melt-off.
What's on in Les Arcs in December?
Christmas in Les Arcs
With so many families visiting Paradiski for the festive season, there is a real child-like excitement as the big day draws ever closer, and usually there's an opportunity to spot the main man himself meeting and greeting people. When the streets lights are turned on it's hard to ignore that Christmas is nearly here.
To prepare you for your French Christmas, here are a few festive facts that make the French Santa Claus a little different:
- Rather than a red hat, Père Noël wears a red cloak with a hood trimmed in white fur - a small difference easily unnoticed.
- Children do not wake up to presents under the tree on Christmas morning, because traditionally le Père Noël brings toys to good little boys and girls after evening Mass on Christmas Eve.
- Children do not leave milk and cookies for Papa Noël, but at the very least they'll leave him a glass of Calvados or wine.
- Children do not hang stockings, but rather leave their shoes and slippers out and if they have been good Père Noël will fill them with treats.
- Children in France behave around the holidays out of fear of Le Père Fouettard, who follows Père Noël to discipline naughty children.
The first weekend of the season traditionally featuring a number of local events as the bars, restaurants and hotels celebrate the return of the snow, skiers, snowboarders and holidaymakers to the piste-side villages.
See a film
And we don't mean just any old film. Whilst in resort, if you fancy seeing something a little different, the Les Arcs Film Festival is on during December. There's a range of films to see, you can find out more here.
School holiday skiing
Christmas and New Year is a popular time for families so the slopes are noticeably busier as soon as the holidays begin. Fortunately, the Paradiski area is so vast, that even in high season you can find quiet slopes and minimal lift queues. From mid-month the draglifts, chairlifts, ‘lobster-pots’ and gondolas all work that little bit harder.
Here are our insider's top tips for the school holidays:
- It will be almost impossible to book private lessons over this period, group lessons are the best option. Make sure to get your ski and snowboard lessons booked well in advance to avoid disappointment.
- If you're not in ski school, be an early bird. Arrive at the lifts before they open so that you get up and away before the ski school classes set out around 09:15.
- Ski over lunchtime. The slopes are calmer between 12:00 and 14:00 while the French take a leisurely lunch break.
- Pre-book your lunch and avoid the queues. Some restaurants offer a Click & Collect service. It's the best way to avoid the queues and make the most of your time in the mountains.
- Seek out the peripheral areas. Try to avoid the busy main ski areas.
- Get off-piste. Competent off-piste skiers can book a local mountain guide and explore the vast off-piste areas in the valley or even go touring to find complete solitude in the backcountry.
Things to do in Les Arcs
Christmas is synonymous with school holidays. As hundreds of children and their families descend on the pistes, the Paradiski puts on a show for them. There are lots of activities to keep the little ones entertained on and off the mountain.
The first climb
La Première Montée, Les Arcs, is a free event for all those who wish to have their first ski touring experience or to the connoisseurs, both looking for a great day out. Accompanied by dedicated instructors, you'll put on your skins and make your first tracks on the runs of Arc 2000. Read more.
Night skiing in Les Arcs 1800
If the whole day on the slopes is not enough you can enjoy night skiing under floodlights on the Cabanes piste every day until 19:30.
Bars and clubs
Practically every bar and club will have an elaborate opening night, often with live music and DJs, sometimes with deals on drinks and food. La Folie Douce above Arc 1800 will inevitably be ‘the place to be seen’ on the first weekend.
If, like a lot of people, you like to follow several hours of exercise with several hours of drinking, especially during the festive season, you can hit up any of a number of local après-ski sessions. Down at the bottom of the slopes you'll find a range of eateries and bars offering great music, delicious food and happy hours. For late-night entertainment, the clubs hold special nights on most days of the week.
New Year's Eve
Always a big night, the area is full of revellers popping Champagne corks. The restaurants will be busy, so it would be best to make a reservation to ensure you can get a table, and many of the bars and clubs are ticket-only, so if there's somewhere you plan to see the New Year in, make sure you've planned ahead.