I've just got back from a week in Les Arcs (2000), France (which is why it's been quiet here for a week ;-). I've had a great time...
A group of eight of us went with Skiworld to Chalet Arcadie in Les Arcs 2000. For those that don't know (and I didn't), Les Arcs is a huge mountain range speckled with small villages, each named after their height above sea level (eg. 1600, 1800, 1950 etc). Skiworld used Astraeus (who?) to get us there. The most notable thing was the enormous amounts of leg room - my 34" legs were more than happy in the seat. Now, why can't BA do that...?
We flew to Chambry airport on the stupid-o'clock flight (leaving Gatwick at about 6am, so a 4 am check-in). I wouldn't recommend it - our flight was the first one in the airport. There's only one baggage reclaim belt, which of course everyone flocks around. The trouble was two more flights arrived before all our bags were found, so it caused complete chaos in the airport. Still, not too big a deal in the grand scheme of things. The stupid flight times are far more of a problem - getting up at 3am to get to the airport is a real problem - you're just tired all day and so need an early night to get over it. That means you'll miss out on the pub crawl thing Skiworld always do (but more seriously, tiredness characterised this holiday, and a good deal of that was because of those flights, which were equally bad on the way home).
There were the typical transfer shenanigans, but a couple of hours later we were at the chalet. Pretty soon after that, we were on the slopes, doing a couple of easy runs (there are a couple of free lifts , so there's no need to get a lift pass for a couple of hours of ski time). It was nice to get a bit of a warm up before the main event the next day.
The chalet was pretty standard. It did benefit from a pool, sauna and steam room in the basement (shared among a few apartments). The chalet hostie was of course very nice, helpful, friendly and an excellent cook. It a shame Skiworld treat their hosties so badly - calling a meeting at 7.30am on Christmas day, and then sending "quality control" in that afternoon is a bit rough. The hostie job is really hard as it is, and really doesn't need that and the "slightly useless" resort managers, resort reps and so on getting in the way.
In general, I'd rate Les Arcs as a really good ski area. My favourite bits are around Les Arcs 1800 and Peisey/Vallandry areas. 2000 itself isn't that great, and getting back to it almost always requires a walk or convoluted run/lift choices. However, it's all good really. We were there in the first (real) week of their season, and were really fortunate to have had a huge amount of snow a couple of days before our arrival. We got more new snow on the last night and last morning too. I got my fresh tracks on and off piste, although did some spectacular wipe-outs in deep powder off piste as well ;-)
The other main areas in the region are La Plagne and Les Coches, which are over the new double-deck, 200 people capacity cable car (it's really good - it runs every four minutes, and takes about four minutes). Unless you've got more than a week, you probably don't need the Paradiski lift pass extension to these areas though - there's so much at Les Arcs that you probably won't get much time over there. We went for a day and had some fun. Our little excusion group that day all got fresh tracks (and a couple of falls in the five day old (still soft though) powder) because a link track we were going to use had loads of rocks where there should have been snow. Also we stopped at a restaurant pub place and a couple of us had "Le Grog" (a rum and syrup drink) - don't bother, it's mingin'.
We also had a go at night skiing. I've never done it before because you normally end up getting into some special trip, with drinks and dinner provided (i.e. far too much hassle). This was really good though. You walk to the end of the street, get on your skis, get to the very floodlit piste, and ski your nuts off. The lift is free, so you don't even need your lift pass. We all had fun hopping over little jumps and bumps (getting our arses kicked by kids half our size and twice our nerve). Once ou've had enough, just ski to the end of the street and walk home. Marvellous.
All in all, a really good holiday, and a really good location. I'd go there again, and as it's connected to Bourg St. Maurice, it's really not too hard to get to. In the future I wonder if the (Skiworld) catered chalet is such a good thing - package flights are always a pain in the arse, and characterised by waiting, queuing, long walks around airports and so on. Also, whilst the food you get in chalets is fantastic (and this time especially, it really was amazing), there's really far too much of it (getting less food isn't really that easy becuase the meals are set in the "skiworld manual", and the chalet hostie isn't allowed to deviate much from it). I'm wonderng if a self-catered or "accommodation only" deal would be better in the future.
On a skiing/instructing front, I've got my skiing back to about 95% of where it used to be. I think technically I'm pretty much back, although my powder technique needs lots of work. I've been managing moguls really well (far better than before), and have been able to do all this with absolutely knackered skis - they're in need of lots of love before I ski on them again. Instructing wise, my students for the week seem to have come on really well, so I guess I'm doing something right. I'd like to get some more instructor training though - a few second opinions and ideas would be really helpful. I'd also really like to get my level 2 qualification as well, although without a good concerted spell of skiing, I'm unlikely to get it.
Thanks to everyone who organised the holiday, went along or we spoke to while we were there - I've had a great time.