Les Arc 2010

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  • Les Arc 2010
  • flamejob

    +1 what mike said

    Les Arcs is pretty dull without all those sketchy trails at the top in the rocks and in the woods that Alistair and the gang know.

    [edit] those rarely used trails are beaut…


    those rarely used trails are beaut..

    You mean like this one 😀


    Fantastic pics. REALLY MAKE ME **** JEALOUS.


    The previous 2 pics could well be from the same trail. Trail addiction did a fantastic job last week. Chalet was great, steam room, hot tub, table tennis and 200m from the lifts. No nightlife in the village but after a couple of beers in the bar straight after riding you just felt like chilling out in the chalet with some fantastic food, free wine, reasonably priced beer and chewing the fat with all the other people in the chalet.

    The guiding was excellent and these guys put a fair amount of effort into finding and developing some of the more cheeky trails.

    Every now and again I cant help sticking my nose in on these threads!

    Just got to clarify a few little things to you all…..

    1) La varda…..sorry, it was defo La varda first, sketchy dismount second. On the other hand, I have to say that Sam from bikevillage probably knows the entire (I mean the whole tarentaise not just les arcs) valley better than anyone else.. But its a tough one to call, both ash (trailAddiction) and bikevillage (sam) have been riding the area for 10+ years, and for lift accessed singletrack, Ash probably has the edge on sam. My opinion only, Im sure others would beg to differ, lets face it, between them they know more stuff than the rest of the local population put together!

    2) "local guide" = sorry, but even "the locals" do not have a clue what they are doing or where they are going. "locals" generally means ski bum seasonnaires looking to make a quick buck in the summer, or French qualified guides who know how to LEAD but have not spent much time actually researching the local area. In summary, you gets what you pays for out in les arcs.

    3) La varda / sketchy dismount. That'll be this one then….

    You would be an absolute idiot to ride this on your own or in fact with ANYONE except trailAddiction or bikevillage. Basically, chance of death or serious **** up = off the scale. This is proper, PROPER alpine stuff. Would you try to go climb everest on your own without the backup of a qualified and experienced guide? NO? Well what on earth are you thinking trying to do this on your own then?!? And therefore, Im not telling…. 😉

    Instead, I'll just rub it in with a few photos from the last time I rode it…….

    (Last one on HEIDI, not La Varda, but I just love this pic so much!)

    Premier Icon ash

    Pembo, I saw a whole THREE people on that trail the other day 😉

    …. and whilst I'm on, here's a pic of (the easy section of) La Varda / Sketchy Dismount

    ps having re read my point 3) i now realise it comes across a little harsh, sorry! What Im trying to say is, for your own saftey, I honestly think you should think twice about going looking for that particular trail on your own. Its not like you could could just hold tight for the mountain rescue to come along and find you, you would be seriously screwed if the weather came in, or you got a mechanical, or realised you were too tired or not up to it.

    Its just not worth it on your own/just with your mates. But good luck out there!


    ash – Member
    Pembo, I saw a whole THREE people on that trail the other day

    I take it one of them was Marko? 😆


    Oh yeah, I'd not propose soloing that. Just wondering exactly where it was – loath to hire a guide for an entire day at huge expense just to find one trail.

    I wonder actually about mtb guides' business model. Do they not generally get a lot of repeat business, because riders only need to be shown the trails in an area the first time? Or is that a cynical question to ask – do you get repeat customers just for the company/mechanical support? Also I suppose that assumes you can be shown all the trails in an area in a week, which in the Alps might be optimistic (though a week would probably be enough for the classics, in most areas).

    Also, is the entire business model not vulnerable to some guy just coming out with a guidebook to the area that shows all the "secret" stuff? (this would be unfortunate of course; it's much better to go by word of mouth). I bet not, I'm sure riders hire guides for reasons other than simply to be shown where the good stuff is, I'm just asking.

    jhw, that's very interesting question/subject! One Ive mulled over for many a year, so Im afraid you are about to get the rant…….!

    I understand why someone would not want to pay a guide for the day, I used to be of exactly the same opinion. In some ways, finding stuff on your own is more fun anyway, like more of an achievement. But a few years ago I actually shelled out for a guide a few times for myself, and got a superb one for the money, and realised what I had been missing all along! Its just like skiing off piste with a guide. They will show you the best days' riding or skiing you've ever had, so surely thats got to be worth quite a bit?(you just have to get over the fact that you feel like all they are doing is riding down you a trail that is already there, and its not like the trail being in existence actually costs anyone anything!). Just think of fun factor versus cost. For about the price of a meal & drinks out in a mid range resteraunt you can have an entire day you will remember for the rest of your life…..bit of a no brainer in my book! Of course, you have to hope that you get a GOOD guide. It would be a bitter pill to pay someone £50 for them to ride you around the equivalent of glentress at 7 stanes or something.

