Camping at Bourg Saint Maurice and Les Arcs
Eventually Italian motorway became slowly winding roads up into the mountains. The higher we climbed the lower the temperature dropped - quite a shock to the system after Corsica's scorching heat.
We chose Bourg Saint Maurice out of curiosity for what it would be like as a winter holiday destination. For the last three years we've been going to Venosc, a cable car ride away from the ski resort of Les Deux Alpes. Although we absolutely love spending a week there in the snow it seems a shame not to discover somewhere new.
We've always wondered what Venosc and Les Deux Alpes would be like in the summer and now we were wondering what Bourg Saint Maurice and Les Arcs would be like in the winter.
Seeing a ski resort out of season is strange. The mountains are beautiful and the skies clear blue so there's every reason to visit in the summer. We were walking up what would be a busy ski slope when covered in snow. Walkers were sharing the path with mountain bikers. Some of the ski lifts were in operation and they had bike racks fitted so bikers could cycle down the slopes skiers would use in winter.
A free cable car was running between Arc 1950 and Arc 2000 so we hopped aboard. Arc 2000 was older and mostly comprised huge and ugly hotels. From here a range of hiking routes ran here and there. We went off in search of a lake but instead found ourselves at a reservoir. Signage informed us water from the reservoir was used in the snow machines to ensure a good coverage of snow in order that the skiing season was guaranteed each year.
Deciding we'd walked far enough we consulted the bus timetable we'd been given by the lady in the tourist office. We had fifteen minutes to walk back to Arc 2000. That would be quite a push and we didn't know where the bus would leave from or even where the road was.
With three minutes before the bus should depart we were in a car park. The car park must be connected to the road, I helpfully pointed out. Walking to the corner we expected to see the road we found a dead end. There was a bar with outside tables and a door. Luckily the door went through to a lift down to the street below and the bus which was just pulling away. The driver stopped when he saw us and allowed us on.
We disembarked the bus where it terminated at Arc 1600 and discussed our options for returning to Bourg Saint Maurice. Tony estimated the walk down would take a couple of hours. Instead we bought two more single tickets for the funicular railway.
We arrived back at the campsite with enough afternoon left to sit by the pool.
The reason not to cycle to Aime was that it is downhill all the way there and thus uphill all the way back. Rather than cycle back uphill we caught the train. It was seven euros for both of us. We don't know if we should have paid extra for our bikes - there didn't seem to be the option to add them on the ticket machine and nobody checked our tickets anyway.
Would we like Bourg Saint Maurice and Les Arcs at Christmas? We discussed it that evening and decided not. The tiny fairy-light-lit houses in Venosc and small and friendly campsite Champ du Moulin are what our Christmases are about, not Disneyesque Les Arcs with its arrivals by Eurostar.