Tag Archives: Les Arcs

Les Arcs – Day 6 – Last Day

By now we were quite used to the routine of getting to school in time and today, the last day, actually made it quite comfortably 😉 The children had their ‘tests’ today to grade their progress for the next time they went skiing, but other than that it was to be a fairly relaxed morning.

Bubble Chairlift
Bubble Chairlift

The blizzard overnight had calmed significantly and the blue skies were showing again above the bowl of the valley, so we anticipated the sun would be showing its face again shortly.

Unfortunately, many of the lifts were still not open so of course the whole population of the resort descended initially on those lifts that were so the wait at the bottom of the runs was extended.

I stayed with Liz for the first lift and then zoomed off on my first run back down, which was considerably quicker than the waiting at the bottom.

That was where I made my mistake.

Thinking I would get a longer run in, I carried on down to one of the lower lifts but when I arrived, found many others had obviously had the same idea and the size of the crowd was ‘disappointing’, to say the least. I had to wait for at least 45 minutes, inching my way forward as the skiers and snowboarders funnelled into the slow three person chairlift.

Bubble Chairlift - Joshua
Bubble Chairlift – Joshua

I eventually got back up after a very frustrating time and by the time I arrived at mid-station they had opened some of the upper lifts, having been furiously blasting away the snow on the higher risk slopes all morning. I continued round for another couple of runs then made my way back down to the children, who were already waiting together.

They had obviously had a hard morning with the weather, the exam and perhaps even the realisation that their holiday was nearly over. Food needed – if in doubt carbs, protein and fat in the perfect form of a ham and cheese baguette had been our saviour throughout the week. It worked a treat and with Liz with us as well, we all decided to go back up to the top mountain on the Arcabulle lift together for a couple of last runs together.

We got onto the six seater chairlift all together which was fantastic but at the top Joshua and Savannah wanted to got with Liz, while Morgan and Luke decided to come down a slightly steeper run with their Dad! Morgan still wanted to go down a red run 😯 so we split at the top of the hill and arranged to meet at the lift in the middle for the final run.

All well and good, Luke and Morgan made their way down the steep blue with moguls and we met at the middle run and waited for a bit, but then realised the run they were on may not have access to the middle lift, Plagnettes. We made our way down slowly keeping an eye out for them from across the piste, but no sign. After a couple of texts and nearly 20 minutes waiting, we heard that they were on their way back up to the top, so we quickly got back on the Arcabulle lift, seconds before it shut for the day.

Last on the slopes
Last on the slopes

We were back at the top of the mountain for the last time and met the others. This time, for our final run of the day Morgan was insistent on going down a Red run and of course, Luke wanted to follow him, anything Morgan could do, Joshua was going to attempt and Savannah wasn’t going to be left on her own. Liz was not keen, but in the interests of keeping the family together decided to also come with us.

I’m not sure if this was a red run or not – I think it probably was 😯 and it probably wasn’t the best decision, but Morgan had been keen all week to cut his teeth on a red!

Having started down the run, we were committed and there was no turning back. Morgan and Luke sped off without too much difficulty, and Savannah and Joshua eventually found their rhythm and steadily made their way down the first part of the slope, which was the steepest and most difficult part – I passed them about half way down making steady progress. Liz came down steadily as well, but lost her confidence on the mogully part of the upper slope and was helped down by the slope ‘sweepers’ who had appeared by this stage and were making their way down ensuring everyone was off the slopes! I waited with Luke and Morgan at the bottom and started to make my way back up as Savannah wiped out. Luckily, the sweepers reached her quickly and helped her, and the disasterous final run went from bad to worse when, having left Luke and Morgan they proceeded to take their skis off and venture off-piste and had disappeared up to their waists in the soft snow at the side of the run, which I only noticed as the sweepers were gesticulating wildly in my direction.

Los Chicanos
Los Chicanos

Soon, we were all together again, and despite some ‘flat’ work (after not having enough speed to make it UP to the crest of the next downhill part of the run, we all made it down relatively unscathed, but tired. it had taken us nearly an hour to get down this run and it was getting quite dark by this stage.