    However, on top of the "value argument" its worth remembering it DOES actually cost the guides themselves to live out there, to invest their time in learning the area in the first place…..plus their own wear and tear on their bikes etc. All professions are like this, if you know something of value/in demand, then you can charge good money for sharing that knowledge with someone else!

    However this leads into your second question. Its not just about being shown where to go once and then not needing the guide any more. (Apart from anything, you'd never remember it all from one run down, and certainly in the case of les arcs it would take a month to ride everything anyway) – so many dead ends etc, wrong turns, to get lost on! TrailAddiction, for example, take an entire season to train every guide they employ before they are allowed to go out with a group on their own, the next year, because it takes that long to really know your way around without getting lost.

    Of course you could just get a map, pool info from forums or try to download gps files- but then you still dont get a tailor made day based on what you fancy doing, trail conditions, weather etc (gps plots cant tell you what is around the next bend in terms of terrain, they cant give you tips on which lines to take, etc), nor do you get the backup, experience and training of the guide should anything go wrong, or you get a mechanical etc.

    So what it boils down to is if you think all that extra stuff is worth paying for or not. I think the first time you find yourself with a broken wrist or smashed up face, in the middle of nowhere and a long way from any waymarked terrain, you'll think the guide was worth paying for after all! Its not like riding a trail centre back home or even in the peaks or snowdonia. Lets say you call mountain rescue (assuming you have a mobile signal)….how would you tell them (in french, by the way) exactly where you were?!? And if they do find you, they'll leave your bike behind by the way, no bikes allowed in the helicopter! 😉

    If you have a month to spend in an area, then maybe paying for a guide is not worth it. But if you have a week, its only a small additional cost on top of everything else you already paid, and one worth paying to make sure you don't miss out. Well, thats what I think, but I know many others wont agree, and each to their own I suppose. I do chuckle to myself when I see people heading off down a dead end trail that involves a 2 hour hike a bike to get out of though.

    All that in mind, I dont think a good guide in any resort needs to be worried even if the trails do become less "secret" as time goes on, because they offer more than just knowing where to go. And I think people who want guides appreciate this. There will always be those who don't see the value in that, who want to do things on their own if they can, and that's also fair enough too. The mountains are free for everyone to enjoy, after all.

    Premier Icon Woody

    Good points FA

    I've never been on a biking trip to France but I would imagine the comparison drawn between that and skiing is valid.

    To reinforce what you've said, I've been out with a guide a few times in ski resorts I thought I knew very well and had fantastic days. It's not just about finding someone to show you the way, it's tailoring the route to allow maximum enjoyment based on ability and conditions, not to mention safety issues. You might even get free coaching of you're lucky.

    Holidays are too valuable and expensive to not make the most of your time and getting lost or picking a bad route is soul destroying. Having to slog back up a hill can ruin a whole day (been there too many times) – work out the cost of that day and you'll realise that a guide is very good value.


    Thanks, that's the heart of it isn't it? That even if you have literally a map showing where the good trails are, you still need someone who actually knows the area to show you which ones are most suited to your preferences. Plus, the point about how guides can advise on specifically which trails are good at that particular time (has it snowed recently? is it a day when there will be lots of walkers? has there been logging recently? etc.). I was recently in the Alps and we got completely screwed for a few hours, because we got stuck on a big steep ice patch, and had to choose between an enormous push back up the hill, or a highly dangerous traverse across the ice carrying bikes (we chose the latter, and were lucky, plus the riding after the ice was killer). This completely killed our afternoon really and with a guide it wouldn't have happened.

    I also see the point about mechanicals – although I ride in pretty remote places in the UK without a personal assistant to fix my bike, and don't have any troubles.

    Digressing into more general musings about riding in the Alps, I think often too much is made of how much more wear and tear the Alps put on a bike than UK riding, brake pads and tires aside. It's true that you go through more kit on an Alps trip than at home, but I think that's more because you're riding for c8 hours a day every day, than the terrain. I don't think there's any need to make any special adjustments to your equipment.

    Also – and I know practically everyone will disagree with me here, but there you go – I don't think there's anything inherently unsafe about riding solo in the Alps – provided that you moderate your riding style accordingly – e.g., slow down, be prepared to dismount and walk a few of the rockier outcrops you're a bit less comfortable on. You can still establish a good flow even if the general approach is more mellow in this way – and it beats not riding at all.

