We’re just back from a flying visit to Les Arcs in France. It was a brilliant 4ish days of great single track, great beer, great coffee and great scenery.
Here’s a few things we learnt on our very quick visit to our new favourite Alpine resort.
Looking for your first week of Les Arcs mountain biking? This might be of some help…
What is it?
Les Arcs is a great place to ride your bike. It’s in the Savoie valley and is above the town of Bourg St-Maurice. There are bike friendly lifts, plenty of marked trails and there are hundreds of back-country epics to be discovered. It’s mostly known for its association with the Trans Savoie race.
How to get there
Fly to Geneva and then get a transfer over to Bourg St-Maurice, Les Arcs 1600 or Les Arcs 1800. You can hire a car from Geneva airport – but it’s a bit of a faff – or you can get a transfer. It’s about 2.5hrs from Geneva to the trails with transfers costing around £130.
If you prefer the train, you can get the Eurostar from London all the way to the train station in Bourg St-Maurice.
Where to stay
Unlike Morzine, everything isn’t packed in one place. On the valley floor is Bourg St-Maurice. It’s a busy little town with bars, clubs, super markets and a train station that you can get to on the Eurostar. If you want a bit of night life, a decent super market and a bit more action, stay here. All trails are accessed by the Funicular that zooms up the mountain every half hour. There’s great trails that end on the edge of the town.
We stayed up at Les Arcs 1800 – it’s a very quiet, small mountain resort with plenty of accommodation, incredible views, a few shops and bars and great access to the lifts. There’s plenty of places to drink late but don’t expect late opening supermarkets and don’t expect the bars to be packed. If you’re looking to escape the usual Alpine crowd, this is a good spot to try. Les Arcs 1600 is even quieter still.
Our accommodation was via Air BnB and was typical Alps stuff – tight on space but with great access to the trails. Three of us and three bikes squeezed in and were pretty comfortable – this might have been less comfortable if the weather hadn’t been great and we’d been battling muddy bikes and kit.
If you’re looking for camping or somewhere to stay in your camper van in Les Arcs, there’s a great car park right next to the Funicular Railway in Bourg St-Maurice. It’s a great spot next to a lake.
Take your trail bike
We rode a couple of trails that would have been fun on a DH bike – mainly the marked black runs – but take your long travel trail bike with some tough, sticky tyres. The marked trails are great but you’ll miss out if you’re not out discovering the sneaky off-piste trails and trying a few back-country rides. Our trip didn’t demand much actual hacking around or big climbs … but there was plenty of exploring, nipping between resorts or winching back along roads from trail to lift.
I rode a Scott Genius LT Tuned which is a 170mm enduro bike with a decent range of gears and a dropper post. I ran with Onza Ibex dual compound tyres which worked well.
The Bike Park
There are various bike park trails in Les Arcs 1800, Les Arcs 1600 and up the Trans Arcs lift. They’re great fun and there’s a good spread of trails to match various skills. Nothing is particularly basic and even blue “Woodstock” run is fast, rough and amazingly good fun.
Grab a free map and study when the lifts are open – there seemed to be a few of the bigger more useful lifts closed on Saturdays for some reason. Be prepared for tired arms as you squeeze in “just one more run!”
You can ride till 8PM.
Possibly the best thing about Les Arcs is that the Funicular railway from Bourg up to the trails that runs till 7:30PM every night. That means you can ride from 8am till 8PM every day. I don’t know about you, but that’s way more riding than I could cope with.
The last railway lift up the hill leaves at around 7:30PM – then you can grab a free bus from the top back to Les Arcs 1800. Bike racks are provided on the bus.
The best thing is that some of the very best trails – “Black 8” and other more ‘local’ offerings – are the ones that run the latest. Don’t miss those!
Off the Beaten Track
Les Arcs is made for exploring. There’s a bike park … but the best stuff was away from the Bike Park laps. There are Blue, Red and Black trails dotted around the place that reward a bit of exploration. They’re not always necessarily secret tracks or off-piste, they’re just not slapped straight in front of the chair lift.
Further afield still there are some really epic, back country rides. Expect hike a bike, snow, big exposure, single-track from heaven and switch backs from hell. A bit of research and asking around will go a long way … but get a guide if you want to really find the good stuff.
A word of advice – the hills are inhabited by a particular breed of big, wild sheep dogs. They love scaring tourists and are pretty likely to take a nip at your leg. The local’s advice is to walk your bike past them, don’t look them in the eye and don’t try to out run them. Seriously!
Food and drink
Charly’s Factory at the bottom of the Funicular in Bourg serves incredible Belgian beers, great snacks and is a perfect place to waste time between lifts.
Chez BouBou in Les Arcs 1800 is a great place for a drink at night – Beautiful bar staff, a great location, generous measures and a good selection of beer kept us coming back! We also had great food at Bar KingMad which is run by a friendly English bloke called Phil. The burgers are excellent.
For those on a budget there are small super markets in the various towns but opening hours aren’t what you’d find in the UK. There’s a bigger super market in Bourg.
Compared to bigger and more bustling Alpine venues Les Arcs felt like a great value trip.
Our trip cost around £385 each including food, flights, beers, food etc. We rode for 3 full days and 2 half days with 5 nights accommodation.
The costs were:
Return transfers £133 per person
5 nights accommodation £227 total (+£50 linen hire for the whole group)
Return flights with bikes £150 per person
Lift passes 1 week EUR60 per person
… plus various crepes, beers.
If you’re interested in a trip to Les Arcs or the Savoie valley you can check out …