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With the British Championships just round the corner, we thought we'd get the inside scoop on its home resort of Tignes, France. Our man in the know is Will Hughes, who has been based in Val D'Isere's less attractive (but radder) sister resort for donkeys, and certainly knows his Lavachet Wall from his Fingers.
This article first appeared in Whitelines Issue 110.
[part title="PISTE BASHING"]
Perched high in the Tarentaise Valley, Tignes forms part of the Espace Killy along with neighbouring Val d’Isere. It’s a favourite among snowboarders from all over the world with a good mixture of open pow fields, gnarly backcountry descents and gentle cruisey piste runs. It also has a decent park and a halfpipe. The resort is centred around Tignes-Le-Lac with the out-lying villages of Val Claret and Le Lavachet within walking distance.
One of my favourite runs is down Grande Pre on the Val d’Isere side. It’s a super quiet, mellow ride - ideal after a couple of lunchtime beers. However, you do have to come back to Le Lac via Trolles, one of the resort’s steepest, gnarliest blacks. You can get some serious speed down here though - I once did 126 kph (78mph)!
Beginners won’t take well to Génépy. It’s a fun run but there are a few killer flats towards the end. If you’re just starting out, head to the beginner slope at Le Lac, there’s less through traffic there. Palafour is the best for jibbing. You’re almost guaranteed to bump into someone to shred with, plus it’s home to everyone’s favourite Palafour lift. There’s so much love for this lift that shops even sell t-shirts and stickers saying ‘I Heart P4’. Avoid the Marais lift that takes you to the top of l’Aiguille Percee (Eye of the Needle) unless you enjoy a 20-minute battle against the elements.
If you’re looking to beat the crowds, head down Sache towards Tignes Les Brevieres. It’s nearly always quiet, great for a bit of one-on-one time with the mountain. There aren’t any runs I would say to avoid, as they are all pretty well groomed here. That said, the pistes leading back to the resort are often seriously mogulled by the end of the day.
There are a couple of parks in the Espace Killy. Val d’Isere has one that you can get to from the Mont Blanc lift, but the park at Tignes is definitely the better one. It’s easily accessible from both Le Lac and Val Claret. The features are much more fun than in Val. There’s a blue, red and black kicker with a sick rail on top of the shaper’s hut. The Grattalu lift will take you to the top in no time, so you get way more laps than in Val.
A major bonus is that there’s a green park on the other side of the piste for beginners, so it keeps the ski schools from clogging up the main park. There’s a rad French crew called Gpsy Feelin who ride there all the time. You can guarantee all kinds of crazy upside down stuff going on when they’re about.
If you’re looking to build yourself a solid backcountry kicker, then head to the bowls under the TSD Tommeuses lift. It’s seen plenty of filming in its time - the famous sequence of Nelson Pratt’s heelside Rodeo 7 by Natalie Mayer was shot there.
Tignes is full of pretty gnarly high alpine runs. Four times world freeride champion Guerlain Chicherit is a Tignes local. If you want everyone in the resort to know just how badass you are, try the Couloir de Tourne (locally known as Alaska). It’s a beast of a face but in the right conditions, you can get a sweet line down towards Val Claret. My mate Steven ‘Chippie’ Windross skied the glory line on the Tourne from the summit last season. It’s only ever been done once before.
For something more technical, rope in to the couloir on the Dôme de Pramecou. It’s a fun abseil onto a 50-degree slope. When there’s flat light or the snow is pelting down, the tree runs towards Brevieres are fun but make sure you watch out for the hidden cliffs. I’m sure they’ve shattered many a collarbone in their time.
For pow riding, the Lognan area and Génépy have marked off-piste runs. If you’re looking for your first taste of powder, it’s great place to start. There’s some nice open fields to play around in the pow pillows.
[part title="WHERE TO EAT"]
Tignes Cuisine in Le Lac dishes up a great plate of midday noodles and spicy chilli beef burritos if you’re looking for a piste-side stop off. They also do takeaway if you’re feeling peckish later on. Just down the road at The Marmot Arms, you can get a serious burger with nearly every single type of cheese on top. La Ferme des 3 Capucines does proper Savoyard fondu. There’s a window out back that looks into the animal pen, so you can see what’s on the menu next week! If you’re looking to impress and money is no object, Le Clin d'Oeil serves fancy fine French cuisine. Royal Kebab up in Val Claret is really your only option for something greasy and cheese-covered at 3am. Unlucky for those stuck further down the valley.
[part title="LOCAL HEROES"]
Tignes isn’t the mecca it used to be sadly, back when Nelson Pratt, Josh Wolf, Ryan Davis and Graham Macvoy ruled the pistes. Having said that, Margot Rozies is often seen around town, as is Rich Jonas and his missus Katie Blundell. The man to look out for though is Pom Pom, the best rider in Tignes without a doubt. He’s a French gangster who listens to Black Sabbath and drinks pints of Guinness through a straw – you can’t miss him! Neil McNair is also a local legend for being the backcountry master. But also being just so fucking cool.
[part title="WHERE TO DRINK"]
The one thing Tignes is not short on bars. It may not be the cheapest resort but you can always grab a few at the well-established TC’s Bar in Le Lavachet. You can be sure that customers will be stumbling out those doors most nights of the week. Ironically, So Bar next door is the fancy, upmarket place to sip fine wines and a spirit or two. The owner used to be a sommelier, so they often hold wine tasting evenings. Loop Bar is the seasonnaire hang-out, with live music most nights. If you’re looking for a club, Jack’s is pretty much the best place to go for a guaranteed good night out. Think cheesy tunes and a sweaty dance floor. Locals tend to hang out at La Palette de Boulele in Le Lac. So, get a bottle of red and a plate of charcuterie if you’re looking to blend in there.
[part title="EVENTS & FESTIVALS"]
Come spring, Tignes is buzzing with back-to-back resort-wide parties. Sadly X Games Europe is no more, but The Brits is an event that’s not to be missed. It’s just one giant party for a week with live bands, raucous fancy dress parties and plenty of slopestyle and pipe comps to keep you entertained – it’ll be March 29th – April 5th this winter. European Gay Ski Week is also big one over here in Tignes. Hundreds of people descend each spring for pool parties, camping evenings and of course shred time.