Les Arcs, France

Some photos from a handful of days skiing with Chris in the French Alps, at Les Arcs.

Les Arcs is directly accessible by train, which provides a relatively easy and scenic route from London via Paris to Bourg St Maurice where, for 8 euros, a vehicle called a funicular drags you up the side of a mountain to 1600m where the snow starts to appear.

The resort itself itself is compact and pretty, with everything you’d expect from a typical French ski resort – overpriced crêpes, pizza which is just about passable, and an abundance of English people – mostly university students who apparently go by nicknames like The Jäger Pig or The Oggmonster.

When stuck on a chairlift with this kind of person it was fun to picture them slipping from their seat next to you and plummeting into the snow many metres below along with their jolly tales of last night’s ‘après’, leaving just the dignified silence of the mountain and the quiet hum of the ski lifts to fill your ears.

Every morning one of us would go down to the bakery to buy bread for lunch and croissants for breakfast. Sometimes I ordered in Spanish but they didn’t seem to mind too much. The strange thing is in Mexico all I could remember was French.

We ate baguettes for lunch, and in the evening dined mostly on Pringles and Heineken inside a 70’s apartment which had a bathroom made entirely of bright orange plastic. The building itself was like a hidden level on Goldeneye for N64 or an Escher drawing and made absolutely no sense architecturally but was positioned a convenient 10 minute waddle to and from the slopes.

Snow was thin on the ground for most of the week until over half a metre fell overnight before our last day. This made skiing both a lot more fun and almost impossible. Visibility was down to a few hundred metres as times and I lost my skis on four separate occasions.

Any progress i’d made in regard to technique was undone and I stopped counting the number of times I fell, the impacts at least cushioned somewhat by a body now bloated with four days worth off baked goods and fun size Mars bars. Between the trees the powder snow was deepest. We picked routes through these forested areas, trying to avoid stray branches, rocks, and each other. Inevitably, at some point, the snow would win.

It was a good few days. We’d at least had the chance to explore and ski a few of the more technically difficult and tougher to reach parts of the mountains before the snow arrived and all but the lowest areas remained open.

The journey back on Saturday morning felt quite different to the trip out. Everything had a thick crust of snow resting on it, including the train which sat warming up in the station with icicles hanging from the wheel arches as we went off and explored the town with an hour to kill and breakfast to find. We got coffee in a small place in the square as a market setup outside and stall owners optimistically arranged French things like cheese and meat.

Five hours later we reached Paris. I was restless. The mountains and lakes that we’d passed by were long gone. Now what came into focus was a man lavishly applying deodorant to his feet on the Metro who promptly told us all to go fuck our sisters and mothers and dogs and cats.

More time passed then we were back in Kings Cross. The glass and brick interior seemed strangely modern and warm and welcoming compared to the French side we’d departed from. The carpet there was probably nice in the 90s when times were more cheerful. Now it was worn and faded, but at least seemed to be an appropriate surface for the miserable people shuffling about on it who quickly decided to form a queue since there was nothing better to do. England isn’t so bad I thought.

Then I got to Finsbury Park and I missed France again.

Photos taken with an Olympus mju-ii, mostly on Portra 160NC + Kodak Color Plus.