Les Arcs is part of the Paradiski ski area, one of the largest in Europe and the second biggest linked ski area in the world. With its modern lift system and wide range of pistes, it's a ski destination that will suit everyone.
The main things to know about Les Arcs ski area are:
Snow-sure high altitude skiing
Over 70% of the Paradiski ski area is above 2,000m, which means plenty of snow throughout the season.
Great for families and beginners
Selection of beginner areas and ski-in/ski-out access.
Part of the Paradiski area
The second largest ski area in the world, linked with La Plagne and Peisey-Vallandry since 2003.
By air, train, coach or self-drive there are numerous routes to easily get yourselves here.
Les Arcs ski area
Located in southeast France, in the Savoie department of the Rhone-Alpes region, Les Arcs benefits from a south-east exposure, synonymous with sunshine. Made up of four village resorts, Les Arcs is comprised of Arc 1600, Arc 1800, Arc 1950 and Arc 2000. The area also includes the resort Peisey-Vallandry, which since 2003 have been linked by the Vanoise Express to the Grande Plagne area, thus forming one of the largest ski areas in France, the Paradiski. An area that incorporates all of the resort villages of Les Arcs with those in La Plagne and Peisey-Vallandry, it means that no matter where you stay, you have access to the whole Paradiski area with its 141 lifts, 260 pistes and 425km of ski terrain. Of these 260 pistes, 12 are green, 135 are blue, 77 are red and 37 are black (see the piste map). Plus there are two glaciers (at over 3,000m), two snowparks, and 100km of cross-country ski trails.
What's it like to ski and snowboard in Les Arcs?
A purpose built resort, first muted as a potential ski resort in the 1960s. Arc 1600 was the first to be developed, followed by Arc 1800, Arc 2000 and then in the 2000s Arc 1950 was built. In 2003 the link was made with La Plagne, opening up the Paradiski area which means plenty of snow throughout the season. You can ski all the way up to 3,250m at the highest point.
Taken independently, Les Arcs is made up of 128 pistes including 64 blue and 44 red pistes. There are also three green pistes and 17 black pistes, all accessed by 54 ski lifts, a high point of 3,226m and excellent snow-making facilities that guarantee back-to-resort skiing all season long (see the piste maps).
The villages to know are:
- Arc 1600
- Arc 1800
- Arc 2000
- Arc 1950
South-west facing, providing extensive tree-lined skiing enabling descents to the unspoilt villages below resort level. It is an “all weather” ski area that holds the snow well, but the abundance of artificial snowmaking machines means you are virtually guaranteed to be able to ski back to the village.
Sits around the tree line and is surrounded by wide, sunny, pistes that offer plenty of room for those on their first week. 90% of the runs into resort are graded blue, making it a great base for beginners and intermediates. It's best to try to avoid the bottom of the Maïtaz, Villards and Charmettoger runs where they converge at the Transarc gondola; this is usually teeming with people and, as it can get very icy, can catch out even the best of us, so try to use the mid-station point of the Transarc to get up and over to 2,000m.
More suitable for intermediate to expert skiers as the runs here tend to be reds and blacks. More advanced skiers will love the challenging runs off the Aiguille Rouge glacier where you will also find the longest run in resort, at 7km long with 2,100m of vertical drop! But don’t miss out on Arc 2000 if you are only just beginning to ski or snowboard as there are some fantastic rolling blues which are shallow enough for you to learn on.
The more recently built neighbour to Arc 2000, it also gives you swift and easy access to the more challenging runs in the area. Built with convenience in mind by Intrawest (who also built Whistler in Canada), you can ski right back to the heart of the resort and step out of your skis at the door.
Many beautiful tree-lined pistes which are perfect for beginners. Despite being the gateway to La Plagne (via the Vanoise Express), this tends to be the quieter side of the valley. There is a good mixture of blue and red runs in this sector, allowing you to choose your difficulty at the top of virtually every lift. There are some wide-open pistes higher up, but if you like to ski between the trees then this is the place to do it. When the snow has dumped, the slopes around Peisey-Vallandry can seem almost heavenly.
La Plagne ski area
A purpose built resort La Plagne has a total of 132 pistes, with 70 blue pistes and 34 red pistes it's an intermediate skier/snowboarder's dream resort.
The various villages that make up the resort all offer something different in terms of skiing, and whilst beginners are unlikely to leave Les Arcs to make the trip over here, those looking for more advanced and technical pistes and some lovely long cruisey slopes are in for a treat. There are also several snowparks that offer you the chance to bonk, jib and learn new tricks, whilst the off-piste areas allow you to explore more of this beautiful region, plus there's around 80km of cross-country skiing, a half pipe, and it's the only resort in France with an Olympic bobsleigh track.