All we now wanted was hot waffles to revive us but then we had to struggle with the return of the rental equipment! The queue to give back the equipment was almost as long as the queue to be fitted up in the first place, which I could not understand 😉 but after Liz offered to wait with the final pieces of equipement I took the children to sledge down the hill one last time.

We went back to the Mexican restaurant, Los Chicanos, our favourite, in the evening and had one last fine meal to end our stay 🙂

Les Arcs – Day 6

Les Arcs – Day 5 – Blizzard Day

A river flows through it.
A river flows through it.

I suppose we had been quite lucky with the weather up until this point. It had only really snowed on our journey into the resort.

Up until now.

We woke up this morning and it was snowing lightly, but the wind was quite fierce and whipping the drifts and any remaining loose snow from the previous day’s up in a bit of a blizzard. At this point we could still see though, and looking out of the window of our apartment, the scene actually looked quite idyllic.

Then we went downstairs and outside with our equipment to start school.

I managed to persuade Liz to get off to her school on time as I dropped off the little ones, but it immediately became apparent that they were not going to be able to manage without goggles, which up to this point had not been a problem. The instructor confirmed this a few moments later that if we thought it was bad now, on the chairlifts and the exposed slopes it would be infinitely worse! We rushed off to the local store and hastily chose some eyewear to make the day bearable; the choice in the second shop we found was good even for the little ones and they managed to get the colours they wanted 😉 I even got a pink pair for Savannah, which she was delighted with a few moments later when I gave them to her. Liz, ironically, was feeling guilty that she was the only one with goggles as she had borrowed some earlier from another member of the group, until I updated her on our recent purchases.

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The conditions were the worst I’ve ever tried to ski in. I’ve been in white-outs before but not with this kind of wind; a biting horizontal wind that seemed to blow the sharp sand-like snow into your face irrespective of whatever direction you were facing and I only managed to get 4 or 5 runs in before it was time to fetch the children.

A moment of calm!
A moment of calm!

After some warming food we went back out to brave another couple of attempts at runs with the little ones, who to their credit were not complaining at all, but I suspect this was probably because they couldn’t get their faces out of their coat hoods for long enough to talk, let alone complain.  We therefore decided that it was getting ridiculous since we couldn’t even see a few metres in front of us at times and the upper lifts were being closed down, so at about 3:30, we called it a day.

We made our way back to the village and after dropping off our equipment yet again, warmed up with more waffles, Nutella and pastries (what a great excuse to eat yummy food – a bit like ultra-running really!) before returning again to the apartment.

The wind and snow had got steadily worst throughout the day, and conditions continued to deteriorate throughout the evening to the extent that we were often unable to see the lights of the buildings 50m opposite and the clear skies and brilliant full moon of the previous evenings was a distance memory as the snow careened around the village.

Thankfully though, we were snug in our warm apartment and could do nothing but hope the electricity supplies to the area did not fail and that by morning the worst would be over!

Les Arcs – Day 5

Les Arcs – Day 4 – Long Day

On the way down, just before going 'off-piste'
On the way down, just before going ‘off-piste’

Today started with the normal routine of breakfast and the visit to the equipment room, but it was to be a longer day of skiing.

Right from the start, the day looked good; although there was some low cloud down in the valley, the sun was out and the sky was as blue and clear as it could be. The sun was behind the mountains to the south east of our village, but its presence was already being felt.

The children were ready to go today, having had a bit of a break yesterday afternoon. Not that THEY needed it of course. After an injection of carbohydrates at regular intervals they have been fine and I think we were beginning to realise it was a fairly hard activity especially for the little ones. Just walking in ski boots is hard enough for them. Walking in snow, carrying skis up a hill, was exhausting.

The children and Liz were ready to start practising their turns, and were to be taken up on to some of the higher slopes to give them more of a chance to come down a longer run and to get into a rhythm.

