Better living through riding!

2014-01-06

Travel report: Les Arcs, France - Part 2

Tuesday, August 27
Our third day of riding started as usually with an uplift with Lonzagne lift to 1600m. Today it was time to take Vanoise Express from Peysei-Vallandry to the other side of the valley to la Plagne. Vanoise Express is a cable car streching a distance of 1800m at an altitude of around 400m above the valley, linking la Plagne with Peisey-Vallandry and Les Arcs.

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Photo: Vanoise Express.

The crossing to la Plagne took no more than 4 minutes. From there we descended via a transfer trail down to 1400m. From there a chair lift that took us up to 1865m where our first real descents of the day started. Two first descents were combinations of a forest single track and tight switchbacks, many of which quite steep and rocky. After the second descent it was time for some refresments. Our riding group today consisted of five fellow riders and two guides, Jonas and Tim, who besides guiding were also giving useful riding tips. Many of us felt tight switchbacks were quite difficult to tackle and our guides asked whether we would like to have a special lesson for riding switchback. We all were very keen on the idea.

After the next uplift to 1860m, Jonas and Tim talked us through theoretical aspects of riding switchback, followed by a training session on a fire road. Soon we were ready to head towards our village at 1300m. This descent was fully loaded with switchback, giving opportunity to apply the theory in real world situations. Views are simply stunning. Altogether, riding in la Plange side was a great experience and added to the already great diversity of trails we had ridden in Paisey-Vallandry and Les Arcs over the past two days.

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From Peisey, to lifts took us to 2100m where we did our last three descents of the day. With some clouds starting to gather on the sky, our guides decided to postpone riding down from 2600m, a so far uncharted area for our riding group, to later of the week. We had ridden some parts of these last three trails of the day already in two previous days, which made us to notice how much better prepared we were to tackle the challenges they offered. Three day of riding in these conditions had certainly done good for our riding.
When we arrived back to our village, it was again time for groups to gather in a pub for a beer or two, sharing experiences from today's riding.

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Photo: The only pub that was open in our village on the last week of the summer season.

Today’s stats:

Highest point: 2130m
Descent: 4020m
Number of descents: 6
Time on the bike: 6.5h

Wednesday, August 28
Wednesday was a day-off for our guides with no riding scheduled for the day. Some guides as well as some guests still took the opportunity to run a few descents on their own. We headed instead to Bourg-Saint-Maurice, the biggest village of the area to enjoy some good food and a beer or two. There was also Mont Blanc ultra trail running competition that passed through the central Bourg during the day with crowds of people joining to enjoy the wonderful late-summer weather and cheers to the runners.

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Photo: Spending the afternoon at Bourg-Saint-Maurice.

Thursday, August 29
After the breakfast, we met again our group at just before 9 am. Our guides, Jonas and Tim, told us about today’s plans. We were excited to hear that we would be finally heading to 2700m, the highest points attainable with lifts during the summer time in Les Arcs. In winter, there is one more lift running from 2700m all the way up to 3226m.

Two lifts took us to 2100m, where we began our first descent of the day. It was a very enjoyable and fast, partly man-made and partly natural run with a number of switchbacks. It took us to the valley floor at 800m. From there, a ten-minute pedaling led us to Funiculaire, just in time considering that it runs twice an hour.

After an uplift to 2160m, we had to descend to Arc1800 in order to catch the Transarc lift to Col de la Chal located at an altitude of 2545m. From there, a twisty descent in a valley between two mountain tops led us to the next lift Varet that runs from around 2100m to 2700m. Before the uplift to the top of the mountain, we decided to eat our packed lunch alongside a small lake enjoying beautiful views both to the valley below us as well as to the mountain peaks above us. We also saw the highest lift, which is not open in summer, to fade out of sight to clouds somewhere above 2800m. Thankfully, the sun came back just when the lift opened after the lunch break. All was set for our ascent to the highest point available for lift assisted biking in Les Arcs.

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Photo: Lunch break waiting for the lift to open before heading to the highest point reachable with the Les Arcs lift system during the summer.

