News from the snow
One of the highest resorts in Europe, Tignes also offers more skiing in winter and in summer than pretty well anywhere else, thanks to its high altitude skiing on the Grande Motte glacier and its commitment to maintain a vertical of at least 1000 metres (3280 feet) for eight months of the year. Sharing the vast l'Espace Killy ' ski area with neighbouring Val d'Isère, purpose-built Tignes has the stronger French influence of the two, as well as being largely based at a higher and more snow-sure altitude. There are in fact five base areas to Tignes, although three of them - Le Lac, Le Lavachet and Val Claret - more or less run in to one another to form the main section. They stand together in a vast snowy bowl above the tree line resembling some sort of isolated moon base, from a distance. Further down the mountain, but lift linked to l'espace Killy are Les Boisses and Les Brévières and there are three traditional villages along the valley floor on the road to Val d'Isère (Le Reculaz, Le Chevril and Le Villaret du Nial), but these are not lift-linked. Interestingly the original base is Le Lac, the relocated genuine village of Tignes that was submerged under Lake Chevril following the construction of a dam in 1952. The church bell was the only physical momento to be carried up to the new village site, but the spirit of skiing which began in 'old Tignes' in the 1920s was certainly carried forward with spectacular results!
Tignes shares the huge and wonderful Espace Killy with Val D'Isere, but the underground funicular accessed Grand Motte glacier officially belongs to Tignes. The glacier no longer offers skiing 365 days a year (but is open in all four seasons and in total for nearly 10 months). For eight months a vertical drop of 1400 metres is maintained, with the aid of snow-making if neccessary. The resort has five different base areas, the main one being Val Clartet with Le Lac and Le Lavachet nearby. Lower down the mountain is Les Boisses and a renovated old village Les Brevieres, at the lowest point in the system - 1550 metres (higher than many ski areas end, but with 2000 metres above it!). Night life is limited for such a large ski resort. Tignes is owned by the same Japanese company which formerly owned Steamboat in Colorado and Sahoro in Japan.
Beginners might not be able to appreciate the skiing heaven that is all about them, but they at least have five free lifts to choose from down at the resort. There's therefore no need for a lift ticket for the first few days, and with the resort altitude you don't need to go up the mountain to find the snow. When you do gain confidence, however, a trip on the high-speed, hi-tec underground funicular will take you up to the Grande Motte glacier where there are plenty of wide gentle trails, as well as spectacular views when you're taking a breather. Intermediates have the most to enjoy whizzing around between Tignes and Val d'Isère on the 100 blue or red runs aided by largely ultra-modern lift infrastructure to get you back to the downhills quickly and efficiently.
Recent investment in six-pac chairs includes a new link from Val Claret improving a key link over to Val.
It's the experts who will most appreciate what L'Espace Killy has to offer however, simply because it is they who rapidly run out of options at many lesser resorts. Black trail options are excellent, whilst off-piste opportunities are possibly unmatched anywhere. Legendary runs include 'The Wall' and the 'Double M' whilst the Tovière mogul runs are regarded by connoisseurs as the toughest in Europe and probably the world! The Aiguille Percée descents also boast a fearsome reputation.
Apart from normal piste and local off-piste skiing in the company of ski school or mountain guides, Tignes has many special itineraries available including ski-safaris to other resorts in the Haute Tarentaise area of the French Alps; or less strenuous helicopter pick ups for the return journey to Tignes after a long descent through the trees.
The ski school organises weekly courses with competitions in giant slalom, special slalom, ski jump, downhill and speed skiing on the flying kilometre. All take place in high season.
Telemark and carving skiing tuition is offered and there are over 50km (30miles)of marked cross-country trails.
Older children, visiting in the school holidays, can try out slalom, giant slalom and even ski jumping and speed skiing. snowboarding tuition is available from age 8. Away from the slopes Tignes also has kids' needs well catered for - the cable TV service includes international children's channels and facilities like the ice rink, bowling and dog sledding all appeal to the kids and pony rides are available at the Equestrian Centre for children aged 3 and over.
A good selection of family restaurants serving pizza, burgers and Mexican favourites.
Gastronomic meccas spread throughout the resort include Le Clin D'Oeil in Le Lac, L'Arbina or Le Chalet in Le Lac and Le Ski d'Or in Val Claret. There are crêperies, pizzerias and American style fast food outlets in both Le Lac and Val Claret .
More exotic options include the Miyako Japanese restaurant in Val Claret and Mexican at Daffy's Bar.
Apart from the main sporting and fitness alternatives listed in the 'Other activities' section below, the resort's facilities include cinema showing two films daily - some films in English, some French, and Europe's highest bowling alley, with ten lanes.
The Palafour Comb offers the biggest snowboarding area in Europe, with a dedicated terrain area over a 600 metre vertical (just under 2000 feet). This remarkable area includes jumps, half pipe, and a free ride zone. Apart from the 'fixed asset' of the snowboard park with half pipe,
Tignes has three dedicated snowboarding schools - The Snocool, Kebra surfing...and Surf feeling, offering off-piste, heli-surf and free riding courses as well as video analysis. The ESF, Evolution 2 and the International Ski school also have snowboarding divisions.