Any reputable guide to global skiing will make reference to the Paradiski region. It's one of the largest ski areas in Europe and the second largest linked ski domaine in the world. Whether you're into moguls fields, steep descents, or just love a tree-lined run, Les Arcs is the perfect destination for advanced skiers and snowboarders.
Here are a few reasons why advanced skiers and snowboarders should pay Les Arcs a visit.
Reds and Blacks
Paradiski’s huge sprawling area gifts riders access to a massive 425km of piste runs spread over the joined resorts of Les Arcs and La Plagne. Of this tally, Les Arcs accounts for 200km, with 44 red pistes and 17 black.
Of course any self-respecting advanced skier or snowboarder will want to start with the world-famous Aiguille Rouge. It begins at the highest accessible point in Les Arcs (3,226m) and drops some 2km down to Villaroger. Alternatively both a black and red run, you can travel on-piste for well over 7km from the peak to the village. It covers a variety of terrain; following a high-level technical section, you take on a steep, wide, exposed glacier then some twisty mountain-hugging curves, before hitting the tree-lined mogul fields towards the bottom. It NEVER gets boring.
If you regularly ride red runs but are looking to “step up” to the next level, Ecureuils above Peisey village is the place to start. If you're not quite ready for the steep (and sometimes mogully) upper section, join it at the top of the Peisey lift (adjacent to the Cabri beginners’ area). The average gradient is reasonable and split into manageable chunks. Also, when the weather comes in, there is no better black run on the hill, with the surrounding trees ensuring better visibility than the more open slopes.
The Grand Col is an off-piste playground. The lift is small, slow and sometimes closed on windy days. However, do not be put off because it provides access to some serious powder. There are typically fewer people on the two official runs (one black, one red) than exploring beyond the piste markers. The whole area is above 2,500m so receives, and keeps, more fresh snow than almost anywhere else. One thing to remember: be ready for the very flat (if not slightly-uphill) section towards the bottom of the Grand Col red run, you may need some serious speed to traverse it without undue effort.
Similarly, but a bit lower down, plenty of off-piste is accessible from the top of Arc 1800’s Vagere lift around the Golf and Vagere red runs. There are some hidden streams towards the end of the Golf run however so, as with all off-piste skiing, exercise caution in areas you do not know well. If you like dodging the trees, there’s plenty of forest near the Derby lift which can be successfully negotiated by those with the skills. There’s also lots of other woodland leading down to, and beyond, Arc 1600.
For those who like surprises, check out the many 'unpisted natur' runs across the mountain. Malgovert is a red run leading from the top of the newly-upgraded Comborcière lift down towards Arc 1600 which incorporates trees, rocks and even a big dipper. Just keep your eyes on the piste markers because it is not always straightforward for new visitors (or even old ones). There are five black 'natur' pistes accessible from the Aiguille Rouge and Varet gondolas which seem to offer new conditions and challenges every season: make sure you have warmed up your ski legs before attempting them, they can be fierce.
Off-piste skiing or snowboarding is different to piste skiing or snowboarding, and therefore needs a slightly different approach. It's definitely worth a lesson in 'off-piste' techniques if you're new to it, or would like some tips for riding steep and deep powder. It also pays to have someone with a bit of local knowledge, a mountain guide/off-piste instructor will be able to show you all the best spots to suit your ability.
For those of you interested in ski touring, in Les Arcs a short ski tour can take you to some of the most pristine and untouched freeride lines in the domaine.
Almost all of the hire shops in resort can rent you avalanche equipment, as well as top quality skis and boots from this season’s stock.
Want to stretch yourself, physically and metaphorically? Once you've had enough fun bouncing around the reds and blacks, and in and out of the pow pow, how about hitting a few jumps, boxes and rails. The snowpark above Arc 1600 is 7.5 hectares of kickers, boxes, rails and jumps. There are more gentle obstacles, so beginners and intermediates can improve steadily, but also a shred line for experts: hip, transfer, rail, repeat.
