Monday, March 10, 2014

Arc 1800: The Dawn of a New Area?

Lovely day on the mountain today: glorious sunshine and plenty of snow everywhere after the blizzard conditions at the beginning of the week. Everything is open, even the mythical 'hidden piste' from 1600 to Les Granges (properly called  Violettes). A clue for finding the start of it: don't miss the bottle banks behind the Arpette Restuarant!

There's an almost  feverish level of excitement at the ADS (Les Arcs lift company) over the newly announced plans for the redevelopment of the Charvet/Chantel area of Arc 1800. In fact a number of the main planks of the project were planned and announced some  time ago, but the ADS is putting a bit of a spin on the whole thing and calling it 'The Dawn of A New Area' which I thinks quite a clever pun compared to there normal rather flat-footed attempts at translation.

For me Arc 1800 has always been the most unsatisfactory part of the Arcs resorts. It is sprawling  and unfocussed, like a kind 1960s new town ribbon development, with no real centre or character. The 'fingers of the glove' theory behind it, where you move between discrete areas of different activities (skiers, pedestrians, shops, trees, etc) fails here; in effect you have a highly inconvenient layout, with all the lifts bunched at one end. 

Big drop to the front de neige!
But surely the worst feature (in my opinion one of the '5 greatest architectural failures of Les Arcs') is the steep slope between the shops, restaurants, childrens' play area and ski schools along front of the Villards area and the Vagère, Chantel and Villard lifts and ski school meeting area (and the location of the TransArc isn't much better). It's no fun trying to coax a handful of children 100m up a 50% icy slope to get to their lessons, and its a tiring trudge for most adults trying to get back up after a spot of lunch or a cup of coffee in one of the many cafés and restuarants. Surely it wouldn't have been that difficult to create a level 'front de neige' back in 1974 when Arc 1800 was built!

The new developments in the Chantel area ( a large flatish area above the Charvet area)  have already created hundreds of new beds in this highly overcrowded zone (you should have seen the queues for Vagère last week!), and more development is planned there. 

So the Dawn of a New Area scheme will be a welcome and logical step towards making Arc 1800 more coherent and 'better suited to the expectations of the clients', to quote the ADS.  The main points are:

    Espace Aqualudique
  • Redevelopment of the swimming pool next to Vagère into an Espace Aqualudique, adding a large enclosed pool with artificial waterfalls, caverns and flumes to the existing outdoor pool. There will also be a sauna, jacuzzi, massage tables and an underground access passage from Villards. There's also a plan for some kind of 'people mover' from Vagère, but I can't quite see the logic of that  (swimming in ski-boots?). Definitely going ahead, will open in December 2014.
  • Dismantling of the exisiting Chantel  (hooray!) and Villards lift, to be replaced by a new funicular-type system to carry people up to Chantel, to be called 'Le Dahu', apparently modelled on the Cabriolet lift between Arc 1950 and 2000. A new gondola (telécabine) will replace Villards, and this too will be built before next season. That really should take some of the strain off  TransArc and Vagère.
  • Between Chantel and Villards/Charvet various zones will be developed for toboganing, beginners ski area, tubing, children's playground etc. Later they plan to construct a restaurant complex there as well, but that seems all a bit vague at present.
  • The icing on the cake: a brand new 6 person chairlift from Chantel  (top of the new Dahu lift) to the Col de Frettes (to be called Carroley, as the old lift of that name will be taken out), which will give quick access to 2000 and 1600 (and a better route to the SnowPark). This is slated for completion on 2015, but as its going to be funded in part by the commune of Bourg St Maurice it maybe affected by the outcome of  municipal elections in March.
Part of new Charvet development
Building on the 'Alpage de Charvet' was always part of the Les Arcs master-plan, but Roger Godino (the business brain behind the resort and its first chief executive) saw the development of Chantel as the grand finale of the  Les Arcs project:

"I have seen at least 20 architectural projects for Chantel, and I threw them all in the bin (including one from Charlotte Perriand which is now in a museum!). I have never come across a worthwhile project for Chantel, and now when I see random buildings being constructed one after the other, and when I think that there's still 40,000 m2 to go (two thirds the size of Arc 1950)  I say to myself, then I didn't know what to do, so I saved it for the end. How mistaken I was."  (Roger Godino, 2009, quoted in Reve de Bergers by Claudie Eberhart-Blanc).

Let's hope this 60 million euro investment proves Godino wrong, and that the result will make Arc 1800 and more attractive, better organised and less crowded resort, and truly and new area will dawn.

The ADS flyer (in french):

No comments:

Post a Comment