our special correspondent

A steamer white overlooks from little valley. Anchored at 1750 m of altitude, it is the Club Med Les Arcs, Panorama, 433 rooms, the largest of the Alps, which opened last month. This vessel of concrete arched arrived just in time for the jubilee of the resort of haute Tarentaise. Its great retro look 1930’s good housekeeping with the angular skyline of the buildings futuristic Arc 1600, the floor history, opened at Christmas 1968. Three other satellites will be put into orbit: Arc 1800 in 1974 and Arc 2000 in 1979 and then Arc 1950. Arrived later in 2003, this small, last-style néosavoyard was not planned in the initial project, born in the full conquest of the white gold, at a time when the avant-garde architecture was all the rage in the meadows.

The Bows, the group of architects and designers coached by Charlotte Perriand is given to heart joy, imagining buildings with strange shapes – they surprise yet -, furnished mini-apartments of 30 m2 where we piled happily on four or more… Charlotte Perriand were called “cells”. It was all designed, to furniture and objects, in a view of functionality taken to the extreme. Finds that will attract today’s collectors. Whether they like it or not, force is to recognize that these odd buildings are pretty well made their nest in the wild. That was the goal: to capture a maximum of light and views through the large bay windows, to marry the better the slope, follow the larch, pine, spruce, and pines that grow here up to 2500 m altitude. And not to interfere with the plan of tracks, track first, before the architectural plan.

The front of snow of les Arcs 1800. Christophe Stramba A dream of a shepherd

This heritage of the Twentieth century, the office of tourism has not waited for 50 years, Arcs to explain it to tourists. Each week, visits (free of charge), one per floor, are organized by a guide lecturer. But this season’s vintage, two new walks are proposed. One was reserved for the holidays of February, will take the smartphone to the fist in the company of a photographer, a connoisseur of the best angles graphs of Arc 1600 and Arc 1800. The other, scheduled throughout the season, takes place on skis, guided by an instructor of the ESF. It allows to appreciate the insertion of various satellites between the tracks and the best views of the resort.

it owes its name to the valley of the Arc, the torrent of the same name. This valley altitude descends du lac Marlou, 2500 m, up to 1800 m, at a place called Pre-Saint-Esprit. The location is superb. It is the clearing of arrival of three tracks, one blue, one red, one black, drawn in the forest. There déchausse to go to lunch at Belliou The Smoke. Chandeliers that this chalet -which served as a hunting lodge for the rulers of Savoy – delights skiers. The institution has changed owners last year but the food is always as well. This valley of the Arc, the Blanc brothers, shepherds of Hauteville-Gondon, had as their pocket. It was the meadows of their village. They spent the entire season. But unlike their elders, these children of the 1930s had had the chance to learn to ski. This sport will give them the opportunity to exercise a second profession, and a monitor, not far from home. In the late 1950’s, the stations of Tarentaise is still count on the fingers of one hand: Val-d’isère, Tignes, Courchevel and Meribel. But La Plagne and Les Menuires will be announced soon. And Robert White, the eldest of the siblings, enthusiast to the point of having also passed the diploma of guide, begins to dream of a winter sports resort in the meadows of his childhood, with a cable car, which hoisting skiers up there to 3226 m in altitude, at the top of his beloved Red hand.

architects Charlotte Perriand, Pierre Faucheux and Jean Prouvé (1968) have devised and designed the first buildings of the station of winter sports. Jocelyne Riviere

The inventor of the Arcs, it is he, the shepherd-monitor-guide. The director will be Roger Godino, a contractor savoyard based in Paris. Robert White made his acquaintance in the early 1960s, in Courchevel, and convinces him to take part in the adventure. Barely perceptible, the project unleashes the passions, splitting the inhabitants of the valley into two clans: the pro and the anti-resort. Among these are notably the owners of the famous meadows of Hauteville-Gondon who refuse to sell their land to leave the field free to the Company of the Arc mountains, home mother of the future baby. The recalcitrant will be expropriated, Roger Godino who, from the outset, laid down as the first condition for the complete control of the land. And in the aftermath, the lack of means to build an access road to the station, the village of Hauteville-Gondon will merge with the small town of Bourg-Saint-Maurice, which became the town of les Arcs. When reality exceeds the fiction…

The TV series

This story with multiple twists and turns will inspire also, in 1971, a tv soap opera, aired in thirteen episodes by the ORTF. The Tarentaise Hebdo has, great idea, pulled from the archives of the INA to make it a DVD. The Sesterain or the Mirror 2000 , deliciously vintage and informative. To (re)see. “In 1968, I was 12 years old, I had to build the station, recalls Jean-François Grognet, monitor FHT 1800. My parents were peasants, but, them, have not been expropriated. For us, the creation of the Arches was a good thing. In addition to the operation of the farm, my father worked in the winter to the lifts, and my mother ran a small bistro for the skiers, to the Barns, where it was also selling its cheese and charcuterie.”

