Les Arcs, the ski resort to savor in summer

It reopened on July 4th and now is a great time to visit – with a plethora of profitable accommodations and activities

Kkeep a goat apart … that’s the message of Les Arcs, the French resort that reopened on July 4th.

Les Arcs uses this new way of educating visitors to respect the one-meter social distancing rule imposed by the French government. The signage on all hand sanitizing stations around the village uses illustrations of goats as a visual representation – the goats appear to be a very convenient size as well as a tourist attraction …

The goats were, however, very far from our thoughts last year as we – my three daughters, 10, 15 and 17 years old, and my new widowed father – went down the final stretch of the Isère, breathless, scruffy and soaked. We looked at each other, momentarily shocked at what we had just accomplished, then we burst out laughing.

Whitewater rafting was a challenge I never imagined trying, let alone with my 70-year-old dad. Every family has had a difficult year, and for us the global pandemic has been accompanied by the loss of my mother, who died late last year from dementia. I can honestly say that there were times when we thought we would never be happy again.

The family urgently needed a break: however, the challenge of finding a full fit with plenty of space and outdoor activities was not so straightforward. Years of much-loved family vacations took us to the French Alps, meaning the girls were able to practice their language skills for the upcoming exams. The Alps have always been a dad’s dream, who loves hiking but felt it was extremely expensive.



Jacqui and her family enjoying the mountain air



Credit: Jacqui Davidson

It seems not! A plethora of budget accommodation is available in the summer. Les Arc 1800 in Savoie, France, in the town of Bourg-Saint-Maurice in the Tarentaise Valley, well known as a winter ski destination, has a secret: summer is even better!

The resort offers 35 marked hiking trails suitable for all walking levels and 149 km of mountain biking trails. There are high-adrenaline sports like mountain biking, whitewater rapids, and rock climbing, as well as more traditional activities like hiking and golf.

The air in summer has a quality similar to that of nectar: ​​cool and warm at the same time, refreshing instantly. As we took the first breaths of mountain air and looked around, the stresses and strains of the past few months began to fade. The landscape was so vibrant, bold and beautiful.

The base camp for the week was at the Pierre Vacances apartments, Les Alpages de Chantel. Built in the traditional Savoyard chalet style, constructed from wood and local materials, our beautiful apartment gave us a feeling of warmth and relaxation from the moment we opened the door. Breakfasts of fresh croissants and sunsets were taken on the terrace with mountain views which lifted our spirits and helped soothe our souls, while dad taught the children the card games.

In the central village of Les Arcs 1800 was an incredible indoor and outdoor swimming pool with slides and massage jets, a huge trampoline park, archery areas and an eighteen-hole golf course in an open park. with mountain landscapes. An outdoor fitness room offers yoga, cardio training, step and Zumba.

The village also has a tree climbing park, a circus school, inflatable structures, mountain karting, archery and a mini golf course. With a Hero Pass, all of these activities – plus the ski lifts – are included. The Hero Pass makes you the Parent of the Week – saying yes to everything is like having a Super Power.



The Davidson family



Credit: Jacqui Davidson

As the week went on, a pattern emerged: crazy activities in the morning, more relaxed activities in the afternoon. Somehow, the past few months have made us all bolder than ever before – and we found ourselves tempted into more adrenaline-pumping activities.

We tried all the activities together as a team. Initially, the village animation team doubted that a ten-year-old child and my father would keep up. But by the end of the week, they had exceeded all expectations.

First off, mountain biking: Les Arcs are famous the world over for their well-mapped and organized routes and incredible off-piste cycling. The ski lifts of the resort allow you to ride the bikes in the mountains, leaving you the pleasure of the descent.

We arrived at the ATV rental store with apprehension, seeing experienced mountain bikers set off dressed for battle. Our dreams of cycling through the gentle grassy slopes of the mountains were shattered. We all received what essentially looked like a bulletproof vest to save us if we fell. Falling down, my father said, was not part of the plan – and everyone agreed.

