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Les Arcs in December 2019 - What weather to expect & what to do

The lowdown on early season skiing in the heart of Paradiski

Featured in: | Sam Birch, Les Arcs Reporter | Published
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The snow may have been falling for weeks but December is when the lifts open and we finally get to enjoy the abundant powder without hours of uphill hiking. The start of the winter season inevitably feels like a big party, with a much-anticipated opening weekend being quickly followed by Christmas’ festive events and subsequent New Year’s Eve celebrations. If you don’t know Les Arcs already (and even if you do) this article should apprise you of what to expect in our beloved mountain playground before 2019 blinks out of existence.

So whether you want to know about the weather, what’s on in resort is what’s on your mind, or you need to know whether the snow is suitable for a pro or a potential no-go, here is some essential insider information to get you ready for the new season.

When do the lifts open in Les Arcs?

In Les Arcs the ski lifts start running on Saturday 14th December, with 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. Furthermore, on December 14th and 15th, you can enjoy skiing and eating melted cheese practically seamlessly: Les Fondus du Ski is an annual event whereby snacking stations are dotted across the mountain providing hungry snow-enthusiasts to eat complimentary hot fondue before jumping on a lift or shredding the next big groomer. Expect groups of people huddled around steaming pots of gooey-deliciousness on the Col de la Chal, Bois de l’Ours, Pré St Esprit and, on Saturday only, adjacent to the Club Med Panorama complex above Arc 1600. The opening weekend also coincides with the start of the Les Arcs Film Festival, but there’s more about that below...

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What is the weather like in December in Les Arcs?

It is generally rather cold. December is, on average, the second-coldest month of the year after January. This is at least partially due to the long nights although, with Les Arcs being near 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, fleecy gloves and a wind-cheating, comfortable snood. There can also be plenty of powder in the air, with fresh snow falling about three days every week during December. Whilst new snow often comes during the night, it is 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.

Weather in Les Arcs

But is there enough snow on the ground?

Hell yes! Normally the Les Arcs resorts see their first snow at the start of November and the pistes just build from there. This year has seen excellent snowfall before December, with consistently chill conditions providing the perfect accompaniment. Les Arcs also “guarantees snow” which is a promise fulfilled by a combination of two significant factors: altitude and snow-making. Firstly, more than 70% of Les Arcs ski slopes are situated above 2000 metres, where it is always colder and snowier, and secondly the state-of-the-art snow cannons will have been functioning for over a month before the lifts open, creating a huge cache of the white stuff and ensuring the snow base is significant from the first day of the season to the last. Regular snowfall throughout the month also increases the chance of serious powder days, which is never a bad thing, although bluebird powder days are slightly less likely than later in the season.

Les Arcs Snow Report & Forecast

Well that’s the skiing sorted, but what can I do when I’m not shredding the pow?

December is absolutely ram-packed full of events, with a calendar so full of extra-curricular activities it might as well have a fun-sized chocolate behind each door. In fact, there are so many things happening around Christmas and New Year’s Eve, that there will be an extra festive LesArcsNet “what’s on” article later in the month, so keep ‘em peeled!

As mentioned above, whilst the lifts are cranking up for the first time this winter, projectors at a variety of venues across the mountain will be whirring into action, as the Les Arcs Film Festival simultaneously kicks off. Now on its 11th edition, the week-long festival brings together industry professionals, film buffs and skiers interested in cinema for screenings, workshops, networking, awards and, of course, snow-sports. This year there are over 120 movies on the list, with unlimited festival-long passes available from €32 (pre-order) and tickets for single showing only €7 on the door. With genres to suit all tastes, and the December evenings being long and dark, it is an excellent way to unwind after a hard day’s ski. During the film festival, après-ski beverages are sometimes postponed and transformed into screening after-parties, and there is regularly a post-screen scene for aficionados and industry insiders alike.  

Events in Les Arcs

You also mentioned something about December being “a big party”

And it totally is. Some people spend the summer dreaming about the snowy mountains and their next opportunity to strap themselves to some elaborate planks and float effortlessly across undulating fields of powder. When the ski season finally begins, spirits are almost universally high. Practically every bar and club will have an elaborate opening night, often with live music and DJs, sometimes with deals on drinks and food. New establishments always want to make a good impression and you can the newly-arrived La Folie Douce above Arc 1800 will inevitably be ‘the place to be seen’ on the first weekend. 

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What else is new in Les Arcs this December?

There has been plenty of change over the last year and Les Arcs regulars will notice some subtle (and some not-so-subtle) differences to the piste map, the lifts, the hotels and services available across the mountain. For more information, see our round-up of what’s new this winter

Read more from Sam on his blog.

More inspiration...

Even though the winter season starts in a week (you have every right to be excited), new items are being added to our calendar all the time, so keep an eye on our site for the latest information.

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Events in Les Arcs