I had plans to make the most of my area pass.

Les Arcs is part of a series of valleys and mountains which include the area of La Plagne, with the villages of Vallandry, Plan Peisey, Montchavin and Les Coches, with the two main areas joined by a massive double-decker cable car called the Vanoise Express. This was where is planned to get to first.

Disappearing into the cloud.
Disappearing into the cloud.

The lifts were busy, but efficient as I followed the route up to the top of the Arc 2000 area, and dipped over the other side of the mountain. at this point I was careful to try to stick to the ‘left’ to take me to my preferred destination, rather than follow the route to the 1800 area I had visited a couple of days before. This took me down a nice fresh black run.

I managed to find my way down fairly well, although the transition from piste to soft powder caught me a little bit and I found myself taking a very deep off-piste excursion at one point, which required a little more extraction than I would have preferred! 🙂 Still, I was soon down at Vallandry and on the top level of the cable car, waiting to disappear into the misty valley opposite.

The journey over was swift, but the views were not as spectacular as they might have been, as we were suspended high above the valley with cloud seemingly below us and around us. It was a strange feeling to be suddenly submerged in the cloud when so adjacent to the mountain faces, but the trundling cable car eventually started climbing the slope in the cables to the other side and we arrived at Montchavin and disembarked.

Plenty of snow
Plenty of snow

So, now where? To this point I’d been so focussed on getting the lift to the valley opposite that I’d not really looked at the piste map to work out where to go next, so a brief stop was in order. There was actually little choice to get to the main ski area and that was a gentle blue run down to the actual village of Montchavin and then a series of at least three chairlifts taking me up over 1100m (3600ft) in 25 minutes to the top of the mountain where I had more choice of where to go.

I then spent the next couple of hours getting in some great runs around Plagne-Bellcôte, eating my packed lunch on the chairlift for my 7th ascent of the day.

I eventually started my way back, not wanting to miss the last lift back to our area and risk having to get an expensive taxi, so I made my way back to the cable car, partially retracing the steps I had taken the lifts over earlier.

The cloud had lifted from the valley and the view was now clear, and travelling in the Vanoise Express, a few hundred feet above the snow covered roofs below was a spectacular sight.

All I had to do now was find my way back to the lifts to take me ‘home’. The problem was the route was not obvious since I had come a fair way to the west and I would now have to zig-zag my way back across before getting the main telecabin back to 2000, the skiing equivalent of ‘tacking’.

Matchstick houses
Matchstick houses

I picked up the only lift I could see and then found my way down a series of narrow blue ‘roads’, not ideal on a snowboard, with even a bit of walking up to the Arc 1800 village – unexpected, and I suspect unnecessary, but at least I was in the right area! Great workout, too 😉

Eventually, after another couple of runs back over to the other side of our home valley, I found my way back to Arc 2000 where I met my family who were still practising their turns after a long day. I sat at the bottom of one of the runs, while they went round a few more times and then we went down the final run to the hotel and plumped into our room.

The previous nights, we had seen lights up on the slopes for floodlit skiing. After I mentioned it, Morgan was keen to try this out and go back up on the slopes again to give it a try. I had to oblige 🙂

We left the others resting but quickly made our way through the now well trodden route from the room to lockers to chairlift. I have done night skiing a few times, but I think it was exceptionally brave for Morgan to even contemplate it on only his fourth day of skiing. The floodlights tend to bring out the relief of the bumpy surface, but this is understandably patchy at the edges and sometimes bright at the focus of the lights, so at the end of the day, it is another thing to contend with (if you’ll excuse the pun!)

We were up on the lift in no time, but there was yet another thing to worry about when we got to the top – there was a trial going on, with red and blue gates set up in the snow all the way down.

So that is how, Morgan, in his first week of skiing ended up doing a night slalom course 🙂 He did very well but with others coming down the course as well it was hard work so we called it a night.

