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 (Val Claret, Tignes-Le-Lac and Le Lavachet) are pretty compact, and less expensive than Val D’Isere in the next valley. 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 remains open.
THE PARKS – 3/5
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 2m-to-5m kickers and jibs. 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! On the run back to the resort you can either drop into the full-sized halfpipe, or head for the airbag to practice getting inverted without breaking your neck. Access from Val Claret is a breeze, but if you’re staying in one of the other villages then you can still get there quickly by taking the free shuttle bus to the foot of the Tichot chair.
A better option for those wanting to take their riding to the next level is the very well-maintained Val Park. There are a couple of ways to get there, the quickest being via the Aeroski that’s right by the main square in Tignes-Le-Lac. The jumps are bigger (8-15m) and the rails more technical, plus the park is serviced by its own tow rope to ensure you get plenty of fast laps in. 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 is the Gliss’Park, a small beginner terrain park served by the Millonex tow.
If you’re heading out for a summer glacier trip, they build a park towards the top of Grand Motte and install a couple of tows above the Stades T-bars. It features both intermediate and advanced lines of kickers and numerous jibs, and is shaped daily.
THE POWDER – 5/5
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 tree line 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 tackling 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 – 4/5
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 – and with so many high-speed lifts, you’ll be clocking up the miles like nobody’s business.
The pistes offer true variety; from the easy green down from Toviere and 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 carves, and the Trolles home run to Tignes-Le-Lac underneath the Aeroski is an absolute screamer where you can go as fast as you dare! However, some of the areas closest to the villages get clogged up with snaking ski schools, so look out for that.
Only a couple of minutes’ walk from the centre of Tignes-Le-Lac is the beloved Palafour chair, a high-speed six-man which offers a mellow run down with side-hits aplenty. Perfect for both a warm-up and a last blast, it’s a great one with which to bookend your shred days.
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 descent than any other summer area.
THE PARTIES – 3/5
Party people should stay up on the plateau in either Tignes-Le-Lac/Le Lavachet or Val Claret. The villages at the bottom of the valley (Les Boisses and Les Brevières) 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!
Regular shuttle buses throughout the evening mean that getting to the party is easy (and quick), whichever village you care to aim for. In Tignes-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 that offers the British touch with Guinness on tap and Premiership football on the TV screens. 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. There’s also the ride-in bar at Drop Zone, temporary home of the British Champs crowd when it rolls into town in the spring. Val Claret is also where the night normally ends, in the clubs of 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.