Our wonderful guide, Eric, assured us that we would all be safe and that it would be ‘fun’ as he pointed out a steep, rocky and winding path. The five of us, looking a bit like Power Rangers, left terrified and elated at the same time. Speed, he said, was not the goal – but rather, hitting slopes safely and with pleasure. After the first two trails we split into two groups and continued on, one group taking higher and more difficult mountain trails, the other going at a much more relaxed pace.



Rafting will satisfy adrenaline seekers



Credit: Jacqui Davidson

Our bravery with high-adrenaline sports culminated in whitewater rafting. We had booked for the discovery tour – the idea being that we would all participate, and if we wanted, there was a second part that continued through more difficult rapids.

We arrived on the banks of the Isère, terrified. The river was like a washing machine, foaming and fast. Where, we wondered, was the discovery tour? “What are paddles used for? My father asked. My oldest daughter, looking shocked, asked, “What is it and where is the calm water?” “.

Once again, we donned the safety gear – wetsuits, life jackets and helmets – and prepared for the mighty waters.

We were introduced to Raf, our exceptional guide and captain. The shore safety briefing was followed by several practical exercises in the water. It was adrenaline fueled and shocking in equal measure, the five of us paddling on instruction, guiding the boat through the waters, taking the waves in our stride, through the path of rocks and huge waves. As we came to the end of the discovery tour, we split into two groups, myself and my action-crazed daughter who stay longer, the others disembarking on dry land.

The second part of the trip completed the full 22 kilometer stretch of the river, taking us through level three and four rapids where conditions were extreme – cruising white water at speeds of 22m2 of water per second. . Following Raf’s clear instructions, we rode the remaining miles of swirling, foaming rapids, paddling like mad, the water continually refreshing us with huge waves crashing down the side of the boat.

It was exhausting and exhilarating, and the view of the forest and the mountain from the boat was breathtaking. The last stretch took us through a mountain gorge, where the option of cliff jumping was offered. I refused, but my daughter immediately left the boat, climbing the cliff before jumping into the crystal blue-green water. Rising to the top of the water, she was greeted with cheers and applause from our group and those from the nearby boats. Her smile and absolute pleasure filled my heart with pride and love. The whole experience made the family feel invincible.

Afternoons of hiking through winding mountain trails, forests and past mountain lakes allowed us all to relax and talk about life past, future and present. The gentle ringing of cow bells, combined with the babbling of mountain streams and waterfalls, was deeply relaxing.

All of these activities, both energetic and more relaxed, left us hungry – lunchtime featured a plethora of picnics consisting mostly of Ham Beurre and the amazing local cheese, eaten on the mountainside, enjoying fresh air with the accompanying sight.

The evenings consisted of independent meals or meals at one of the phenomenal village restaurants on the outdoor terraces. We dined on traditional Savoy mountain cuisine – fondue and raclette. The Beef Effect served probably the best steak I have ever eaten, served with truffle butter, and we drank red wine grown at an altitude of 500m.

The last day of vacation arrived, we felt like we had been gathered as a team, refreshed and ready to face whatever life threw at us. Which was lucky – unbeknownst to us the lockdown was just around the corner …

Essential

How to get there

Eurostar (eurostar.com) or direct flight to Geneva with a 2h30 taxi transfer.

Where to stay

Pierre & Vacances Premium – Le Roselend (pierreetvacances.com); from £ 513 per week in August for a two-bedroom apartment (for five to six people).

Activities

Hero Pass (fr.lesarcs.com/hero)
MTB (en.lesarcs.com/bikepark)
Rafting / Arc Aventures rafting school (arc-aventures.com)

Where to eat

Restaurant L’effet Bœuf (leffetboeuf-lesarcs1800.eatbu.com)

Health and safety measures related to Covid-19

The station has several measures in place to protect visitors, including the mandatory wearing of face masks in elevators, disinfection of all public areas, buses and all rental equipment such as bicycles and scooters. Hand sanitizer will be provided at all ski lifts and Les Arcs will provide a “health contact” for any questions visitors may have during their stay.

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