For those who want to put their expertise (and courage) to the test, take the Waterslide challenge: you get a 30m run-up and a 15m pool to cross. Will you wipe out, or wipe the floor with your fears? Hopefully the latter. This opportunity is generally only available in springtime, so a soggy splashdown may only result in a cooling, rather than freezing, outcome.
Les Arcs is split into the following villages: Arc 1600, Arc 1800, Arc 2000, Arc 1950 and Peisey-Vallandry. Together with La Plagne they make up the entire Paradiski area, which has 141 lifts, 260 pistes, 425km of skiable terrain that includes 77 red and 37 black runs.
So should you somehow get bored of the Aiguille Rouge and the Varet glacier, there’s the link over to La Plagne and another 225km to play in. La Plagne and Les Arcs joined forces to make Paradiski back in 2003, but it’s worth remembering these two areas operated very successfully independently before that. Although joined, unlike many of the big French resorts, it’s not possible to ride directly between La Plagne and Les Arcs. These are two very independent resorts linked purely by the double decker Vanoise Express gondola, and the domaines differ from one another with the majority of La Plagne’s pistes being quite mellow and Les Arcs' more challenging.
Great weather and snow conditions
Les Arcs is a high, snow-sure resort virtually guaranteeing good snow conditions from the start of the season to the end. It usually delivers epic conditions from late November right through to the season close at the end of April. It's highest point is 3,226m, and it has excellent snow-making facilities which together offer back-to-resort skiing all season long.
With all of these pistes to ski and snowboard both in resort and across the domaine, you want to make sure that you can get around easily and speedily, thus avoiding older slower chairlifts that break down. In Les Arcs, lift improvement works are always at the forefront of their planning. Every summer older lifts are replaced with the aim of increasing uplift speed at all times, great if you are a good rider heading up to the higher slopes.
The Vallandry chairlift has recently been replaced by a new 10-seater gondola that will whisk you up to 2,138m in less than six minutes.
Ski in, ski out
Les Arcs was the first purpose built ski resort in France, and its architects designed bespoke accommodation with ski in, ski out facilities, following environmentally friendly practices making the resort largely pedestrianised. Inspired by Le Corbusier, these earliest buildings can still be admired today.
Ski in, ski out is ideal if you are an experienced skier or snowboarder, because what better way to start the day than to be straight on the slopes the minute you walk out of the door. And even better to finish off the day with that last run taking you straight back home again, no lugging skis, snowboards and the like on and off buses and through the streets. Dump your gear and get straight out for après, or pile into that tea and cake your chalet hosts have so kindly left out.
Something else to do
Even the most die-hard skiers and snowboarders need some down time. When it's time for a break from all of that, it's good to know there's something else to do in resort when you want to spend time with your family and friends. Whilst Les Arcs has great bars and restaurants offering up food and après-ski for those in the mood, there are other ways to entertain yourselves in the evenings and on that much needed day off.
You can drive a dog sled, go skidooing or ice skating. Alternatively if 'chill' is at the top of the agenda, visit the spa for a relaxing treatment or take a swim in one of the pools. There's definitely no shortage of things to do, or not, in Les Arcs.
Exploring beyond the ski resort boundaries is an amazing experience for anyone who's physically fit and has mastered the pistes well enough. There are, however, risks associated with venturing outside the safety of the marked/patrolled ski area, including awareness of your actions on those below you on the slopes. Mountain guides are professionally qualified and have extensive knowledge of the local terrain to provide you with the safest and most enjoyable possible experience in the mountains; as a visitor here we highly recommend you hire one. Many ski schools also provide instruction in off-piste skiing, avalanche safety and mountaineering techniques. Make your time in the mountains unforgettable for the right reasons, stay safe!
Off-piste skiing and mountaineering are dangerous. The content provided is not intended in any way to be a substitute for hiring a mountain guide, undergoing professional mountaineering training and/or the individual's own backcountry decision making.
These are just some of the great reasons to come and visit Les Arcs and ski some of the very best pistes that the Alps have to offer, but there are many more. So get out here and give it a whirl.