Ski resorts don’t come much bigger, bolder or brasher than Tignes. Poised high above the Tarentaise Valley some 2000m above sea level, it shares the vast Espace Killy with its upmarket neighbour Val d’Isère, offering up some 300km of pistes and nigh-on 89 lifts, as well as the lofty Grande Motte glacier offering year-round skiing.
But forget the pistes, because, although impressive, that’s not the real attraction here. No, it’s the endless off-piste options that make this one of the best, and most popular, resorts in the world. Epic routes like Lognan, Vallons de la Sache and the infamous Mickey’s Ears are a mere lift ride away (no need to hike to find fresh turns here). There are so many adventures to be had in Tignes, every day in this resort will make you feel like you’ve boldly gone when no man has before.
If freestyle’s more your thing, you won’t be disappointed either. After all, this is the place that hosts the European X Games every March, and this year took over the BRITS festival too. So, as you’d imagine, the parks are up there with best, while designated freeride spots add to Tignes’s big list of ticks.
Sounds like the perfect resort, doesn’t it? Well, be warned. All that high altitude fun comes at a price. Unless you’ve got a peculiar taste for 1960s-style concrete slabs, this isn’t the most attractive of resorts. But at least all those snowstorms mean you wont be able to see it too often…
But who comes to a resort for the décor? If you like high-mountain antics, spring powder and lift-accessed off-piste descents you might just fall in love with it, like Tignes local Lena Haurits Nielson did. Here she reveals the best pistes, powder stashes and drinking joints:
BEST RUN FOR A WARM-UP
I like to shoot up the Aeroski bubble from Tignes Le Lac to Tovière. Head skier’s right down Crêtes and Combe Folle – its super-smooth carving terrain will warm you up for Trolles, a steeply-pitched black that makes the perfect early morning wake-up call.
BEST PLACE FOR FRESH TRACKS
Everywhere you look there are easy-to-access fresh tracks, and that’s why so many people come here. One long but not too taxing (and hike-free) option is Lognan, just off the Merles Chairlift. It’s wide and a good introduction to Tignes’ endless powder options.
FOR A DAY AWAY FROM THE PISTES
One of my favourite backcountry experiences involves a three-hour hike from the bottom of the Leisse piste to the top of Pointe de la Sana at 3436m. You’re rewarded with a 1500m swoop down its north face – well worth the effort. Another thrill-filled trip involves skiing the couloir from Les Oreilles de Mickey (Mickey’s Ears) down to the Lac de Chevril, followed by a helicopter ride back to resort. Just make sure you get a guide – try out The Development Centre (tdcski.com).
THE BEST THING ABOUT LIVING IN TIGNES IS…
That it’s all about the mountains here. It’s one of the highest resorts in Europe at 2100m, so you’ll find snow all the way down to the town. Even when we’re well into spring, and the lifts are closed, people get their touring skis out and venture up the mountain – now that’s true Tign-ard style!
THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION ABOUT TIGNES IS…
That it’s the poor brother of Val d’Isère. The truth is that it’s the sporty sister where even pausing for lunch is considered wasted skiing time.
DON’T LEAVE TIGNES WITHOUT…
Skiing Col des Vés – a mega freeride area named after local legend and four-time Freeride World Champion Guerlain Chichert. It’s an ungroomed but patrolled sector packed with big-mountain hits and powder fields. Your fattest skis deserve a visit.
BEST FOR MOUNTAIN BITES
If you like traditional Savoyard fare, head to Lo Soli at the top of the Chaudennes chair. Their tartiflette is as creamy as they come, while their veggie dishes are so good even carnivores will be happy. In the resort, try Tignes Cuisine for pan-asian snacks. Ask for the Plat du Jour (€10) – these guys really know their spices!
FOR CHEAP EATS IN TOWN
Head to The Alpaka Lodge, especially if it’s a Sunday when they do a full-on but well-priced roast, or for Wednesday curry night. Track down Sander, the owner (he’ll most likely be sporting a bow-tie), and ask him about his wine list.
FOR A SLAP-UP MEAL
Walk down to La Ferme des 3 Capucines in Le Lavachet and order one of their famous cheese fondues. If there’s a few of you get a peirrade too. It’s a hot stone on which you can cook different meats and vegetables. The cosy, traditional feel adds to whole experience.
FOR AN APRÈS-SKI TIPPLE
For a nice glass of wine I’d pop in to the SoBar in Le Lavachet and for beers the Marmot Arms in Tignes Le Lac is always a good shout – be sure to check their schedule for live music. My favourite spot is next door at the Jam Bar, which is run by a French/Italian couple who make the best coffee in town. You can easily while away an evening here, especially when Rocco gets his guitar out and starts jamming.
FOR LATE NIGHT DANCING
Start out in Le Lavachet’s smaller bars, ending with a cocktail in Scotty’s. Then head to Jacks in Le Lac or, if you prefer drum and base and a little less cheese, opt for Melting Pot in Val Claret.
Pistes and Passes
Ski area: 300km of pistes in Espace Killy, and 150km in Tignes itself.
Lift passes: €167 for six days, Tignes only, or €235 for Espace Killy.