    I think riding solo is only inherently dangerous if you feel driven to push yourself at all times, solo or not – if you can dispense with this and ride well within your limits (which you must know exactly), there's no problem. It also helps to know exactly which route you're going to do before you set out, tell your hotel, and to have a GPS, phone and radio…

    I rode solo on the last day of my recent trip to the Alps because there was a cockup with booking and my riding buddy left a day early – I wouldn't have stayed in the hotel that day for the world, so I explored a bit (with advice) and actually came across some of the best riding of the trip…!

    Although I appreciate that maybe my whole approach is skewed – I don't see the need for pads or a full face in the Alps, either, but that's another thing…

    Premier Icon theginjaninja


    I'll keep my photos to myself next time. 😕

    Hey theginjaninja – I appreciate the pics!

    We'll be going out again in a few weeks – know some of the trails after last year, not all, but certainly enough to fill a week.

    Plus the Cachette is so much fun, so I'll know I'm gonna have a good time……with too much armour, too much bike and too much stopping for photos 😆


    no no keep them coming!! 🙂

    Also – and I know practically everyone will disagree with me here, but there you go – I don't think there's anything inherently unsafe about riding solo in the Alps – provided that you moderate your riding style accordingly

    I wouldn't disagree with that! As long as you really do slow it down to well within your limits. I still ride solo all the time in the alps, and also down in the sierra nevada. Often on a trail I've never ridden. I did once get lost way above granada (or rather I knew where I was, but after 9 hours of riding on my own I was exahusted and realised there was NO WAY I was making it anywhere near any civilisation before complete darkness…and cold!). There was no mobile signal where I was, and since Id gone off my planned route by accident, no one else back at base had the slightest clue where I was at that time and I had no way to contact them.

    I have to say it was the scariest experience of my life. Although looking back I probably could have just about sat out the night and been OK in the end. As it was I got picked up off the side of a steep scree slope at 1am by using my camera as an emergency flash beacon.

    Needless to say, the next time, I got a guide! But I have gone out again since then I just dont think Id ever push myself again that hard, on my own, in such an enviromen. Not worth the consequences.


    Blimey – stumbled on this thread having just returned from a week out there.

    I'd agree with most of the sentiments here – we rode some of the best, most scenic, most technical and most enjoyable singletrack I've ever ridden. La Varda was just insane – you just can't describe the feeling of riding such technical trails within 6" of a massive drop. Grange Hill, The Lakes & others were possibly more enjoyable from a purely riding perspective but every trail we rode offered something amazing – as others, I'm already planning the next trip out there.
    As for riding with/without guides, it's the same as riding anywhere. I think Les Arcs is a good example of an area where a decent guide can really open your eyes to the riding that's available. However, had we had guides on La Varda, it wouldn't have reduced the chances of us plummeting to our deaths – we just would have had more of an idea what to expect. As on any trail, ride within your abilities and walk what you're not confident of riding.

    The "trail guide" is crap – the majority of way marked trails are fire roads connecting a few choice bits of singletrack (the bottom of Red 7 & Black 8 are 2 notable exceptions). We were lucky and found a lot of the trails using a GPS & maps but I'd definitely use a guide for at least part of the time next year.

    One question though – all the talk of La Varda doesn't mention the fact the MTBs are NOT supposed to be there any more. We were stopped by several walkers pointing this out and we spotted several signs stating this on the way out of the area – has this changed recently or has this always been a "sneaky" trail. Personally, no matter how good a trail is, I'd rather not ride it if it jeopardises future riding in the area.

    La Varda messed with my head. I was more drained mentally than physically when I reached the bottom. Never ridden a trail that required so much concentration.

    i rode sketchy (la varda) on sunday, and can confirm that if you look at a map (and show any locals who complain a map), that it actually IS legal. the trail which you follow goes alongside the boundary of the vanoise national park, but does not actually enter it.

    bv don't guide there so much when the lifts are open though, as there is a lot of potential for conflict with walkers (who misread maps etc)

    we had one person comment to us, and fortunately the guide i was with (from BV) had excellent french, and was able to explain to the guy (politely) that we could be there. the man did apologise to us afterwards.

    what we should have pointed out what that he was 20m off the path, in the park, which itself is not allowed.

    as for setchy itself, had i not flipped over the bars near the top, i'd not have lost my mojo so much… it was very good though (but there are far more exposed/techy trails if you know where to look 😉 )


    hungry monkey – interesting. That's what I thought as, looking at both the map and the GPS, it seems the trail runs along side rather than through the national park.
    The thing that concerned us was the abundance of signs at the head of trails leading back into the area (including back up the track we'd just ridden) that clearly stated no MTBs (dogs, fire, etc, etc). Just wondering if boundaries had been moved. Or maybe it's just tactical signage to try and discourage people from riding the track?

    yep, we forgot to check this on the top sign… however, the lower down sign (perhaps 2/3rds of the way down?) says that you will be entering the national park in approximately 1.5 hours (or something to that effect). there is a box at the bottom of the sign with this in french – indicating that the walking time to the park is 1.5 hours, and that at present, you are not in the park. it is forewarning you of the rules, before you go to the park.

    afaik the sign at the top is unfortunately misleading.