When disembarking the cabin lift at 2700m, all of us were stunned by the beauty of these mountains. We snapped of few photos with our guides ready to help to picture all willing riders for future memories. There was some snow at this high up in the mountains and we could really feel the difference in the temperature compared to only a few hundreds meters below. What a feeling it was to realise that we had an undisturbed 1900m of vertical alpine descent waiting for us back to the warmth of the valley floor at 800m!

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Photo: Preparing to descent from 2700m.

The initial part of the descent was via a connecting trail to the lake visible in the photo above. What followed thereafter was a rocky but still rideable single track descent to around 2200m. Instead of continuing all the war down, Jonas and Tim suggested a new uplift to 2545m, again by a lift that we had not used previously. Everybody agreed. From there it was an undisturbed ride all the way down to the starting station of Funiculaire cable car at 800m. The beginning of the trail was very rocky and twisty, and in some places quite steep. The latter part turned to a completely different but equally inspiring forest track. From the valley bottom we took lifts to 2200m for a final descent of the day back to our chalet at 1300m. What a great riding day again!

Note: Today’s stats are not available due to a failure of our Suunto Ambit altimeter. Until this, Ambit had functioned flawlessly since we started to use it early November 2012.

Friday, August 30
Unfortunately, we had to skip the last day of riding due to health issues. Thursday had been a very warm day and we had suffered dehydration and low energy levels that made as feel very weak towards yesterday afternoon. Because we were still feeling not good this morning, we had no other choice than to stay at the chalet and rest. We had been very careful to drink a lot and take care of energy levels during riding days, except that we missed this simple thing yesterday. Certainly a lesson to learn for the next time.

This Friday was a special day also for our Trail Addiction guides because it was the last riding day of the season in Les Arcs. In the evening, we had a barbecue at our chalet where riders and guides also from the neighbouring Trail Addiction chalet joined. Later at night, we had a bus transport higher up to another village for the season's closing party. Some of our guides turned out to be competent musicians, entertaining the crowd all night with skilled guests joining to perform on the stage during the night.
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Photo: Closing party after the barbecue.

Addicted to the Alps with Trail Addiction
The week we spent in Les Arcs was our first time ever riding in the Alps. It was also by far our best mountain biking trip of the season, fullfilling our high expectations concerning the level and diversity of the riding.

We stayed at the Eagle's Nest, the slightly more expensive of the two chalets offered by Trail Addiction in Les Arcs. Most rooms of our chalet had balconies and the rooms were in a decent condition. People naturally differ in terms of their perception of quality. We wouldn't call the Eagle's Nest a luxury accommodation, but we were still quite happy with it. Similarly, dinners provided by Trail Addiction in the chalet were not culinary dreams but still quite fine after hard days' riding.

There may be better destinations in the Alps for those looking for a pure bike park riding with DH rigs. In our opinion, Les Arcs is much more enjoyable with a long travel all-mountain bike that facilitates some occasional pedalling. Being able to do some pedalling also opens up much more riding opportunities further away from lifts. Having said that, riding works also with a pure DH rig. On the first day, we started in a group where everybody else except one of us had AM bikes. After a few descents, our guide thankfully suggested us to move to a group where all riders (except our guide and one of us) had DH bikes. All in all, we would still prefer bringing an AM rather than a DH bike to Les Arcs.

We were extremely happy with our guides, Tim and Jonas. Both were very nice, knowledgeable, professional and talkative. We also liked the fact that the groups were kept unchanged throughout the week, except possible changes due to riding skills etc. Our four-man group consisted of us and two younger hotshots, whose fathers joined our group in some occasions to get an opportunity to spend some time with their sons. This arrangement worked very nicely.

What to make of it?
We certainly don't hesitate to recommend spending a week in Les Arcs with Trail Addiction. We find Les Arcs a fantastic destination for riders looking for varied trails rather than just man-made DH tracks. The destination is suitable at least for intermediate, advanced and pro riders. We are looking forward to re-visit the Alps sooner rather than later, considering to spend a week again in Les Arcs or possibly in Areches-Beaufort, a more Alpine single track focused destination offered also by Trail Addiction.