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If the bistro no longer exists, the locality of the Barns is still on the ski map, below Arc 1600. It is, at 1200 m altitude, one of the two lower points of the ski area, snow fields renamed in Paradiski since their reunion in 2003, via the Vanoise Express cable car, La Plagne (425 km of slopes in total). The other lowest point, 1200 m, also, is to Villaroger, one of these villages, tiny and lovely, new markers of insiders in the haute Tarentaise. Gold is also the terminus of one of the most beautiful descents in the Alps: a 7 km non-stop over 2000 m of difference in altitude. “Thanks to the snow cannons are installed on the bottom of the trail, it is now passable all season, points out Jean-François Grognet. It is preferably done prior to 13 hours to enjoy the sun, because, after, it is in the shadow.” We arrive and pile hair on to the village to put their feet under the table, Goyet, or at The Farm (reservations recommended).

Descent of the needle Red

Marked red or black alternately, the magnificent descent into the trough of the summit of the aiguille Rouge, the highest point of the pistes, served since 1982 by the cable car whose shepherd Robert White had dreamed of. The cabins are newly painted with vermilion, like the color par excellence of the cable cars that had been somewhat forgotten in recent years… A birthday gift never comes alone, the Compagnie des Alpes, manager of the ski area, has also offered the summit lighthouse gateway, panoramic open sky. In fact, it is a double progress over the void. The branch the shorter, 15 m, dominates the whole breadth of the valley of the Tarentaise. The more long, 22 m, to contemplate the mont Pourri nearby. It undertakes franco: the grating metallic tone down the abyss. Except that at the end, a railing made of glass (very) translucent creepy. Look careful at the dizzying hallway and dives in the natural Reserve of the hauts de Villaroger. The overhead structure turns its back on the Mont-Blanc. But the chain’s big show does not create less the attraction. Her headdress is literally the slope in front of it in its Italian version, subtitled by the Grandes Jorasses and the dent du Géant. We see it everywhere, in full view at every turn and at every level.

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was Missing a soundtrack to finish. So here is Ars Sonora. It is a chime and the present of the municipality to the station for 50 years. Installed on the tower from the pool of Arc 1800, it consists of ten-nine bronze bells cast by Paccard, goldsmith savoyard in the matter, and a clock inserted in the logo triangular Arches. “This is me, I drew, I spent a whole night, not easy to get a round in a triangle,” says, deadpan, Michel Giraudy, the mayor. Before ringing the hour, the chimes, the other idea of conceiving, plays the first measures of La Vie en rose . “I wanted a melody known throughout the world. If you have a better idea…” Promised, we will consider for 100 years.


GO Access Bourg-Saint-Maurice: by car, motorway A43 until Albertville, then N90 ; by train, TGV from Paris and Lyon (www.oui.sncf) more twenty-minute drive or seven-minute funicular ride to Arc 1600.

STAY In Arc 1800, in the Mercure 4-star hotels, with 80 spacious rooms, vast public areas, restaurant, bar, skishop, great hospitality and entertainment. Renovation next winter, with indoor pool and spa. Double room from € 150. Tel.: 04 79 07 65 00. The Aiguille Grive 4-star, a set of six chalets with lounge bar and good table. Package for the stay in half board: double room from 290 € per night, or cottage of four rooms from 1400 €. Tel.: 04 79 40 20 30. In Arc 2000, at the Taj-I-Mah 5-star resort, 48 rooms and suites, two restaurants, spa cinq Mondes and Carita with pool and jacuzzi, skishop. Double room and half board from € 445. Tel.: 04 79 10 34 10.

SKI Until 27 April, 6 day pass: Les Arcs 269 € and 215 € per child (until 12 years) and seniors (65 to 74 years of age, after that it’s free), Paradiski 305 € and 244 €.

LUNCH ON THE trail not To be missed, Belliou The Smoke, the institution of the Pre-Saint-Esprit, cuisine bistronomique, about 40 €. Tel.: 04 79 07 29 13. And, more recently, The wild Boar who smokes, on the track of the Hiding-place, Arc 1600, plugged in, fresh and skis vintage, about 40 €. Tel.: 06 03 30 41 42.

(RE)SEE. Sesterain or the Mirror 2000, double DVD + booklet, 33 €. Tel.: 04 79 22 76 48 and www.latarentaisehebdo.com

LEARN tourist Office, phone: 04 79 07 12 57 and www.lesarcs.com

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