If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know we love the mountains. Big ones, small ones, any ones at all. Over the past few years, we’ve had some fantastic snowy trips in France, Austria, Iceland and even the Scottish Highlands. But summer in the mountains, that’s a new one to me. Annie spent many a happy summer on the green slopes, but as such a keen winter sports lover, I’ve always been a strictly December to April kind of guy. Would I be bored in the summer, and what about in Les Arcs?
So with an open mind, and Annie’s insistence I’ll love it, we’re flying into Geneva to explore a new mountain and a new season. We’re heading back to the Tarentaise Valley, a gateway to many world famous ski resorts, including Val d’Isere (our mountain home, years ago), Tignes, La Plagne, La Rosiere and our destination, Les Arcs!!
Part of the Paradiski area and set over 4 altitude resorts from 1600 up to 2000, Les Arcs is super well connected. The funicular (kind of an uphill monorail) runs up the mountain from the valley town of Bourg St Maurice, which also has a TGV station. In fact, you can take the overnight snow train from St Pancras all the way in to town! Chambery Airport is around 1 ½ hours drive, but as we’re also visiting Annecy and Morzine on this trip, we’ve chosen to fly into Geneva, around 2 ½ hours away. Many thousands of people make this trip every winter, but we’re part of a new wave of mountain lovers heading for the sunny alpine slopes.
As a well-travelled snowboarder, part of the joy of arriving in the resort is the first glimpse of snow-capped peaks, the winding drive up the mountain roads and the crunch underfoot as you step onto the snow for the first time. The bare mountains and clear footpaths made for a strange experience for me!
We were heading for Les Arcs 1950, the newest, and most unique amongst its siblings. The other Les Arcs resorts hail from the late 60s and early 70’s, where Jetsons-eque Modernist architecture sits starkly against the beauty of the surrounding Vanoise National Park. Arc 1950 is an altogether different affair, developed by Intrawest (who also built Whistler and Mont Tremblant villages) in a traditional alpine style. The meandering pathways link the pretty apartments over a village square to the Radisson Blu hotel, and the many and varied shops and restaurants.
Take a tour of the Radisson Blu Arc 1950 below.
In the winter it’s one of the most ‘ski-in’ experiences in the Alps, meaning you can literally ski all the way to your apartment (or favourite Apres bar!). In the summer, this means the hiking trails and well-signposted mountain bike trails are seconds from your door.
Les Arcs Experience
Our home for our trip was the Sources de Marie apartments. Practicalities first, this resort is so cleverly designed. The village itself is entirely traffic-free. If you’ve dodged kamikazee traffic in Chamonix or Courchevel 1850, you appreciate this! To achieve this, the whole village is built on an enormous underground carpark. You drive up the mountain, turn into the well-signposted resort entrance and down into the carpark. Each apartment block is colour-coded, follow your signs, park up, and the lifts take you straight into your exact building. Actually genius!
We had a pretty, traditionally styled one bedroom apartment with views over the square and the little stream that bubbles through and down into the lagoon by the Spa Deep Nature. The views from the massage room at the spa are to die for, with Mont Blanc towering in the distance, and wildflowers growing right up to the picture windows.
For us, a really handy part of staying in an apartment, rather than a hotel room, was the facilities to be self-sufficient. We had a fridge, microwave, oven, even a dishwasher! This makes it cost-effective to visit, we ate in 1 night and out 2 nights, but it’s great to have the choice.
Activities in Les Arcs
So what do you do in the mountains in the summer? A lot, I was to discover! There’s hiking, trail running, mountain biking, parasailing, road cycling, golf, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, and if that sounds all too strenuous, it’s a fantastic place to just relax!
The aforementioned Spa Deep Nature is stunning. From the glass-walled massage room to the outdoor spa cabin, to the rock-hewn swimming pool, you could easily lose a day (or two!) being pampered by the experts. We had a lovely couples massage, but there are loads of treatments to choose from.
Next up, a super early morning. But my goodness was it worth it! A 4 am start (yes, really!) to meet our lovely guide at 5.30am. We set off on a sunrise hike, heading from the centre of Arc 1950, skirting the edge of 2000, and onward up the ski runs through the mist. It’s worth saying this is NOT for the faint-hearted. A tough, sustained climb over rough trails, in the dark (!) took us towards the highest point in Les Arcs, the Aiguille Rouge. Reaching our destination, right on the edge of the ski area, we ducked under the ‘DANGER HORS PISTE’ signs to find a perch. Unfortunately, we were slightly thwarted by the weather, it was rather cloudy!! Fortunately, our guide had packed us a lovely breakfast of strong coffee and Chocolate Brioche, and even without the perfect sunrise we’d hoped for, it was a stunning experience. Check out our travel vlog and video drone footage below.
For more information on Les Arcs and activities within the entire Paradiski area, visit the tourism website here.