Saturday, January 19, 2013

Free on Saturday?

Saturday is a special day for most people - a day to relax and do things you want to do rather than have demands made on you at work, a day to set your own agenda. (Sunday is  more a day for not doing things...) I can't write about Saturday without thinking about Ian McEwan's fabulous novel, which is certainly about doing things, although with unusual consequences. Highly recommended.

Saturday in a ski resort like Les Arcs is also a different kind of day. People leave, people arrive, no one who works here can go skiing and every week we deplore the inevitable traffic jams and airport delays (snow in England today!). 

Saturday nightmare traffic
When I am dealing with guests whose journeys have been long and painful I always remind them that in 24 hours it will all be forgotten, they'll be having a great time on the mountain and Saturday seem like just a bad dream. Until the next one, of course.

 I warn my staff that the most difficult half-hour of each week is the first half-hour spent with new guests; the psychological stress of saying 'goodbye' to a bunch of people who you have come to like  whose company you have come to enjoy, and then, often only minutes later, having to 'turn it on' for a new set of faces, with all the inevitable questions, anxieties and demands.

Saturday, I don't ski

If you are lucky to get here in good time on Saturday (perhaps if you arrive reasonably rested from the Friday night Eurostar service) it can be a great day to enjoy the mountain. There are very few people around on the slopes and there are a few bargains to be had. At Les Arcs you can by a special ticket on the internet called "Samedi je ski" It costs only €26 euros (instead of the normal €46 for a day ticket) for Les Arcs or La Plagne (you can't use the Vanoise Express which links the two). You need to register, and it's all in French (but pretty easy to understand) and you print of the voucher in advance. It was aimed at local students, but anyone can benefit. 

However, a question came up recently on the forum about free lifts in Les Arcs that you could use for just a couple of runs in the afternoon after arriving. I was surprised as I set about responding just how many free Saturday skiing options I could come up with, and some of them are not just for Saturday:

Free skiing in Les Arcs - ideas for that Saturday afternoon with no lift pass: 

La Millerette at Les Granges - always free!
1) Get yourself to Arc 1600 and you can ski down the fabulous Granges run to the funicular half-way station (at Les Granges where my chalet happens to be), and get the funicular back up. Runs every 20mins, so you can get a few runs in. It's also possible to walk through the resort to the start of Violettes (harder red), which starts behind the bottle bank behind the Arcelle restaurant (hard to find, we call it the 'hidden run', but its worth it!) which also runs to the beginner slope at La Millerete (always free 250m drag lift), next to the funicular station, I think technically you should have a ticket for the funicular from Les Granges, but there is no system/personnel to check. 
Funicular - sometimes free?

2) You could extend this descent by taking the Combettes lift near the ski school, which is free on the weekends only. From the top of the funicular there is also a long blue piste (Bois de Saule) and plenty of off-piste possibilties. You could even follow the 'old' Bourg St Maurice piste down as far as Montrigon (you have to cross the road twice), but the funicular stops there are much less frequent. 

3) From Arc 2000 or 1950 ski down the Marmottes and Cascade pistes to Pré St Espirit (bottom of the Comborciere lift) and get the free bus back back up - nothing wrong with a bus as a ski lift, they use them all the time in Austria! Especially as it's free. Also at Arc 2000 the St Jacques (very slow), Cabriolet and the baby lift are free on the weekends. 

4) Not free but cheap: you can get a pedestrian ticket for the Transarc lift at Arc 1800 for about €10 - just watch out they don't see you carrying your skis. From there you have 1000m descent to Pre St Espirt taking in most of the Arc 2000 valley, and then again free bus either up to 2000 or back to 1600/1800. You can do the same on the Vallandry chairlift (€7 euros a ride). 

Why only Saturdays?
But will Saturday always be Saturday? Some tour operators have wisely shifted their change-over days to Sundays to avoid the problems resulting from the limited transport infrastucture. This has got to be a good thing, and I wish, for example, Eurostar would run Saturday night/Sunday daytime service to allow us to make the switch in our chalet (about 2/3rd come this way). But the resorts themselves, their hotels, apartments, ski school etc. seem firmly stuck to Saturday. 

Apart from the the misery of awful, long journeys just think how much pollution and Co2 could be saved by avoiding the kind of traffic jams you get when 40,000 cars a day trying to get up a road designed in the 1930s for much lighter traffic (I am thinking of course of the N90, our local Albertville - Moutiers - Bourg St Maurice - Val d'Isere route).  Perhaps it's time for a more flexible concerted approach by all involved, but in the end it might need a new law to make it happen.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoy reading your blog and the insides on what is happening in the area. Also the historic perspectives presented. I am Swedish and I have an apartment in Les Arcs. I have been skiing Tarentaise since 1969. So pls continue! :-)