December 2003 saw the opening of the Vanoise Express – an awe-inspiring feat of engineering and France’s first ever double-decker cable car. It transports 2000 people per hour from Montchavin (La Plagne) to Peisey Nacroix (Les Arcs), a link which consequently created one of the finest ski areas in the world – Paradiski.
The area is made up of 17 villages, 425km of linked pistes and 2 glaciers spanning altitudes between 1250m and 3417m. To say there is ‘something for everyone’ within Paradiski is a huge understatement. The skiing is good for beginners, great for intermediates and perfect for experts. Whether it be the long, tree lined blue runs into Les Arcs 1600, the family friendly ski-in ski-out village of Les Arc 1950 or the adrenaline fuelled off-piste Mecca that is the Bellecôte glacier, there are hundreds of features within this ski area that keeps its many British visitors returning year on year.
La Plagne is made up of ten distinctive resorts which are put into two different categories. Six of them are purpose built resorts located at different altitudes:
- Plagne Centre located at 1970m of altitude; it is one of the main resorts where you can find lots of shops, bars and restaurants.
- Plagne Bellecote located at 1930m; conveniently located offering easy access to many facilities.
- Belle Plagne located at 2050m is also considered one of the main resorts even though it is very appreciated for its warm and relaxing atmosphere.
- Plagne 1800, a picturesque village of mostly chalet-style properties.
- Plagne Village/Soleil located at 2050m of altitude, taking up a peaceful location and would be perfect for people looking for quiet holidays while enjoying one of the biggest ski areas in France. It is also perfect for families.
There are free buses linking the resorts from 8am until midnight during winter and summer seasons.
The other four areas are more typical savoyard villages:
- Champagny en Vanoise (1250m) is a lovely mountain village; it is the point of entry to the Vanoise National Park and has everything you need in order to spend some quality time with your friends or family.
- Montchavin (1250m) was completely renovated in the 60s. Indeed, at this time the village was slowly depopulating and in order to revitalize his village the mayor decided to invest into a flourishing sector; summer and winter tourism. They tried to keep the spirit of a traditional mountain village by constructing low rise buildings and using natural, local material such has wood and lauze stone.
- Les Coches (1450m) was developed ten years after in the same spirit.
- Plagne Montalbert (1350m) is just like the others; a mountain village where you can experience both the excitement of spending your holidays in one of the best ski areas in Europe and the tranquillity of the mountain and the great outdoors.
Wherever you are staying there will be a lift to take you to the slopes. La Plagne ski area has something for everyone! For beginners, dedicated zones are available and some free lifts as well. Once you are a bit more confident in hitting the higher slopes, a large range of blue runs are on offer especially on the sector of Plagne Bellecote and Village. Intermediates and experts also have a wide choice between red and black runs. The Galcier de La Chiaupe (or Glacier de Bellecote) offers awesome black runs as well as some of the best off-piste you can find. Another good sector is Le Bioley above Aime La Plagne. Regarding the off-piste, there is some easy spots for beginners, and some good itineraries among the trees. You should always make sure you are equipped for skiing in off piste and it’s always safer to have a guide with you, some sectors are quite dangerous even if you are an experienced skier or boarder.
For freestylers, there are two snow parks both located above Belle Plagne, a small one is more suited to beginners and the other one is a huge park with around 20 features, a big air bag and a half-pipe.The “Vanoise Express” lift which is the link to Les Arcs that allows you to enjoy the 450km of piste, is located in the sector of Montchavin and Les Coches.
Our tips for eating and drinking:
In the cosy village of Plagne 1800, head to Le Petit Chaperon Rouge for the finest Savoyard dishes in the area and an impressive wine list. Get to seasonnaire favourite Scotty’s for mid-afternoon to make the very most of the sun on their large terrace and, if you feel like it, stay until early evening to enjoy their live music.
Les Arcs is a vast, high-altitude ski area made up of four distinct, purpose built villages. After being linked with La Plagne via an impressive double-decker gondola - the Vanoise Express - in 2003, Les Arcs now makes up one-half of Paradiski – the 4th largest ski area in France.
At the entrance to the area is Arc 1600, a mostly ski-in ski-out village linked to the large town of Bourg St Maurice by the funicular, which whisks you up the mountain in just 7 minutes. As Bourg St Maurice train station is serviced by the Eurostar, UK skiers can arrive in 1600 directly by train from London St Pancras. As the lowest of the villages, many of the pistes down to 1600 are tree lined and hold the snow very well.
A couple of kilometres up the road is Arc 1800, positioned at the very centre of the ski area. 1800 is the most developed of the 4 villages and offers great access to the ski area, a lively après scene and wonderful views of Mont Blanc. The pedestrian-only centre of Les Arcs 1800 offers any abundance of shops, restaurants and bars that are easily accessible from each corner of the village, allowing for much choice and convenience.
Arc 1950 is very different to the other areas of Les Arcs. The mini-village was built from scratch by Intrawest, who are known for their construction of the famous Canadian resort of Whistler.
