A-Z of resorts: Les Arcs

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The Independent Travel

It is a union that has taken longer to be made official than Charles and Camilla: the joining of the two also-rans of French skiing, Les Arcs and La Plagne, into a super-resort. When the double-decker cable car is completed, connecting the outposts of Montchavin on La Plagne's side and Peisey-Vallandry in Les Arcs' sector, there will be a four-minute journey time and a grand total of 420km of pistes. That'll leapfrog Plagne/Arcs above Espace Killy (Tignes and Val d'Isère, 300km) and put them third in the world, behind Les Trois Vallées (Courchevel and Méribel etc) and Les Portes du Soleil (which includes Morzine).

The lift is due to open for the 2003 season. In expectation of attracting more visitors, Les Arcs has embarked on the development of a new village complex, in association with Intrawest, the Canadian corporation which owns Whistler and Copper Mountain among others. Arc 1950 will be built on a plateau above Pré St Esprit and the first tranche also has a 2003 completion date. The final station will include 800 apartments, a spa, outdoor heated pools, shops and restaurants in a pedestrianised village.

So Les Arcs will be the place to go over the next few years – but is it worth a visit now? Like so many French resorts, convenience is king, with accommodation high up and right on the snow. There are three big attractions to Les Arcs' mountains. First, the off-piste, with its reliable snow at heights reaching 3,225m, is a favourite with snowboarders. Second, you can dip into pretty, low-lying villages for lunch. And third, adrenaline junkies can ski faster than a Porsche on the speed-skiing piste.

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