Les Arcs – Day 4

Les Arcs – Day 3 – Christmas Day

Early morning beauty
Santa’s Sleigh, long gone…

This was clearly going to be a very different Christmas Day from the start, but the children still had stockings left at the ends of their beds! They were super impressed, not only that Santa had managed to find them in France, in the mountains, but also that he had managed to bring their own decorated stockings (from our friend Colleen Bond) 🙂 Santa is very clever!

We had a variety pack for breakfast as a treat, so they were already hyper after all the chocolate coated rice and flakes they had consumed by the time we went to leave as they still had ski school in the morning.  We were getting better at organising and shepherding everyone to school on time though, but it always takes longer than you think to sort out 4 children 😉

We had some great skiing in the morning, just around the local area, with the others getting themselves up on the chairlifts for the first time, which was a milestone and something to remember for Christmas 2012!

Post-Lunch Chairlift
Post-Lunch Chairlift

We had a steak lunch in a restaurant called Hemingway’s which we had pre-booked for lunch.  As you can imagine, it had pictures of Ernest Hemingway all over the place, but other than that the connection was rather tenuous. The French do not go in for Turkey much – for Christmas that seems to be a British thing – in the US Turkey is more of a Thanksgiving treat. Either way, turkey was not on the menu, so I had duck, chicken, steak and ribs all on one plate – I guess I was feeling in need of some protein! So much for the vegetarian diet.

We all had a good meal, although there was an underlying feeling that this was not quite the ‘turkey and all the trimmings’ which is what we are all more familiar with for Christmas Day and after a couple of beers, it was quite late, but we headed back for the slopes briefly. 

By this time there was a fierce southerly wind blowing into our faces as we headed back up on the St. Jacques chairlift. Even though the children were keen to practise their new found lift extraction skills, a couple of runs was enough, so after taking our paraphernalia back to the locker room we went back out to get the children a couple of sledges that we had promised them.

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We briefly stopped for some fresh apple pastries and hot waffles filled with a variety of honey or Nutella, before going back up the slope to the hotel to christen the sledges. This was the hill into the village, which seemed to be the main route that people took with sledges, albeit risking life and limb at the traffic-light-less junction, where the confluence of sledges, mixed with the skier, snowboarders, revellers from the bars and local wildlife in general.

Through some miracle, we escaped unscathed, but the children all had great fun.

A Christmas to remember! 🙂

Les Arcs – Day 3

Les Arcs – Day 2 – Christmas Eve

With renewed vigour after a good night’s sleep, we were all ready to tackle the slopes again today.

Mont Blanc
Mont Blanc

The children were delivered to their class, and Liz also, joined her group up on the slopes shortly after we have sorted out skis, gloves, helmet, boots and all the other paraphernalia that is required of skiing, but which the little ones still struggle to carry about. Unsurprisingly, since even the small skis are cumbersome and heavy for little hands, even if they had been used to the gloves they were also now expected to wear as a matter of course.

Nevertheless, they all went off, although I stayed with Savannah for a while to ensure she was settled. They all did more practice and were introduced to turning while snowploughing, so at least getting down a hill after that would be a more controlled affair.

By this stage, it was only an hour and a half before pickup so I found my way to top of the mountain and then down to the village at 1800 – Les Arcs has a number of villages in the area, at different altitudes; we were staying at 1950, but there are also groups of chalets, apartments, hotels, restaurants and shops at 2000, where the monument from the Winter Olympics at Albertville 1992 is situated (Les Arcs was used for the speed skating), as well as 1800 and 1600, with the number indicative of the nominal altitude of the village.

Crop Circles? Snow Joke?
Crop Circles? Snow Joke?

The run down to 1800 was bathed with sun, but the snow was still perfect as I boarded down to where I thought the bottom lift would be; the temperature was also still quite mild, but we had had a little dusting of powder overnight to freshen things up. When I got there, I found myself skiing through the ‘low’ cloud on the mountain and some scarily icy slopes at the lower altitudes, but eventually found my way to the Transarc lift. This was one of those lifts that went straight from the village all the way to the top of the mountain, and also the link to the other Arcs villages, so it was understandably popular and I spent twenty minutes in the queue.