    Was out there last week too with TA – must have missed you ginja. We were in the Goatshed and riding with Mansell.

    It was my 3rd time – did some old favourites, as well as some new stuff (mostly in La Plagne). FANTASTIC trails. So far, my favourite place to ride in the world, although I've not tried Verbier yet.

    I was on a hardtail (BFe with 160mm forks) and loved it. Some bits I might have gone faster on with a full sus, but as soon as you hit trails like Lavarda, Grange Hill, Double Header, Poundstretcher, then short wheelbases and responsiveness of a dinky hardtail make things SOOO easy in comparison to a long sofa.

    Not got the pics up yet, but might do them later.

    Premier Icon theginjaninja

    Yeah I think a short travel full suss (small frame size) is on the cards for next year.

    Jon – this thread is a bit old so you might have been out the following week? I'm sure you'd have pointed at my Kobe if you'd seen us (like at Afan)!

    I wrote some words about our trip too.

    Les Arcs 2010 – The Camping Trip

    fbk – La Varda is technically legal, although you are correct this is a hotly disputed fact in the region.

    If you were riding with a trailAddiction guide, you would probably not have got the grief from the locals/walkers that you got when riding on your own. The trailAddiction "red jersey" is pretty well respected out on the mountain thesedays and tA have actually been involved in several meetings with the local council, landowners, the local tourist office etc for such trails in the area. In fact I heard they were now paying a per-person contribution towards local "natural" trail maintenance to keep the locals happy and to keep the trails in as good condition as good as they are today.

    Its worth noting that whilst La Varda is legal at the moment, it wouldnt take much for the local commune to pass a law banning any one (or all) trail(s) to mountain bikes. I believe the local mayor has the authority to do this without too much trouble.

    Lets hope that anyone going to Les Arcs and who rides without a guide, has the good sense to "keep up appearances" with the locals by riding with due respect for the trail and all other trail users, and obeying any local rules or signs that discourage Mountain bikes. (In the case of an exposed trail like La Varda, for me, that would mean stopping and getting off my bike and allowing walkers to walk past me whilst I was stationary and not sitting on my bike).

    I reckon the first time one of the locals' grannies' sisters' dogs is run over by an over-zealous mountain biker, I think the relaxed attitude to local trail access might start to change out there!

    Oh and finally, the signage you refer to at the top of La Varda refers to the national park itself. As you quite rightly point out, La varda is on the border of the park, but at no point does it fall INSIDE the park boundary. I dont think trailAddiciton (or indeed any of the reuptable companies out there – eg bike village, whiteroom) have pioneered ANY trails that are illegal – there's no point in doing so when there are so many good ones that dont break the rules!


    freeride_addict – thanks, some interesting points there.

    I would hope that anyone who goes to the trouble of going out to Les Arcs to ride bikes would have the sense to ride the trails responsibly. We did indeed pull to the side/get off whenever walkers approached on the exposed sections – this is why some had the opportunity to suggest to us we shouldn't be there. Those that did were helpful, friendly and were in some way placated when we suggested the route appears in a respected trail guide to the area. Elsewhere on the technical stuff further down, we only actually got positive responses – I think people were generally impressed we were riding the stuff :).

    I can see why the area is sensitive but it would be a real shame if it were lost to red tape and local arguing.

    Freeride Addict, it was Sketchy Dismount in June 2000, I'm fairly sure that gets first dibs 😉


    Off on Saturday for a week with Trail Addiction.

    I will be representing hardtail poverty. :sick:


    off there this friday (3rd time) i'll be on a 951 and the mussus will be on a Glory 8)


    Ash would take Sam in an arm wrestle. FACT.


    I love that bit.

    From another angle last year.


    I'll be there a week on saturday. 8)

    Premier Icon snowslave

    this looks brilliant

    Premier Icon Driller

    Going out to Trail Addiction on Saturday with my other half, looking forward to it in a big way.

    DH bikes all the way. You can have skills or suspension, I know which I've got.

    Can't wait!

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