Villaroger, Les Arcs’ poor relation, set to reinvent itself as ‘green resort’ | Travel


Most skiers have heard of Les Arcs, but few know about Villaroger, a rustic village at the far north-eastern tip of the ski area with a handful of chalets, one bar, two restaurants and a couple of old chair lifts. It is known by locals as “the dark side”, not just because of its north-facing slopes, but because Villaroger is about as far removed from the apartment blocks of Arc 2000 and Arc 1600 as it’s possible to get.

This winter, however, things are looking brighter. Forty new snow cannons have been installed on the slopes above Villaroger to make sure there is enough of the white stuff to keep the village accessible throughout the ski season, and link it to the vast ski terrain of Les Arcs and La Plagne. Next year another 26 cannons will go in, at a total cost of €1.8m, and within three years a faster, more efficient system of ski lifts will open.

Accessibility has been a problem in the past. The village sits at an altitude of just 1,200 metres, and the rickety old chair lifts take a long time to ascend the steep slopes. There are just two pistes in and out, a blue and a red (or some fine off-piste above the hamlet of Le Planay), and the red is often left ungroomed so that it develops moguls the size of igloos.

In poor years, Villaroger can be snow-free at the beginning and end of the season, so skiers wishing to access Les Arcs’ slopes from there have to make the 20-minute drive to Bourg-Saint-Maurice, and then take a seven-minute funicular ride up to Arc 1600 (and do the same again in reverse at the end of the day).



Villaroger’s terrain appeals most to experienced skiers

The new snow cannons should provide season-round ski access to the village as well as linking to some 200km of pistes in Les Arcs (and a further 225km in La Plagne. It is all part of a long-term plan to make Villaroger into what mayor Alain Emprin calls “a green ski village”. This will involve the building of high-quality chalets either side of the village, providing a total of 750 beds, along with shops, a ski school and more bars and restaurants.

Emprin said: “We are installing green energy systems, and relocating all power and telecoms cables underground. The village will become car-free and we will expand facilities for non-skiers such as the snowshoe trails currently surrounding the village.”

The addition of 750 new beds to a settlement with a permanent population of perhaps half that will inevitably bring massive changes, but Emprin said: “We want to retain the village character as much as possible, so there will be no large hotels or loud nightclubs. Our aim is to grow while retaining our character and offering a better ski experience.”

For now, Villaroger appeals to people who want to concentrate on skiing without all the “loud” distractions. The terrain is suited to skiers of intermediate level and above, and includes access to one of the world’s longest pistes, the black/red Aiguille Rouge, descending 1,200 metres from 3,226-metre Aiguille Rouge. Nightlife consists of La Ferme, a low-key bar-restaurant that’s often closed by 9.30pm, and the bijou La Goyet restaurant. Those wanting to burn the midnight oil are out of luck unless they bring their own party.

Guaranteed snow, even the manmade kind, is sure to provide a better ski experience, and if all the other planned developments are done without spoiling the Alpine feel of the village, Villaroger will no longer be seen as Les Arcs’ poor relation.

Eurostar services from London St Pancras to Bourg-Saint-Maurice via Paris cost from £196 return (8hr 20min); it’s then a 15-minute shuttle bus ride to Villaroger. Easyjet flies to Geneva from several UK airports from £50 return, and it’s a 2½-hour transfer/drive to Villaroger. Skivillaroger chalet (skivillaroger.com) costs from £450pp a week full-board (£80 a night, transfers not included)



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