I managed to get 4 runs in before making it back to meet the little ones, who were all exhausted again, but keen to show off their newly learnt skills before climbing up the nearest snowdrift and throwing snowballs at each other.

Liz arrived presently and we managed to find our way to a snack bar to get some paninis and fries to warm us up. We were walking a constant battle between energy level, sustenance and entertainment and most of the time a lack of energy levels was dominating, especially during the ‘transition’ between periods of feeding and activity!

We went back up to the same place as yesterday and the children confidently set out on the magic carpet again to practice their turning skills down the green slopes up in the 2000 village area. After an hour or so, I left their confidently burgeoning attempts and did another couple of runs, first to the peak of the area to the south, and then to the north-east to see the sun setting behind the mountains again; a beautiful sight.

Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve

The apartments where we were staying, ‘Pierre et Vacances’ had stated that they had both an indoor and outdoor swimming pool. The children, no doubt remembering the excitement and fun they had had in the heat wave of west coast America a few months back, were keen to relive that experience in France. I went on a reconnaissance mission and found it eventually in the hotel next door, with a sky bridge joining the two buildings for access. The memory of the sun blazing desert heat was short lived. I think the inside pool was probably the coldest ‘heated’ pool I’ve ever been in and although we braved ducking under the clear, plastic curtain to trial the ‘outside’ temperatures, the external jacuzzi was a one time journey.

We quickly showered and went out, back to our Mexican restaurant to eat, and then got back home and the little ones settled down while Santa’s little helpers got about their business.

After an active day, there were no problems with the little ones getting
some shut eye even with all the excitement, and there were plenty of spare tube socks for them to leave optimistically at the ends of their beds.

Les Arcs – Day 2

Les Arcs – Day 1 – School Day

The rain had stopped overnight, but it was still remarkable mild for for 2000m AMSL, no more than a day after the winter solstice.

The scene we awoke to was as magical as we had expected. Our apartment was ‘cozy’, but sufficient for our needs and the views of the mountains to the east were stunning. Snow blanketed the area still, and the children were excited to get going and so rushed their chocolate coated cereals as quickly as possible.

Early ski lift
Early ski lift

I was the only one with equipment ready, having brought my snowboard and boots with me. We had explained to the others they would need to get their equipment, i.e. skis, boots, poles and helmets, but we had no idea the size of the queue in the ‘Spirit’ 1950 shop we had been directed to by our Crystal Ski rep.

It was about 9:15am when we got to the shop, and the queue snaked around the labyrinth of the store, with checkpoints set up for the fitting and allocation of each item of equipment, with queuing in between; try to imagine the opposite of a high intensity gym circuit training session and you’ll get the picture.

Morgan and Liz trotted off in their new snow boots to pick up gloves and salopettes while the rest of us waited for the queue to move. They were back before we had reached the steps into the inner sanctum of the store where the all important boots were to be fitted first.

By this time, of course, 6 people (and many others in the queue) were experiencing the heat imparted by several layers of clothing designed for skiing in single figure temperatures, when inside a centrally heated room, with probably 50 other people adding to the overall confinement, heating and claustrophobia effect! Duly dispatched for water, I left the children frustrated but returned to them in the shoe fitting area.

First Day Sunset
First Day Sunset

This continued for a while with each item of essential equipment while I tried to find out what was happening with the ski school and instructors, who by 10:00am had already left for the morning.

Eventually with all our equipment fitted, scanned, registered and paid for, we got the children over to their school, and a nice gentleman from the Evolution 2 Ecole du Ski took Liz off to join her group and all of a sudden I was on my own.

I made my way to the nearest ski lift and worked my way across to the top of the only lift I could see to test my new gloves, warm up with my board after 5 years of disuse, and to give me a chance to get my bearings by looking at the piste map.