Made up of a number of village resorts, the ones to know are:
Belle Plagne and Plagne Bellecôte
From either of these two villages, you can get access to the highest part of resort via the Bellecôte gondola, up to the glacier at 3,417m. From here there are a handful of red runs, a couple of blues lower down, and access to lots of off-piste skiing. Midway down the mountain is the top of the Roche de Mio lift which gives you access either directly back down to resort, or you can take the skiers right and end up at the top of the runs in Les Coches and Montchavin.
Montchavin and Les Coches
The Vanoise Express links across to the area of Montchavin and Les Coches. There are six other lifts here linking lots of blue and red pistes, cross country trails and a few mini freestyle areas.
Plagne Soleil, Plagne Village, Plagne Centre and Plagne 1800
This cluster of villages forms the centre of resort, with numerous lifts and gondolas and just below Plagne 1800 is where you'll find the start of the Olympic bobsleigh track. There are a fair few green pistes and blue pistes just above Plagne Village that drop you back into Plagne Bellecôte, or you can head up to Les Verdons at 2,500m or the Grande Rochette at 2,505m. Alternatively, drop over the other side of these mountains into Champagny.
The village sits at 1,250m and has its own gondola and four other lifts linking back up to the central part of La Plagne. Off-piste fans might like to try some of the tree lines on this side, or if you prefer the piste then there are a choice of blue and red runs, plus a slalom area, snowpark zone and freestyle areas. Cross-country skiers can head over to Champagny en Haut.
Stands out with its angular buildings jutting out of the ridgeline at 2,000m. You can circumnavigate Aime 2000 on a red run and then join the blue piste down to the bottom of the bobsleigh track below Plagne 1800. Alternatively, head on down the mountain to one of the lowest parts of resort in Montalbert.
Montalbert and Longefoy
These two villages lie at around 1,200m elevation, with four ski lifts, lots of cross country itineraries, lots of blue pistes and a small freestyle area. The runs are in the trees down here which makes it a good place to be on bad weather days. In 2015, the main Montalbert ski lift was updated, changing it from a chairlift to a bubble-lift, making it much quicker and more comfortable.
When is the ski area open in Les Arcs?
The winter season usually runs from mid-December to mid-April, with any early lift openings depending on snow conditions (check Ski Lift Opening Dates for this winter's schedule). Your holiday will be very much determined by the weather and snow conditions, and therefore the time of year you choose to visit is important. If it's sunny pistes and a cold glass of wine on a mountain restaurant terrace, come in March or April. If your perfect ski break is about quiet slopes and lots of fresh snow, then January is the time to come. Or if you want numerous activities organised for your children during their school holidays, February is for you.
Whenever you choose to come, as long as the lifts are open, the local pisteurs will make the best of the snow (real and/or artificial), and groom the pistes to perfection so that you get the best possible conditions.
Beginner areas in Les Arcs
A great resort for families as well as beginner skiers, Les Arcs has plenty of gentle terrain where you can learn your first turns. With each area having a number of easy blue runs and areas designed specifically for the beginner skier or snowboarder you will feel comfortable to learn anywhere in Les Arcs.
No green pistes, but there are 15 blues, lots of which run through the trees. It's a good place to progress from skiing blues to reds. Cachettes and Vezaille are a couple of good chairs to lap, building up your confidence before heading onto longer runs further up the mountain.
Here there are two greens and 11 blues. There is a new development at Mille8 that has a peaceful zone for beginners, which should be free of any other mountain users coming down at high speeds. You'll find peaceful tree-lined runs here that lead back to resort and are a great area for practising those turns. The 'front des neiges' here is home to the Jardin des Enfants, the nursery slopes and the ski school meeting points. Take the Carrely and Villards chairs to access the easiest skiing.
No greens here, but there are 20 blues. Once you're ready to progress, the blue runs from the top of the St Jacques chair in Arc 2000 are nice. Generally considered better suited to intermediate and expert skiers, this area does have some nice rolling runs - Plan Vert or Cascades.
One green and 14 blues, these tree-lined blues are perfect for beginners. Use the Peisey chair and the Cabri J bar, or in Vallandry take the Vallandry chair and the Flocon J bar.
The lowest of the Les Arcs villages, there are no greens here but there is a small selection of four blues that can easily be lapped via the Replat chair.
Advanced areas in Les Arcs
Les Arcs and the extended Paradiski area offers a large selection of off-piste lines and difficult pistes for the more advanced skier or snowboarder, as you'd expect from one of Europe's largest ski areas.
