At Tignes, you can ski before and after everyone else. That’s the motto of this large resort, which offers summer glacier skiing and a winter season stretching from September to May. With 150 kilometres of runs and such a long season, Tignes really does have something for everyone, but intermediate and advanced skiers are especially served. Freestylers and riders will also feel at home, since Tignes was one of France’s first resorts to promote alternative ski culture and continues to welcome it with open arms.
Several airports sit close to Tignes, so you can choose to fly into Lyon-Saint Exupéry (240 km), Grenoble (210 km), Geneva (165 km), or Chambéry (130 km). Aer Lingus, British Airways, and KLM-Air France operate direct flights from London, Edinburgh, and Dublin. However, if you choose to fly into Chambéry, note that many of the flights operate only on the weekends. For a cheaper option, easyJet flies direct from London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Belfast.
Getting from the airports to Tignes is relatively easy and many options are available. You have the choice of regular bus lines, shared shuttles, car hire, taxi, tour operators, train, even private helicopter transfer if you so desire.
If flying into Lyon or Geneva, the regular bus lines are a popular choice. Altibus operates out of Geneva, while Satobus handles transfers from Lyon. For return tickets, plan to spend around €90 per person. These can be booked in advance online or purchased directly at the airports. If you are planning to travel during peak times, it is best to book in advance.
Ben's Bus and ATS run shared shuttles between Geneva and Tignes, with return tickets priced at £73 and €72, respectively.
Note that there are no regular transfers from Chambery, so you must hire a car or book through a tour operator. This can be more expensive, so before booking your flight, be sure to compare total travel costs-flight plus transfer, or you may be in for an unpleasant surprise.
Tignes has made a lot of effort in the past few years to become a pedestrian-friendly resort and encourages visitors to park their car and leave it for the duration of their stay. Within the station free shuttle buses are available to help you get around, with 24 stopping points between Les Boisses and Val Claret Grand Motte. Timetables are posted at each stop and some buses even operate 24 hours a day, but with one bus every hour late night and early morning.
Eating breakfast out is not really a French thing, so most hotels offer buffet-style breakfast for guests, which may or may not be included in the room price. For package deals, it usually is, though.
If you really want to eat out for breakfast, Le Petit Savoyard offers hot drinks and traditional French pastries in the centre of Val Claret while Le Bouchon, at Le Lavachet, offers a more substantial breakfast buffet with pastries, cheese, and cold cuts. More info on all these options at www.tignes.net
On the slopes, Le Panoramic offers hungry skiers a large sun deck and two dining possibilities, in addition to a view over the slopes and surrounding peaks. Choose from the self-service cafeteria, with hearty meals like grilled meats and pasta, or from the gourmet restaurant, which serves local specialties, and even charcoal-grilled lobster on advance request.
At the foot of the slopes, the Village Montana's restaurant La Place serves fixed-price lunch menus ranging from 16-22€ and daily specials for 12.50€. Typical offerings include giant burgers, goat cheese salads, pizzas, or diots (local cooked sausages.
Le Chalet, located at the Les Campanules hotel at Le Rosset, offers fine dining in a warm Alpine atmosphere. Stone and wood tastefully define the dining room, where diners can delight in the creations of chef Stéphane. Some sample dishes include caviar-smoked oysters, duck foie gras with spiced bread, roast duckling with quince vinegar, and roasted veal with truffle oil.
La Rotisserie, located at the Village Montana hotel serves gastronomic seven course meals in a décor accentuated with chocolate and crème hues and elegant chandeliers. On the menu, diners will find noble ingredients such as lobster, turbot, Charolais beef, and spit-roasted chicken, and the chef pays special attention to their presentation. The wine list offers a large selection of Savoy wines, as well as other fine French wines.
La Ferme des 3 Capucines, at Le Lavachet, is housed in an authentic farmstead and specialises in mountain dishes like tartiflette, raclette, and fondue. The restaurant even has windows onto the neighboring farm, where the kids will enjoy watching the cows and goats, used to make the restaurant's dairy products. It's best to book in advance by calling +33 (0)479.063.510.
L'Auberge des Trois Oursons, at Val Claret, offers non-stop service from noon to 10 pm and prides itself on hearty meals at fair prices. In addition to traditional mountain fare, there are also crepes, pizzas, and even several vegetarian options. As the name suggests, the decoration is all about teddy bears.
Après / Nightlife
Le Loop Bar at Le Lac gives guests a sunny terrace where they can wind down their day with a drink and a view over the black piste les Trolles, the Mur de Lavachet off piste area, and the beginner's slope Le Rosset.
The bar at the Ski d'Or hotel offers a cosier setting, with a fireplace and lounge area. After a day on the slopes, you can enjoy a cup of hot Dammam teas or an original cocktail concocted by the skilled barman.
As for nightlife, Le Blue Girl in Val Claret offers clubbing from 11 p.m to 4 a.m, and heats up the night with a mix of French pop, techno, and an occasional dose of R n'B. Entrance is generally free, and the club organizes special themed nights, such as Cuban, Ibiza, or a Showgirls night.
Tignes is one half of the Espace Killy ski area, which also includes Val d'Isère. Together, they offer 300 kilometres of pistes at altitudes of 1550 to 3450 metres. Alone, Tignes is made up of several small lift-linked hamlets. A cable car, 24 chairlifts and 19 drag lifts get skiers to the top of the pisted slopes-150 kilometres in all.