The skiing was great. I warmed up quite quickly, both in terms of my technique and also body temperature. Snowboarding is like riding a bike from that perspective, but the mildness of the hills had caught me out and after a few runs I was taking layers off on my way down the mountain to meet the rest of the family.

Village Clock
Village Clock

They had had a great, albeit curtailed, first lesson, and they had all got on well in their respective classes, so we planned to go out again in the afternoon to practice, but first the lack of carbs was catching up with us and we sought to replenish our energy levels with some baguettes from the local bakery.

With that done, we went up the Cabriolet lift from our 1950 (m) village to the nursery slopes at 2000 where I spent a good hour or so helping the little ones with their snow-plough technique, which they had been instructed in earlier. It is amazing how quickly they pick things up and despite some initial frustration and tears, by the end of the afternoon, they were all tired but pleased with themselves as they were coming down the run from the ‘Magic Carpet’ tunnel without falling over. Morgan wanted to go down a Red run already 😯

In the evening after having a break it was off to a local pizza restaurant, the smell inside which (the melting cheese, we hoped) was initially somewhat overpowering.

The children ate quickly, and were outside playing in the snow again, foregoing any dessert, before the cheese had had a chance to congeal and you could shake a Cornetto at Jack Frost. They love the snow, but after a long day they slept well that night.

Les Arcs – Day 1 Track

Off Cross-Training

Well, the day had finally arrived.

The cats had been packed off to a cattery 🙁 work was finished – for the year, in fact, our skiing holiday was about to start and the Mayan soothsayers had yet again been misinterpreted so the world was still in one piece.

We started out early from a damp and rainy Gatwick Airport, doing another most civilised Purple Parking “meet’n’greet” albeit at 6:30 in the morning. The queues at the Tompson check-in were tolerable and we were through security on supposedly one of the busiest travelling days of then year in almost record time, despite having singularly forgotten (again!) to check in online. After a swift pit stop for breakfast, we were waiting for the plane.

Gatwick Skybridge
Gatwick Skybridge

Everything was going smoothly, we dared to think.

We were even installed on the plane with little drama, except for a mislaid boarding card which Morgan had decided to squirrel away as a scrapbook trophy prior to using it to actually board the aircraft. Still, we were all settled and ready to going by our pre allotted time, which came and went without so much as a whisper from the stewardess’ PA. Eventually the captain addressed us, explaining some extra luggage from an earlier flight had found its way onto ours and the would have to reconcile the manifest (count it) prior to our departure.

Of course by the time they had done that, we had missed our slot.

Two and a half hours later than planned, we were finally on our way.

The Thomson charter flight had little food to cater for the needs of hungry children and when we arrived in Chambery, France, with the clocks already one hour ahead, we just wanted to find our way to the bus and make it to the resort, so we were happy to be quickly through customs and picked up baggage and onto the bus in no time; so quickly in fact, that we had no time to get snacks and the prospect of a 3 hour transfer to Les Arcs was suddenly less appealing.

Somehow we managed to keep the children occupied, distracted and they survived on 1/2 a twix each before we had a pit stop at Moutiers, where we arranged some much needed carbo-loading.

Les Arcs 1950 - the High Street
Les Arcs 1950 – the High Street

We saw the sunset on the journey but it was rather cloudy and we disappointingly found it was sleeting when we left Moutiers, rather than the picturesque snow for which we had been hoping. Nevertheless, the higher we climbed, the bigger and drier the flakes of snow became and although the rest of the journey was fraught with stops behind cars fitting snow chains, the driver only got stuck once and we made it to Les Arcs 1950 just after 7pm.

Having negotiated our way through the utilitarian underground car park with our luggage, which seemed to have multiplied, at least in mass, if not in volume, on the journey to the resort, and just had time to grab some provisions for breakfast before shooting out for supper.

We went out to a Mexican restaurant in evening – where chicken wings, butternut soup and a gorgeous chilli-con-carne hit just the right spot. The children played outside as the snow turned to rain! So in the end they were very wet and tired and we all got to bed by 10:30