Finally, Arc 2000 is perched (interestingly at an altitude of 2100m) at the very top of the ski area. Although smaller than the other three areas, it offers a number of restaurants, bars, a 10 pin bowling alley as well as direct ‘on your skis’ access to the ski area.
Our tips for eating and drinking:
Newly opened Le Sanglier Qui Fume above Arc 1600 offers fantastic French food with stunning views over the Tarentaise valley. Make sure you stop at L’Arpette on your ski back down to 1800 or 1600 for a large terrace and lively atmosphere. Once back in the resort, you will find Red Hot Saloon and Bar King Mad if you wish to carry on the après-ski into the evening.
Arc 1950 is a unique and luxurious mountain village with direct access to the Paradiski ski area; one of the largest skiing domains in the world. Built at an altitude of 2,000 metres, where the first and best snow falls, this recently built village offers wonderful views of Mont Blanc; the highest mountain in Europe.
“Arc 1950 Le Village” offers approximately 800 residential apartments, located in 8 chalet-style blocks in a car-free resort. Every single building is ski-in ski-out, which is one of the numerous charms of the village. As the properties were built between 2003 and 2008, the space in each property is very generous and in-line with modern requirements. You will find a fantastic array of restaurants, from traditional French Savoyard cuisine to Italian and fine dining. There are also many ski shops, a late night bar, a pub, ski schools, a European Spa, a crèche, clothes shops and a supermarket to name a few. Of course, the village is also home to our estate agency - “Les Arcs Immobilier” - which is located right below the famous clock at the centre of village.
Arc 1950 benefits from a local organisation which provides entertainment to the visitors of the village every day of the winter and summer season. It is fair to say that there is nowhere like Arc 1950 in the French Alps and you will always find something to do in this wonderful resort whatever the weather.
Our tips for eating and drinking:
If you are skiing in the Arc 1950 area at lunchtime, be sure to stop off at Chalets de l’Arc for the finest piste-side lunch on this side of the valley. Without doubt the best place for an après-ski drink is the famous George’s Wine Bar, where you’ll find singing, dancing, good wine and great staff.
DON’T REALLY FANCY SKIING?
If you want to try something else besides skiing or snowboarding during your stay in Paradiski you won’t be disappointed by the many other activities the area offers. Thrill seekers will be able to have a go at paragliding, speed riding, ice racing, ice climbing and even heli-skiing. La Plagne also has the only bobsleigh track in France, and proposes 3 ways for you to enjoy it: bob raft, speed luge or bob racing. But that is not it, ice skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and sledging are also on the menu. To relax after an intense day on the slopes, the cinema, the bowling alley, the pool or the spa will be the best places to relax. Also, make sure to go visit and enjoy the Mille8 playground if you are staying in Les Arcs. For a complete change of scenery go to the “village igloo” and visit the ice cave before spending the night on an ice bed wrapped up in a warm sleeping bag.
SUMMER IN PARADISKI
In the summer, Paradiski remains an attractive destination. The cycling route from Bourg Saint Maurice to Les Arcs 1950 was the section of the 1996 Tour de France which famously ‘broke’ champion Miguel Indurain, and many flock to the area in the summer months to test their mettle.
Away from cycling, there is an excellent 18-hole golf course with a brand new clubhouse and restaurant, many tennis courts, an 800m2 aquatic centre in Les Arcs 1800 and miles of fantastic hiking trails to enjoy. Pool, adventures parks, white water sports, lake activities, the list is endless…
Lots of events are organised throughout the year in Paradiski. Some of the major events include:
The Ice Climbing World Championship in La Plagne; The Red Pompon Night also in La Plagne which is the annual New Year’s eve night. In the summer time La Plagne organizes the Festi’Plagne, a way to gather everyone for fun activities for adults and children. In July there is “La 6000D” which is a race open to everyone, the main trial consists of 65km and 3500m of elevation.
In Les Arcs there are two film festivals which are “The Winter Film Festival” and the “European Film Festival”, as well as a new event created to honour the British culture called “The Great British Celebration” which event lasts 4 days. This is just a sample of what is happening in the area. You should expect lots of concerts, shows festivals, sports events, competitions and other local festivities.
You have a few options to get to the resorts of Paradiski. The first one is to fly to one of the four nearby airports. Then from the airport you can either take a bus shuttle or a taxi to get to your final destination:
- From Genève airport transfer is 2h30
- From Chambéry airport transfer is 1h30
- From Grenoble airport transfer is 2h00
- From Lyon airport transfer is 2h30
The second option is the train. Again four train stations are nearby:
- Moûtiers station is very convenient if you are heading to Champagny-en-Vanoise, it is only 30 minutes away by bus or taxi transfer.
- Aime – La Plagne station is of course very convenient to get to La Plagne, also a 30 minutes’ drive.
- Landry station is perfect for Vallandry, Montchavin or Les Coches as the transfer will take 20 minutes at the most.
- Bourg-Saint-Maurice station is ideal to go to Les Arcs. Thanks to the funicular you will reach Arc 1600 in 7 mins. This station is serviced by the Eurostar, allowing for direct access from London St Pancras
Your last option is taking your car which involves a 9 hours drive from Calais.