The ski resort is split into four areas: La Grande Motte, Palet - l'Aiguille Percée, Tovière, and Les Brevières.
La Grande Motte is the highest, and can thus be skied pretty much year round, thanks to its glacier. There are also several blue runs here, more suited to less experienced skiers.
Palet-l'Aiguille Percée is home to Tignes' S.P.O.T. area, where skiers can learn how to off-piste in the safest conditions. There are also some easier pistes here, especially the blue runs around the Palafour lift.
If you are planning to head to Val d'Isère, you will do so from the Tovière area. If you are staying in this sector, though, you will find intermediate and advanced runs, ranging from blue to black.
At Les Brevières, skiers will find the some of the resort's most challenging runs, like the black Sache piste, often ridden with moguls. There is however two red escape routes if you decide that Sache is too difficult once you begin.
In Tignes, advanced skiers can head to the Le Palet - Aiguille Percée area, which tends to be less crowded and offers access to plenty of off piste areas. You can go directly there via the Tichot and Grattalau lifts from Val Claret, via the Boisses lift, or by taking the Sache and the Marais lifts.
The glacier, with an assortment of red and black runs is also well worth skiing, especially the black Leisse. This one tends to be less crowded in the mornings, so you may want to start your day here and work your way down the slopes to the other areas of the mountain. Ski the red Double M down to Val Claret, for example, where you can get the Tichot then the Grattalau lift towards Le Palet or the Col des Ves lift to ski down the black Pramacou and the ungroomed Guerlain Chicherit, which is full of moguls. Be warned, however, that the Col des Ves lift is Tignes' slowest, where you'll spend 22 minutes in the air.
Tignes also proposes nine naturides, which are marked black pistes that are left ungroomed. The goal is to give skiers the same sensations as off-pisting skiing, but with a greater degree of security. These runs are ideal for advanced skiers looking to train before freeriding in the wild.
Groomers and Family
Tignes offers plenty of opportunities for beginner and intermediate skiers, as well as families with young kids.
The Tignes ski area includes special "ski tranquil" zones with wide pistes that are not very steep. These are either green or blue, and offer the ideal area for learning to ski, skiing with kids, or just getting you ski legs ready for something more challenging after many months away.
Absolute beginners may prefer to stay on the green runs around Le Lavachet, where they will find two pistes - Digues and Lavachet - for comfortable, easy skiing.
Another suggestion is to take the Palafour lift from Tignes le Lac and then choose between the three blue runs at the top. All of them are wide and gentle and would be good for anyone with just a little ski experience.
For longer blue runs, take the Bollin chairlift out of Val Claret. It will take you all the way to the edge of Tignes, where you can choose to ski down the green Fresse run into Val d'Isère or back into Tignes on the blue Prarlond run.
The Tufs chairlift also leads out of Val Claret to the blue Piste H. However, this one can get quite busy at the top, as two other lifts also drop skiers here. If you are afraid of running into other skiers as everyone makes their way to their slope, you may want to avoid this one, at least in the afternoons. By midday, the piste becomes bumpy as well, so this is definitely a better morning run.
Tignes hosts two snow parks - The Nissan Gliss'Park and the Swatch Snowpark.
The Nissan Gliss'Park is located near Tignes Le Lac and is accessible either by the Millonex drag lift or by the Palafour chair lift. This park is reserved for freestylers who are still learning their tricks. It includes a mini boardercross, an obstacle course, a parallel slalom, whoop gap, and a jump and rail area.
The larger Swatch Snowpark is located beneath the Col du Palet and Grattalau lifts and is directly accessible from the latter. The park is divided into colour-coded levels with green, blue, and red zones to help riders find modules best suited to their skills. In 2011, the green zone included three tables and four hoops. The blue area included seven rails, three tables, and a Swatch mogul with table. The red area offered one rail and three tables.
At the Swatch Snowpark, skiers and boarders also have the opportunity to film their exploits thanks to the Shoot My Ride system. When you head through the park, a video camera records your jumps and the video is sent to the Swatch website, so that your friends can see your jump from anywhere in the world. Then at the end of each week, the best jumper wins a Swatch watch.
On a non-skiing note, you may want to take advantage of your ski trip to Tignes to enjoy some of the local dishes so typical of the French Alps. These dishes are rich in local cheeses like Beaufort, Reblochon, and Raclette, and are definitely not light. After a day on the slopes, however, you deserve a little indulgence, so go ahead and dig in. Look for dishes like Fondue Savoyarde, Tartiflette (made with potatoes, onions, bacon, and Reblochon cheese) or Croziflette (the same as above, but small pasta squares replace the potatoes), and Raclette (where you pour melted cheese over potatoes and cold cuts). Many restaurants serve these dishes, but the most authentic can probably be found at La Ferme des 3 Capucines.
On the slopes, the big event of the ski season is the Winter X Games Europe. Every March, the resort welcomes the alternative ski event and is the only resort in Europe to have the right to do so, thanks to its varied terrain, reliable snowfall, and vast ski area. With each edition, more than 100 athletes come here to compete in superpipe and slopestyle competitions, both in ski and snowboard. The resort offers special accommodation deals for the weekend and given the notoriety of the event, it's a good idea to book well in advance.
Finally, if your ski legs are just itching to hit the pistes, remember that Tignes opens earlier and closes later than any other French resort. Depending on snow conditions, a selection of pistes usually open at the end of September and close in early May. Tignes is also a great summer ski destination, with glacier skiing at La Grande Motte from mid-June to early September.