Resort Guide: Tignes, France

 Tignes has long been a favourite amongst us Brits, and around a quarter of all visitors are British – which just goes to prove what excellent taste we have as a nation! To say Tignes is a safe choice is a bit of a disservice but it ticks all those boxes when trying to pick a resort. Snowsure? Tick. Big area? Tick. Good parties? Tick. The villages, however are ugly as sin – no matter how much lipstick you put on them, they’re still pigs. There are lots of high-rise apartment blocks, which stick out of the landscape like the proverbial sore thumb. What it does mean is that the villages are pretty compact. You can ride here almost all year, and the winter season is long – kicking off at the end of November and lasting until May. In the summer and autumn a sizeable area on the glacier is open. 

Did you know?

That guy painted on to the famous dam is Greek hero Hercules. It was done to mark the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics and took two months to complete. 

The Parks

The quality of the parks at Tignes has always been a bit of a rollercoaster. The main Swatch Park, served by the Grattalu chairlift, features a number of small 2 to 5m kickers and jibs and an airbag to practice getting inverted on without breaking your neck. Their ‘Shoot my Ride’ system records your run with a number of cameras, so you can later download it from the Swatch website… or delete it as quickly as possible!

A better option for those wantingt to take their riding to the next level is the very well maintained Val Park, accessed by the Aeroski and serviced by its own tow rope to ensure you get plenty of laps in. The jumps are bigger (8-15m) and the rails more technical. However, you'll need the full Espace Killy pass to access this area, and since it's operated by Val d'Isère we're not going to award Tignes the credit!

On the edge of Tignes Le Lac, and served by the Millonex tow, is a small beginner terrain park – the Gliss’Park.

In the summer they build a park towards the top of Grand Motte and install a couple of tows above the stades T-bars. It features an advanced and regular line of kickers and numerous jibs, and is shaped daily.

The Powder

With the main village set at 2100m there are few places more snow-sure than Tignes, and pow days are frequent. Located in a giant bowl with lifts springing up both sides, it is pretty easy to navigate and find good areas. Most of the area is above treeline and pretty barren, so in stormy conditions visibility can be a problem - your best option during a whiteout is to head down towards Tignes Les Brevières at 1500m or spend the day in the Fornet trees over in Val d'Isère.

From Val Claret you can take the Funicular and then the cable car onto the Grand Motte Glacier at 3456 meters, where good snow is pretty much guaranteed. However as it’s a glacier you must heed the warnings and be extra-careful heading off-piste – there’s nothing like disappearing into a crevasse to put a dampener on your holiday! Descending from the glacier on the side of Les Lanches you can find good little rock chutes and bowls. 

Over at the Aiguille Percée ('Eye of the needle') the resort often leaves part of the black Silene run unpisted after a dump, which is a great option for safe, steep turns - just keep inside the markers! It joins up with the cat track down to Brevières for an impressive total descent of 1200 metres.

For some more gentle freeriding, the Toviere area has some great spots of snow between the pistes that run into Val Claret, or you can drop the other way from the summit towards Val d'Isère and explore the bowls near the park (which also hide some perfect kicker spots!)

On bluebird days, hardcore powder hunters can be seen takling the Chardonet bowl, or the set of couloirs above the lake known as the 'Fingers', but don't be tempted to follow them unless you know exactly what you're doing. Tignes' high altitude position leaves it exposed to wind loading and avalanches are common. The resort want you to enjoy the powder and do provide you with lots of information to make decisions. Every Tuesday at 5:30pm on Le Lac you can take a free introductory avalanche transceiver session, and get the stability conditions from the tourist information or the 4-freeride information points before you go for it. 

The Pistes

The 300km of the Espace Killy is divided equally between Tignes and Val d’Isere, making a truly vast area which will keep you busy no matter how long you’re here for. The pistes offer true variety, from the easy green down from Toviere, the super-fast if sometimes icy Grande Motte, to the long and testing leg burners from l’Aiguille Percée that wind all the way down to the village of Brevières (beneath the famous dam). The majority of the pistes are long, wide-open motorways giving you plenty of space to crank out some beautiful curves. However, some of the areas closest to the villages get clogged up with snaking kids’ schools. In the summer about 20km of slopes remain open up on the Grande Motte. Packed with ski training camps it may be, but it offers more vertical than any other summer area.

The Parties

Party people should stay up on the plateaux in either Le Lac/Le Lavachet or Val Claret. The villages at the bottom of the valley (Les Boisses and Les Brevieres) are where most of the development is currently happening but it will take a while before nightlife beds in. If you're staying  down there you can catch the free bus up to the town - just be sure not to miss the last one back!

In Le Lac the Loop Bar is the place for all day food and drinks on the deck overlooking the steep Trolles home run. Staying open until late every night, this is a seasonaire hangout offering the British touch to their bar (Guiness and Premiership football games here). The Alpaka and the Bagus Bar are options too, while Jack's Nightclub is there to cater for the last-call crowd - and fans of ten-pin bowling.

Over in Val Claret there is the Saloon Bar with regular live music, or Le Couloir for chesterfield armchairs and a relaxed seasonaire vibe. Val Claret is also where the night normally ends, in the clubs of Le Melting Pot and Blue Girl. The hidden gem in Val Claret is St Jacques; this Belgian beer bar is perfect to start the night with a massive selection of brews.