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Saturday, 10 March 2012

THE GREAT DESCENT: Aiguille Rouge to Villaroger

Updated 13 Jan 2013

Les Arcs' finest run is the Aiguille Rouge descent, which takes you from 3200m all the way down to 1200m.  In days of old it was a black, then it was (more appropriately) graded red.  Now it's back to black again - presumably to make the skiers making the trip feel good about themselves.  There are various by-passes and alternative black/blue options as you get lower down.  One of the hardest pistes is a short black section (marked red on the piste map...) in the Planay area.

The Villaroger area was opened in 1982.  It all feels very old fashioned and rustic, certainly compared with Arc 2000.  The lifts are slow, the mountain steeper, and the snow tricker.  As the Espace Arcadien site points out, the lifts really ageing now, but there's little need for an upgrade given the small numbers who make it over here.  Allow 20 minutes to get yourself back to the foot of the Drosets lift.

You start by getting the James-Bond style cable car above Arc 2000.  Note the architecture of the cable car station - it is has been awarded a special architecture of the 20th century award.  For more on Les Arcs' architecture click here.

Most of the shots here were taken during April, which means you start off in winter in the haute montagne and finish in a green-white spring setting down in Villaroger.  A beer in La Ferme is the target.

Ski-trainspotters can revel in being able to see the slopes of La Plagne, La Rosiere, Ste-Foy and Tignes during the descent.  Here's the Grande Motte from the Aiguille Rouge summit.


The Bellecote summit of La Plagne reaches similar heights. But the Aiguille Rouge summit feels higher somehow.  There is no restaurant - just a first aid post.  And, of course, a 360 degree view - these folk are looking over towards the Beaufortain
and Moutiers.



At the foot of the glacier you take a right towards Villaroger, rather than taking the direct route down to Arc 2000:




If you are having a leisurely descent, stop at the Solliet restaurant below the Droset chair.  You used to often see the husky dogs here.  They had a kennel down by the Comborciere lift, and took their guests over to the Solliet for a chocolat chaud.   This season, chief musher Hervé has moved the dogs over to Arc 1800, so he can be closer to the bulk of his clients.


The Solliet changed hands a few years ago, and has recently been extended.  It's a fine place to stop, with views towards Le Monal, Le Miroir and Ste-Foy.



The piste below the Solliet gets very heavy during late season 
afternoons, and doesn't keep its snow particularly well.


On to the home run, just above Villaroger.  By now you are likely to be all alone.


Just above Le Pré (Villaroger), the piste/winter ends, and the footpath/spring begins.



The view across to the Villaroger chair lift.  Anyone coming from Tignes or Val d'Isere for the day should park here rather than trek round to Bourg St-Maurice.


As you can see, every effort is made to keep the run open until April, and there is now artificial snow-making on the lower slopes.   Here's a more wintery view, from January 2013:

                                        


Given its relative fame, there are of course various videos to be found on YouTube.  
This one seems as good as any:




1 comment:

  1. It all feels very old fashioned and rustic, certainly compared with Arc 2000. The lifts are slow, the mountain steeper, and the snow tricker. As the Espace Arcadien site points out, the lifts really ageing now, but there's little need for an upgrade given the small numbers who make it over here. Allow 20 minutes to get yourself back to the foot of the Drosets lift.

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