There are over 40 red runs and 17 black runs, most of which sit above 2,000m. Head to the Aiguille Rouge cable car and you'll find challenging skiing on the Varet glacier, high above Arcs 2000. It's up here you'll find the longest run in the area, a black run that goes all the way down to Villaroger. It's 7km long and over 2,000m vertical drop. In unfavourable conditions the steep drop in at the top can be very icy and sheer. If you don't fancy the top section, take Arandelières as it meets the same run on the Glacier du Varet.
Ecureuils is a black with a steep bottom section, Fond Blanc is a perfect black run as it's short and sweet and then joins a blue run above the snowpark.
Some great reds to take on include Bette, Malgovert and Myrtille. Belette is fast and steep before eventually levelling off, Malgovert is never pisted so that leaves its own obstacles, and Myrtilles is a tree run that is fast and wide with sweeping corners and a consistent gradient.
In Arc 1600 try Cachette, surprisingly steep, it is broad and carvers love it. Aigle cuts through the woods above Vallandry ending at the Grizzly lift, and is a favourite of ours - never too steep, never too flat, and the trees aid the visibility in low light.
The Aiguille Rouge/Varet area is home to the Kilometre Lancé (Flying Kilometre) run. You can't do this run unsupervised, but it is possible to put yourself against the clock through the Les Arcs Club des Sports. You will often see the speed skiers in their space suits training hard on this piste, attaining speeds of over 200km/h.
Snowparks in Les Arcs
Les Arcs has very firm roots in snowboarding history as a favourite place to ride and is the season destination choice for many of the pros. There are two snowparks here.
Apocalypse - found between Arc 1600 and Arc 1800, next to the Snowpark lift. There's lots on offer here from blue level jumps and features to black kickers, rails and a quarter pipe. You'll also be able to enjoy rail slides, a spine and a gap jump for the adventurous. There's also a boardercross up here for those looking to test their speed and an airbag that's free to use.
Mille 8 - At Arc 1800, alongside the freestyle zone there is also a swimming pool and spa, a children's play area, a bar and restaurant, sledging zone and a handful of winter walking trails. The features include something for everyone, so if this is your first time in the park don't worry, just stick to the green lines. There are lights and a sound system, plus you can tag your photos to appear on the big screens around the zone. Access is via the Villards gondola and entry is included in your lift pass.
Best pistes in Les Arcs
Whether you're into mogul fields, steep descents, quiet tree-lined pistes with great snow or just somewhere to rediscover your ski-legs, there is a piste in Les Arcs just for you.
Off-piste areas in Les Arcs
Even with its reputation of being a great place to ride powder, it takes a surprisingly long time to become tracked, unlike many other Alpine resorts. There are some areas which will hold fresh snow longer than others and, like all ski areas, you’re more likely to get powder higher up.
The Grand Col is an off-piste playground that sits above 2,500m and keeps snow fresh for a long time. Lower down there is plenty of off-piste from the top of Arc 1800's Vagere lift around the Golf and Vagere red runs.
If you're new to off-piste try the wide, open area above Peisey-Vallandry, around the 2300 lift. Although mostly groomed, there will be some patches left unpisted which can be great fun after a snowfall.
There are plenty of forest runs near the Derby lift, there's also lots of woodland leading down to and beyond Arc 1600.
Always make sure you are prepared before embarking on any off-piste skiing or snowboarding. Check out our Avalanche Safety guide. It's always advisable to hire an off-piste guide who will have extensive knowledge of the area and the mountains.
Bad Weather areas in Les Arcs
There are certain runs that offer more contrast, providing vast amounts of skiing/snowboarding when the flakes are falling. The trick is to head for the pistes that are tree-lined; the trees help provide definition when everything else seems to be white.
When the clouds come in and the light turns flat it can be hard to know where to ski and what to do. The high, open pistes can lack the contrast required for orientation during whiteout conditions and slope and sky can blur into one.
In Les Arcs head to the lower resorts of 1800, 1600, Plan Peisey and Vallandry. The trees line the slopes here and there are some lovely rolling blue runs through the trees from 1800 to 1600 from the top of the Chantel or Les Villards chairs.
For some off-piste in the trees try either side of the Vanoise Express and stay between 1950 and 1300m where the tree-line is.
Keep in mind that the valley itself can be covered in an all-encompassing fog, but the top of the mountains can be bathed in glorious sunshine (check out the webcams to make sure you are not missing out on anything!). Also, if it’s lashing down with rain in the valley, it means it’s snowing up top, giving you the best and freshest powder you’re likely to ski on, and because it’s a bad weather day, chances are, you’ll have the mountain to yourself!